Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Macaroni and Cheese with a Side of Self-Expression


As the cold rain falls, most people feel anger or sadness creep in, a slithering reminder of all things dismal. A portent for negative things to come, the rain evokes feelings of cold, hard disarray. For me, though, the cold rain stands for an excuse to make some comfort food! In each rain drop I see macaroni swimming in a heavenly bath of just-brown-enough cheese. This is perhaps a little bit sick and twisted, but moving past the fact that i'm just a wee bit odd, doesn't this sound good? It was. The thing I love most about cooking? It's a form of self-expression. For this recipe, as an example, I started with the work of Alton Brown:

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
(http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/baked-macaroni-and-cheese-recipe/index.html)
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown

Ingredients
1/2 pound elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
3 cups milk
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 large egg
12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
Topping:
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.
While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it's free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.
Temper in the egg. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.
Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.
In the interest of my waistline, though, I tweaked Alton's (admittedly delicious and rich) recipe around to be a bit more healthful. And, because I like to put my own spin on things, I added a bit o' Lieberman to the mix. Here's mine:
Baked Wheat Macaroni and Cheese
Recipe Inspired By Alton Brown
Ingredients
1/2 pound wheat pasta shells (shells do a great job of holding the gooey-goodness hostage)
3 tablespoons butter (I use fancy french Pamplie, but not sure it matters in this recipe)
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups Skim Plus (the *best* skim milk, hands down)
1/2 cup yellow onion finely diced (i've recently acquired a Cuisinart and oh my god i will never use a knife again, LOVE LOVE LOVE)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
a Teensy bit of Cayenne powder
1 large egg
12 ounces sharp cheddar shredded
2 Tablespoons of Blue Cheese
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to JUST under al dente. While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it's free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, cayenne, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes. Temper in the egg. What the heck does this mean, you understandably ask? The egg will cook (scramble) if you throw her into a pot of hot bubbling liquid and chunk of egg in your steamy pile of comforting love is NOT what you want. Therefore, add some of the hot liquid to your egg, stir, do this again, stir... just bring the temperature of the egg up and THEN pour it in. Stir in 3/4 of the cheddar cheese and all of the blue. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.
Okay, so I didn't have all THAT many changes. You don't mess with a good thing. BUT I did swap the regular pasta to wheat, the whole milk with skim, and I nixed the buttery bread crumbs. Let's be honest- if you have a vat of cheddar cheese and pasta, the breadcrumbs are just not important anymore. The cooking part made me feel good on an otherwise status quo evening. Biting into the end result? Not much is more comforting.


1 comment:

emilypostal said...

Oh my God. Yum. Glad to see there's someone who loves cheese as much as I do!