Category: macaroni/pasta

Recipe redux: three cheese stovetop mac!

Easy three cheese stovetop mac!

It’s warm, it’s sticky, and you don’t want to cook. It’s that time of year when you just don’t feel like it. You’re not in the mood to turn on the stove- nor are you prepared to grill anything & it’s far too hot to have the oven on. We’ve  spent all freakin’ winter cooking! ENOUGH! Or maybe it’s late; no time to defrost anything or go to the store. But you’ve still got mouths to feed (or you’re starving yourself!) & they won’t take no for an answer.

Well I have the solution: three cheese stovetop macaroni.

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Everybody loves a picnic!

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
-James Henry

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I love picnics. I don’t have them often, of course, but I’ve had a few over the course of my life & they’ve always been fun. When I was a kid, my mom used to have “backyard picnics” where we just set up a simple little picnic on the grass in the yard. It wasn’t anything crazy, usually a few sandwiches with the crusts cut off (mine was always either peanut butter or potato chip; yes I ate potato chip sandwiches) and some soda or sparkling water and some snacks. Once or twice on a rainy day we even had an indoor picnic on the floor and had pizza or Chinese food. It was so much fun.

And then you grow up and your sense of fun changes. You forget to do little fun things every now and then, “just because.”;

Taking a cue from that, I decided to have one now. As a “grown-up.” I have these two vintage picnic baskets sitting around that I never used. Plus I’ve been working really hard, on a variety of things (like the new Recipe Index!). I figured, why do I have to actually go somewhere to have a picnic when I can have one right here?! You can have a picnic anywhere- even inside, like I said. Martha Stewart recently did a segment on the Today show about how to prepare a picnic entirely in jars! There are tons of ways to do a picnic, from traditional to un-traditional. Bring cold foods, hot foods, room-temperature foods, salads, wine & cheese. Whatever you like.

The first usage of the word ‘picnic’ is traced to the 1692 edition of Tony Willis, Origines de la Langue Française, which mentions pique-nique as being of recent origin; it marks the first appearance of the word in print. The term was used to describe a group of people dining in a restaurant who brought their own wine. The concept of a picnic long retained the connotation of a meal to which everyone contributed something. Whether picnic is actually based on the verb piquer which means ‘pick’ or ‘peck’ with the rhyming nique meaning “thing of little importance” is doubted; the Oxford English Dictionary says it is of unknown provenance. The word predates lynching in the United States; claims that it is derived from a shortening of ‘pick a n—-r’ are untrue.[2]

The word ‘picnic’ first appeared in English in a letter of the Gallicized Lord Chesterfield in 1748 (OED), who associates it with card-playing, drinking and conversation, and may have entered the English language from this French word.[3] The practice of an elegant meal eaten out-of-doors, rather than a harvester worker’s dinner in the harvest field, was connected with respite from hunting from the Middle Ages; the excuse for the pleasurable outing of 1723 in François Lemoyne‘s painting Hunt Picnic is still offered in the context of a hunt.

After the French Revolution in 1789, royal parks became open to the public for the first time. Picnicking in the parks became a popular activity amongst the newly enfranchised citizens.

Early in the 19th century, a fashionable group of Londoners (including Edwin Young) formed the ‘Picnic Society‘. Members met in the Pantheon on Oxford Street. Each member was expected to provide a share of the entertainment and of the refreshments with no one particular host. Interest in the society waned in the 1850s as the founders died.[4]

From the 1830s, Romantic American landscape painting of spectacular scenery often included a group of picnickers in the foreground. An early American illustration of the picnic is Thomas Cole‘s The Pic-Nic of 1846 (Brooklyn Museum of Art).[5] In it, a guitarist serenades the genteel social group in the Hudson River Valley with the Catskills visible in the distance. Cole’s well-dressed young picnickers having finished their repast, served from splint baskets on blue-and-white china, stroll about in the woodland and boat on the lake.

The image of picnics as a peaceful social activity can be utilised for political protest, too. In this context, a picnic functions as a temporary occupation of significant public territory. A famous example of this is the Pan-European Picnic held on both sides of the Hungarian/Austrian border on the 19 August 1989 as part of the struggle towards German reunification.

In 2000, a 600-mile-long picnic took place from coast to coast in France to celebrate the first Bastille Day of the new Millennium. In the United States, likewise, the 4 July celebration of American independence is a popular day for a picnic. In Italy, the favorite picnic day is Easter Monday.

