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Mac and Cheese

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I forgot to post about our trip last weekend, to Madison and Chicago, where we discovered a new kind of Finnish cheese called juustoleipa, or Finnish Bread Cheese, and ate Chicago deep-dish pizza. While we were in Madison, in addition to juustoleipa, we bought a pound of aged white cheddar at the Babcock Hall Dairy Store (in the famous Dairy Sciences department) so naturally I had to do something with it.

Last night, we had Jeanne, Steve, and Michael Haw over for dinner. (We called considerably more people but that was our final turnout… lots of people out of town.) if I do say so myself, dinner was awesome–not too labor-intensive, so I was almost done cooking when everyone showed up, and what remained was just waiting for carrots to cook. Here’s what I made, in order:

Sexy, Spicy Broccoli–Since this has to marinate for a long time, I made it first. I doubled the recipe from the NYT, used powdered cumin instead of whole seeds, used apple cider vinegar and added an extra glug of it since I could barely taste it last time, and added a little bit of soy sauce:

Recipe: Garlicky Sesame-Cured Broccoli Salad
Published: February 20, 2008

Time: 10 minutes, plus 1 hour marinating

1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste

2 heads broccoli, 1 pound each, cut into bite-size florets

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 fat garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

2 teaspoons roasted (Asian) sesame oil

Large pinch crushed red pepper flakes.

1. In a large bowl, stir together the vinegar and salt. Add broccoli and toss to combine.

2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil until hot, but not smoking. Add garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in sesame oil and pepper flakes. Pour mixture over broccoli and toss well. Let sit for at least 1 hour at room temperature, and up to 48 (chill it if you want to keep it for more than 2 hours). Adjust seasonings (it may need more salt) and serve.

Yield: 6 to 8 side-dish servings or more as an hors d’oeuvre.

Lemon Pudding Cake–I used some of the delicious eggs from Hazelbrake Farm, and milk in a glass bottle from Oberweis Dairy. The pudding came out really runny this time–not sure why. I made this second because it has to bake in the bain-marie for 45 minutes.

Macaroni and Cheese–I more or less followed the linked recipe (when I try to eyeball bechamel sauce, it always comes out too thick), with the following notes:

Macaroni and Cheese

Gourmet | August 2007

Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez

MACARONI AND CHEESE

The toasted crumbs on top have a cheesy crispness, and the pasta beneath is creamy and rich. Kids will appreciate the individual servings, but the recipe makes plenty, so why not pour the extra into a baking dish to feed the ravenous parents?

Active time: 35 min Start to finish: 1 1/4 hr

Servings: Makes 20 servings
Ingredients
For topping
1/2 stick unsalted butter–omitted
2 cups panko (coarse Japanese bread crumbs) or 3 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs (from 6 slices firm white sandwich bread)–I had two pieces of buttered white bread toast left over from my breakfast at Wee Willie’s, so I ground up those and 4 toasted slices of whole-grain sandwich bread using the grater attachment in the food processor.
1/4 pound coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar (1 1/2 cups)–Ran out of the white Wisconsin cheddar, so I used some orange Indiana Amish sharp cheddar from O’Malia’s for this.
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano–omitted

For macaroni and sauce
1 stick unsalted butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 cups whole milk–used 2%
1 pound coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar (6 cups)–used the Wisconsin aged white sharp cheddar for this, grated in about 30 seconds using the grater attachment on the food processor. I love that thing.
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano–omitted
1 pound elbow macaroni–used Barilla brand, which has little grooves on the macaroni noodles
Preparation
Make topping:
Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle.–I set the oven at 350

Melt butter, then stir together with panko and topping cheeses in a bowl until combined well.

Make sauce:
Melt butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat and stir in flour. Cook roux, stirring, 3 minutes, then whisk in milk. Bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly, then simmer, whisking occasionally, 3 minutes. Stir in cheeses, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper until smooth. Remove from heat and cover surface of sauce with wax paper.
I also added a few Tbsp of sweet and spicy mustard and soy sauce, for extra umami goodness, and a generous sprinkle of paprika.

Make Macaroni:
Cook macaroni in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (2 tablespoons salt for 4 quarts water) until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water and drain macaroni in a colander. Oops, didn’t read this part. Did not reserve 1 cup cooking water. Stir together macaroni, reserved cooking water, and sauce in a large bowl. Transfer to 2 buttered 2-quart shallow baking dishes.–I cooked this in the largest cast-iron skillet we have: we put the macaroni in first, then stirred in the sauce, and topped it all with the breadcrumbs and popped it in the oven for half an hour. Cast iron is the best! I thought I would be scrubbing baked-on cheesy residue off the pan for an hour afterwards, but with a bit of a soak I managed to wash the pan in about 10 seconds–basically just wiping it with the sponge, no scrubbing required.

Sprinkle topping evenly over macaroni and bake until golden and bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes.

Cooks’ notes:
• Topping can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.
• Half of dish can be baked in 10 (6- to 8-ounce) ramekins for children (with remaining half baked in a 2-quart baking dish for adults).

Sauteed Oyster Mushrooms
Rahul made these, for stirring into the mac and cheese. Yum. He cut up some oyster mushrooms from the farmer’s market and sauteed them with olive oil, adding a tiny drizzle of truffle oil at the end.

Watercress Soup
This was fast and easy and really surprisingly good for something so plain. Because of how heavy the macaroni would be, I just wanted something light and refreshing, with lots of vegetables, so I made up this soup. The watercress is spicy and a little bitter, so I wanted some contrasting flavors and textures–carrots for sweetness and white beans for richness–and I think the combination worked well.

1/2 bunch watercress, washed and snipped into smallish pieces (this was from the winter farmer’s market)
Stock (I used mushroom-flavored Better than Bouillon)
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into discs
1 can Great Northern white beans, drained and well-rinsed

Heat a soup pot of stock. Add the carrots and white beans and simmer till the carrots are tender. Just before taking the soup off the stove, add the watercress and cook for a minute or so–it’s delicate, so it doesn’t take well to overcooking.

We also had some deliciously chalky and rich milk chocolate bunnies Michael brought over, and some kind of candy called “cream prune drop” I got from Obo’s because of the Easterish bunny on the package, happily eating green prunes.

Afterwards, we went to the new beer and bourbon bar called the Root Cellar at Farm and it was lovely–I didn’t have anything to drink aside from sips of other people’s drinks, but we’ll have to go back another time and have fancy beers.

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Written by orata

March 23, 2008 at 12:50 pm

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