Sunday, August 30, 2009

Attack of the Mac

Mac and Cheese with a Texan Twist
and Blackberry Spinach Salad

The suggestion was made, and it was instantly accepted: Homemade Baked Mac and Cheese. We’re fans of Alton Brown and his scientific approach to cooking, so we followed his recipe for Baked Macaroni and Cheese, with some adjustments.

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

3 tablespoons butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs

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.
For the topping: 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.

The Adapting and Twisting
We used Rigatoni, a medium-sized tube pasta. While I was chopping onions and shredding the cheese, Chason was cooking BACON. That’s his mac and cheese philosophy—about ten pieces of bacon we would chop up and throw into the mix.While making the roux, a happy little roommate elf came by and suggested I use a roux whisk. It’s sort of a 2-D flattened out version of a whisk that allows you to get to all of the sides of the pan. A revelation for gravy making! The most exciting part was adding the cheddar to the simmering milk-onion-melange. When you think this light, wimpy sauce isn’t going to amount to anything, a few minutes involved with the cheese and it turns a hard right onto Delicious St. We added some chili powder and a smidge of paprika to spice it up. The powdered mustard made a huge difference, too. I would never have thought of it. Lastly, we used Italian bread crumbs instead of panko. Changes it a bit, but still delicious!

It was about 10:30 when we pulled it from the oven. I made a spinach salad with blackberries, and tried to make a fresh orange vinaigrette, but unfortunately it was too salty. Just an experiment.
The end result: Spicy, delicious, and nice chunks of bacon. Fantastic. I gave myself a huge portion, ate it too fast, and quickly slipped into a coma as we watched The Seven Year Itch, and I had a gin and tonic.

next...Mucho Mas Mexican!

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