-Wikipedia

I decided to try my hand at a new recipe for a healthier macaroni salad to serve at my little picnic. It’s got basically 3/4 the calories of regular macaroni salad, and it’s got something like 1/3 the fat. Not that these things bother me particularly, because I don’t eat macaroni salad & don’t really count calories anyway, but you can’t have a picnic without some kind of mayo-based or carb-based salad, and I thought it’d be an interesting thing to try. Everyone is looking to cut down on fat nowadays. Not me. I like fat.


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Eh. Let’s just call this a new twist on macaroni salad. From what I hear it’s too delicious to be considered “low fat” or anything. And about my “I like fat” comment above; I really do like it. But that doesn’t mean you have to. I’m just being an asshole. Obviously, if you have dietary restrictions or health issues, lower fat diets are important. It’s just that I don’t. So I like fat. And I can’t really apologize for that.

‘Kay, now that that’s settled.. on to the salad!

CREAMY MACARONI SALAD

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound macaroni (I used small shells)
  • 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 hard-boiled large eggs, whites roughly chopped, yolks left whole
  • 2 dill pickle spears, chopped
  • 1/2 a medium red onion, chopped
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 2-3 tablespoons chives for topping (optional)

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta according to the package directions in salted boiling water. Drain and return to the pot it was cooked in.
  2. Meanwhile, mash the two egg yolks in a large bowl with a fork. Add the yogurt, mayonnaise, and the lemon juice; stir together until creamy & smooth.
  3. Add pasta to mayonnaise mixture, and using a silicone spatula, flip and stir the pasta until evenly coated in the mayo mix. Add the egg whites, red onions and chopped pickles and mix well.
  4. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Sprinkle with chives just before serving.

This salad can be stored in the fridge an airtight container for up to three days. If it’s too dry after taking it out of the fridge, you can add a tablespoon more yogurt (or mayo, whatever). Just do yourself a favor and don’t accidentally buy vanilla yogurt. You’ll gross yourself out big time if you use that…

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The cool thing about macaroni salads (& potato salads) is that you can add pretty much anything you like, within reason. You can add radishes, celery, sliced Bell peppers, dill, slivered carrots, exchange the lemon juice for vinegar, etc. Take out stuff you don’t like, add stuff you do. This other macaroni salad I made is a great example of that. You can personalize it 100% and yet it’s always guaranteed to be delicious.

As far as a picnic goes- it’s easy. You don’t even need anything crazy. Some bread (mine was a French baguette), cheese (I had some provolone & goat’s milk brie), macaroni or potato salad, fried chicken if you’re really ambitious, maybe some cold cuts or cold leftover chicken, some fresh fruit (& whipped cream if you like- I had strawberries, cherries, oranges & nectarines), maybe some warm-weather friendly cupcakes, a jar or two of pickles (I brought red wine vinegar/red onion pickles & dilly beans), maybe some sliced cucumbers & yogurt, baby carrots & ranch dressing, a refreshing drink or two (maybe even some wine- not pictured) and some cutlery and napkins… that’s it. You’re ready to go! Lucky for you, I took some photos of my little picnic before digging in.

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Today might be a rainy/thunderstorm-y day here in New York & a bunch of other places on the East Coast, but when are you having your summer picnic?

Got an excess of pickled items? Well then read on…

I’m guessing that around this time of year most people who like to preserve foods or “can” end up with a plethora (or a bunch) of jars of pickled & preserved goodness. Now if your family is anything like mine, you end up with quite a few open jars in your fridge any given time. Everyone wants to taste everything at once!

“Ohh what are those? Pickled carrots?! I need to try them…”
“Mmm those habanero pickles look good, I think I’ll try one!”
“Holy crap- you made dilly beans?! I haven’t had one of those in years… lemme get one…”
“Wow lemon marmalade. Is it good? Can I try some?”

And then all the jars sit in the fridge getting picked at here and there, taking up space. Except for the regular cucumber pickles; the pickles go like hotcakes. I can barely keep a jar for longer than a week or two tops. So after the successful potato salad I made with dilly beans, I brainstormed this macaroni salad to incorporate and use up some of the pickled goodies sitting open in my fridge. I had some pickled carrots, dilly beans, peppers in oil & regular dill pickles, so that’s what I used. Of course, you can definitely substitute plain slivered carrots, chopped fresh Bell peppers and some chopped fresh green beans too… but it’ll be a totally different taste & flavor profile.

