WND – Macaroni & Cheese

September 27, 2007

It was another Birthday Dinner this week, and Miss A requested macaroni & cheese.

Macaroni & Cheese
Cold Roasted Chicken
Sliced Tomatoes

Sangria that was left over from the party on Sunday
Berries that remained after the Sangria was finished served over ice cream for dessert
(I highly highly recommend saving the berries and retasking them for dessert when the Sangria is gone)

Macaroni & Cheese

I find making white sauce a very zen experience. You can’t hurry it. Turning up the heat doesn’t make it turn into sauce any faster. For the 5-10 minutes it takes to thicken the sauce you just have to stand there and stir, and stare at the ripples your spoon makes as your sauce gets thicker and glossier.

It doesn’t matter how frustrating your day has been, how much your boss has been micromanaging you, how many phone calls didn’t get returned, or how many times you had to restart your computer; if you put a tablespoon of flour, a tablespoon of butter and a cup of milk in a pan over heat, it will get thick. Then you add a pound of cheese, and there’s really just no bad there.

I usually make my cheese sauce 1-2 days ahead of time and then refrigerate it. Because I do this, I make the sauce a little thinner than I would if I was going to use it immediately because it’ll thicken up some more just sitting in the fridge. I cook the macaroni the day of and pour the cold sauce over the hot macaroni and then bake it. After you take it out of the oven let it sit 5-10 minutes before you serve it so that it cools down a little from boiling point.

Macaroni & Cheese
(serves eight)

Cheese Sauce
7 Tbsp butter

Whisk in and cook for a minute:
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp flour
1.5 tsp dry mustard
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Add, whisking:
4 cups milk

Stir over a medium heat until thickened (5-10 minutes). Do not allow to boil.

12 oz cheddar, grated
1.5 oz parmesan, grated
2.5 oz mozzarella, grated

Salt and pepper to taste.

Putting It Together
Mix together cheese sauce and:
1 lb cooked macaroni

Pour into a greased pan.

Mix together & then sprinkle over macaroni:
1/3 cup parmesan, grated
1 cup bread crumbs
1.5 Tbsp melted butter

Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes.

If you should happen to have left over macaroni & cheese you can make a heart attack on a plate. Take a slice of macaroni & cheese. Bread it (flour – egg wash – bread crumbs), and fry it in some butter and oil. Serve with lots and lots of salad. The outside gets crispy and the inside is creamy and gooey. A little goes a very long way.

Roasted Chicken

I have a somewhat kitchen sink approach to roasted chicken. I season it with whatever takes my fancy at the time, and I fill the cavity with whatever I have on hand.

This week I seasoned it with salt, pepper, some whole cloves and olive oil, and stuffed the cavity with halved limes.

In the past I’ve also used any combination of salt, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, bay leaves, garlic and butter. And, I’ve stuffed the cavity with pears, apples, lemons, oranges. Generally whatever it is I have on hand.

Roast at 350-375, at 20 minutes/pound, or until a meat thermometer reads 180.

There is nothing better than the smell of roasting chicken. Except maybe the smell of the chicken stock you make with the leftovers (chicken carcass, enough water to cover, onions, carrots, herbs, hunks of fresh ginger, cloves of garlic – simmer until it tastes like chicken stock, 4-5 hours, freeze and use as needed).

Sliced Tomatoes

This was the summer that I read Barbara Kingsolver’s book about organic farming and local produce – Animal, Vegetable & Mineral.

On the positive side, she did her year of living off the land in the Appalachians. Nothing irritates me more than people who have a growing season that lasts from early March to late October telling me to only eat local seasonal produce. This works well in places like California, and less so in places like New England.

On the negative side, if I wanted to spend my summer canning tomatoes, and broad beans and freezing squash against the coming winter I’d invent a time machine and go live in the 1850s, or possibly rural Vermont. I’m okay with not knowing how to grow a cucumber. I’m impressed by people who can, but that doesn’t inspire in me the desire to go out and do it myself.

The upshot of this was me simultaneously ranting at length about Barbara Kingsolver being sanctimonious and being guilted into actually shopping at the farmer’s market that sets up near my office twice a week from Memorial Day through Thanksgiving.

And then, I fell in love with tomatoes. Striped heirloom tomatoes. Sunshine yellow roma tomatoes. Big knobbly red tomatoes. Tiny orange currant tomatoes. Deep red purple grape tomatoes. Green tomatoes.

Corn picked fresh that morning (and therefore, corn fritters for dinner). Juicy sun warmed peaches.

Currently it’s coming into apple season and there are baskets and baskets of every kind of apple you can think to name. I just found a variety I’d never had before – Honey Crisp – which is sweet, but not too sweet, and crisp, and oh so good.

What I’m going to do at the end of November I have no idea.



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