Keep in mind also that pretty much anything could be added: pickled zucchini, cauliflower, etc. Whatever you have open & whatever tickles your pickle (pun intended). Just chop it up & toss it on in there. You can adapt it to suit you in any way, including removing the mustard or removing the red wine vinegar & using all white, etc. Also, you can adjust the ratio of vinegar to mayonnaise as you like it.

Everyone loved it. LOVED IT. It was requested for lunch quite a bit that week.

The pickled carrots come from Molly Wizenberg‘s book, A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table. I mentioned that lately I’d been reading through it again a few posts back, well I also saw the pickled carrots while re-reading it & became intrigued. They took no time to make, seeing as how they were really a form of “refigerator pickles” & were a welcome addition to not only this salad, but my refrigerator. I subbed fresh sprigs of rosemary for the thyme because my mother has an allergy to thyme, so I try to avoid using it in anything she’ll be eating. Now I understand that if you already have an excess of pickled vegetables, you might not want to add to it by making pickled carrots. And I really do understand. But in case you’re intrigued like I was, or you’d like to make them for your salad, I’m including Molly’s exact recipe. Mine differs slightly; I used rosemary instead of thyme, omitted the peppercorns & mustard seed but added freshly ground black pepper, and didn’t add the red pepper flakes either. But that’s something you can figure out for yourself. Same goes for the amount, I made one pint jar by adjusting the ingredients to accommodate it, which is certainly something you can do. If you used a variety of different colored heirloom carrots, it’d make an even more beautiful jar. Next time, that’s what I’ll do.

By the way, this is in the gluten-free category for the pickled carrots, not the macaroni salad, although you could definitely use gluten-free pasta. Same goes for whole wheat pasta or any kind you’d prefer. I like the tri-color because it adds to the prettiness, but that’s just a purely aesthetic reason.

They look gorgeous in the jar.

SPICY PICKLED CARROTS WITH GARLIC & THYME (from A Homemade Life)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar, plus more off topping jars
  • 2 cups water, plus more for topping jars
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 6 (5-to 6-inch) sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 5 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons black peppercorns, cracked
  • 1 ½ teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • Heaping 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • Heaping 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 1 ½ pounds small (finger sized) carrots, or standard or baby sized carrots cut into sticks about ½” inch wide and 3 inches long

Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine 1 ½ cups apple cider vinegar, water, sugar, garlic, thyme, black peppercorns, red pepper flakes, salt & mustard seeds. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer & cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and let cool for 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining ½ cup vinegar.
  2. Put the carrots in a large, heatproof bowl, and pour the warm brine over them. Cool to room temperature. While they cool, wash 2 quart-sized canning jars and their lids in warm, soapy water.
  3. When the carrots & brine are cooled, distribute the carrots evenly among the jars, arranging them snugly. (Hands & fingers work best for this; tongs make a mess). Using a ladle, ladle the brine evenly among the jars. The carrots should be covered completely. If not, add a mixture of 2 parts vinegar and 1 part water to cover.
  4. Seal firmly & refrigerate for at least 3 days, or preferably a week. Carrots are dense & take time to absorb the brine. Carrots will last indefinitely (in theory) but try to eat them within a month or two (unless you give them a 10-minute waterbath, then they’ll probably last longer*).
* That’s my 2 cents.

PICKLED & PRESERVED MULTICOLOR MACARONI SALAD

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound tri-color pasta, cooked
  • 1 ½ cups mayonnaise
  • 5 teaspoons spicy brown mustard
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 4 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup slivered pickled carrots (or regular baby carrots)
  • ¼ cup chopped dilly beans
  • 4 or 5 sweet Bell peppers in oil, chopped
  • 1 pickle spear, cut into ¼” pieces
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 3 hardboiled eggs, sliced then quartered
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Mix shallot and vinegars together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. Combine the mustard, mayonnaise, salt, pepper and paprika thoroughly in another medium bowl. In a third and larger bowl, add the cooked pasta and mayonnaise mixture together. Mix completely.
  3. Add the vinegar mixture and pickled vegetables and again mix thoroughly. Finally, add the eggs and gently toss.
  4. Place in refrigerator until chilled. Add more mayonnaise or vinegar right before serving if too dry.

Yeah. That’s one colorful, bright & happy macaroni salad. How could you not smile while eating that?

Mmm. Bacon.

Last week, I spent an entire day doing gardening. I planted some of my herbs, dug out my flower beds, and did all some of the maintenance needed after a really harsh winter. Anyway, I was really tired when it came to dinner time. I had a hankering for macaroni & cheese, but I wanted something different. I had some hickory smoked bacon so I decided to make a bacon macaroni & cheese. Bacon gets a bad rap; people bitch because it’s fatty, salty, etc. But really there is nothing like a good crisp slice of real bacon. Plus, bacon may save your life. No shit, click that link.

Pig butcher diagram courtesy of osovo.com

Bacon is a cured meat prepared from a pig. It is first cured using large quantities of salt, either in a brine or in a dry packing; the result is fresh bacon (also known as green bacon). Fresh bacon may then be further dried for weeks or months in cold air, boiled, or smoked. Fresh and dried bacon must be cooked before eating. Boiled bacon is ready to eat, as is some smoked bacon, but may be cooked further before eating.

Bacon is prepared from several different cuts of meat. It is usually made from side and back cuts of pork, except in the United States, where it is almost always prepared from pork belly (typically referred to as “streaky”, “fatty”, or “American style” outside of the US and Canada). The side cut has more meat and less fat than the belly. Bacon may be prepared from either of two distinct back cuts: fatback, which is almost pure fat, and pork loin, which is very lean. Bacon-cured pork loin is known as back bacon.

Bacon may be eaten smoked, boiled, fried, baked, or grilled, or used as a minor ingredient to flavor dishes. Bacon is also used for barding and larding roasts, especially game birds. The word is derived from the Old High German bacho, meaning “buttock”, “ham” or “side of bacon”, and cognate with the Old French bacon.[1]

In continental Europe, this part of the pig is usually not smoked like bacon is in the United States; it is used primarily in cubes (lardons) as a cooking ingredient, valued both as a source of fat and for its flavor. In Italy, this is called pancetta and is usually cooked in small cubes or served uncooked and thinly sliced as part of an antipasto.

That diagram get you hungry? Haha. For those of you who do not like bacon, or prefer turkey bacon, or are vegetarian, I don’t know what to tell you. Sure, I guess you can substitute turkey bacon or fake bacon in this if it makes you happy/feel better. But I myself don’t abide by that, so I can’t help you.

Basically, as far as this recipe goes, I threw it together in no time and I thought I’d share my “recipe” with you. One of you might be looking for something new & different yet filling to make after a long day of hard work, too. That’s the awesome thing about macaroni & cheese; you don’t need a recipe! Once you get the hang of making a roux & a basic cheese sauce, you can totally wing it; make one without a recipe at all or personalize an already great macaroni & cheese recipe.

Well, I posted it for those reasons but also because I think Brianne would’ve killed me if I didn’t. And you do not want to mess with a pregnant woman. Ever.

ONION-Y BACON MACARONI & CHEESE

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. pasta of your choice (I used mini-rigatoni, but elbows, pipette, gemelli, cavatappi or ziti work too… whatever you like!)
  • 1 ½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, plus an extra ½ cup set aside
  • 1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ lb. hickory smoked bacon, cooked until crisp and then crumbled when cool (either by frying or baking in the oven)
  • 1 cup Italian flavored panko breadcrumbs
  • vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter to a small saucepan and melt. Add the breadcrumbs and cook until just toasted. Set aside.
  2. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until slightly puffy and bubbly on the edges. Add the cayenne, the garlic powder, the onion powder and salt/pepper and whisk. Add milk, and cook, again whisking constantly until slightly thickened. Turn off heat, and remove pan from hot burner.
  3. Add the cheese to the milk mixture slowly, by the ½ cup, stirring constantly to make sure it’s evenly distributed and melts evenly. When melted (or mostly melted), add the crumbled bacon and stir until evenly mixed.
  4. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to directions for al dente in a large pot of salted, boiling water with a drizzle of vegetable oil. Drain, but do not rinse. Return the pasta to the large pot and mix the cheese/bacon sauce in with it, making sure to cover all the pasta.
  5. Add the pasta & sauce to a casserole dish that has been sprayed with PAM. Sprinkle the ½ cup of reserved cheddar on top, and then the breadcrumbs on top of that and bake until bubbly, about 30-35 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes. Serve & enjoy!

I wanted the onion & garlic taste to be really subtle. For a bigger onion flavor, caramelize some finely chopped onions in the bacon fat after you remove the bacon, then add that to the cheese sauce with the bacon. If you like a lot of garlic too, then add some minced garlic to the bacon fat as well. Once they’re cooked, remember to drain them and not add all that fat to the dish! Oh, also… I didn’t pre-toast my panko, which I suggest you do (I wrote it in the recipe) because it would make the topping crunchier & darker. Eh. Coulda, shoulda , woulda! Live & learn. I didn’t complain, neither did anyone else- there wasn’t even enough left in the pan to save for leftovers.

And I leave you with this.

Yes.


Jive turkey.

I have a confession to make, and it will probably seem weird. This is the first time I ever ate turkey in any other capacity than the sliced off pieces coming from the breast of a whole bird that was cooked on Christmas or Thanksgiving. *insert gasping sound here*

I have never eaten turkey bacon (it amounts to BLASPHEMY in my eyes), never eaten turkey sausage (I don’t like sausage anyway), never had a turkey burger (gross) and never had ground turkey. For serious. Yes, it’s better for you than ground beef. Yes, ground beef is the devil, red meat gives you high cholesterol and slowly kills you by hardening your once supple veins and filling them with a substance that looks like insulation foam. I get it. But really, I don’t like “substitutions.” As Rose Levy-Berenbaum says in her books- (I’m paraphrasing), use real ingredients, real good quality butter, just eat less of the finished product. Sure, her references are to baking, but the same can be applied to food. No one needs to eat an entire cake every day, just as no one needs to eat 2 hamburgers a day, or a steak every day, etc. Everything in moderation is key, and that’s what I live by. If I want a hamburger it’s not going to be a turkey burger or veggie burger. It’s going to be made of cow. Same thing with bacon; bacon is made from pigs, and that’s what makes it taste like bacon. I’ve said this before, but I hate substitutions and fake food. Yes, I drink Coke Zero & I won’t act as if that’s the best thing I could imbibe, however when it comes to my food I want the real thing. I don’t pretend cauliflower is potatoes nor would I use it in macaroni & cheese as a “thickener”, I don’t use margarine instead of sweet cream butter and I sure as hell don’t substitute poultry for meat. When I make chicken, it’s actually chicken and when I make beef it’s actual beef. I rarely eat meat myself, it’s practically a once every other month event, so I don’t see this as a problem.

However… Sometimes I see recipes and they intrigue me. Like this one. I saw it in the January/February issue of the Food Network magazine. It happened to be the cover recipe; spaghetti & turkey meatballs. It looked really good, and I dog-eared the page so I remembered to try it. Then in true form, forgot all about it. But I was recently rifling through my huge collection of old Gourmet‘s, Bon Appétits and Food Network magazines and I saw the cover of that issue and BAM- it dawned on me I never made it! I tore it out and decided I’d make a trip to the supermarket, get the turkey and make it that night.

Yeah, I’m not a food stylist, dude. It tasted good. I’m better with cupcakes.

This…

They weren’t bad at all. Okay, fine, they were delicious. I will say this: it’s much lighter tasting than regular meatballs. It’s good for this time of year when it’s warming up and you want to start eating lighter yet still substantial food. It was hearty, but not overwhelming, nor did it induce that “I’m so full I’m going to throw up” feeling. I thought they were very good, but again, if you’re looking for the taste of red meat use red meat. And if that is what you want, then lucky for you I have a recipe for that too. I’d make them again, yeah, but I prefer the red meat kind. And even then, I ain’t much of a meatball girl. I’m a chicken cutlet chick.

I like chunks of tomato and I don’t mind a thin sauce, so I didn’t crush ‘em that much. If you like a smoother, thicker sauce by all means, do you. You could also use canned sauce if you’re lazy. That picture kind of looks like the cover of a death metal CD, which is appropriate considering Jay just recently became the newest member & bassist of Internal Bleeding. Yes. My Jay. That Jay. He’ll be famous like I am *wink* Hey! Maybe they can use my turkey meatballs for an album cover, or a song, or something. Haha. Brutal Death Metal Turkeyballs, maybe that’s what they should be called.

Eh, might not be exactly what they’re looking for. Oh well. But that picture right there is proof positive that you can take a photo of almost any kind of meat & tomatoes and adjust the contrast, and when you put a font like that over it, you’ve got a DM album.

SPAGHETTI WITH TURKEY MEATBALLS

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic (4 smashed, 1 minced)
  • 1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 small piece parmesan rind, optional
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
  • ¾ pound 93% lean ground turkey
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 slice stale whole-wheat bread, crust trimmed, bread chopped
  • ¼ cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
  • 12 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti

Directions:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the smashed garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the tomatoes with their juice, 2 cups water, ¼ cup basil, the parmesan rind (if using) and salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until thickened, about 8 minutes. Discard the parmesan rind, if used.
  2. Chop the remaining ¼ cup basil, then mix with the turkey, parsley, bread, ricotta, parmesan, egg white, minced garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste in a bowl using your hands. Form into 4 large or 12 small meatballs; add to the sauce and simmer, turning, until cooked through, 6 minutes for small meatballs and 12 minutes for large.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pot of salted water according to the package directions. Drain and return to the pot. Toss with some of the sauce, then divide among bowls. Top the spaghetti with the meatballs, remaining sauce and more parsley and parmesan.

Basically I used a pound of whole-wheat pasta and a little over a pound of turkey, then altered the ingredients to make the meatballs the consistency I needed. I didn’t see the need to reduce the meat and pasta by a few ounces, especially for big eaters like us. I also used regular bread crumbs for the meatballs, about a little over a cup. I used a mix of Italian flavored panko and regular bread crumbs. I used whole milk ricotta because that’s what I have in my house; I refuse to use fat free or low fat cheese. It doesn’t melt as well nor hold up as well to me as the regular kind. But again, do as you will.

It tasted a lot better than the above picture looks! This one is a better representation, for sure. Maybe it’s the parmesan?

It was such a beautiful day when I was making this, I had the window open and the sun was shining. Perfect early spring day, and I was so excited for planting my garden (getting some fresh tomatoes!) & seeing some flowers. The next day it promptly turned gray, cloudy, & poured rain. Gotta love spring in NY! However the good thing about rainy days is looking through all those old magazines. And soon I’ll have yet another- I recently subscribed to Everyday Food.

Anyone have any ideas for storing magazines?

Cheesy, kinda Irish & loaded with alcohol.

No, not me. This recipe.

This is the perfect St. Patrick’s Day recipe, and I’ve been dying to try it for so long. I like making macaroni & cheese in the fall & winter, and I’ve been putting off making this because I wanted to make it for this holiday. So it’s been waiting for this moment for 3 years. Literally. Since I saw it on the Food Network‘s Ultimate Recipe Showdown, I’ve had it printed out and waiting (that and the French Onion Soup Mac & Cheese I’ve been promising to make for Jay). The problem with me is that when I have beer in the house, I drink it, so it rarely ends up in the food. I love beer, especially stouts & lagers. What can I say, I’m mostly Irish, part German, & part Polish (among other things) – all of which are known for having hollow legs.

Speaking of ‘Black & Tans’, they aren’t an Irish concept. As a matter of fact, like most watered-down so-called “Irish” traditions, they’re rarely consumed in Ireland.

Black and Tan is a drink made from a blend of pale ale, usually Bass Pale Ale, and a dark beer such as a stout or porter, most often Guinness. Sometimes a pale lager is used instead of ale; this is usually called a half and half. Contrary to popular belief, however, Black and Tan as a mixture of two beers is not a drink commonly consumed in Ireland. Indeed, the drink has image problems in parts of Ireland and elsewhere due to the association with the Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force which was sent into Ireland in the early 1920s and nicknamed the Black and Tans.[1][2]

Far be it from me to insult anyone (like Ben & Jerry’s apparently did) by making a dish with such a name. But I didn’t invent it, or create it. I just made the recipe. Don’t shoot the messenger.

This recipe is easy, despite having lots of ingredients & steps. It doesn’t even bake in the oven, so it takes less time than most mac-n-cheese recipes. For someone like me who hates corned beef & cabbage, the traditional St. Pat’s dinner, it would be the perfect meal to make on the 17th.

BLACK & TAN IRISH MAC-N-CHEDDAR

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups water
  • 24 ounces lager beer
  • 16 ounces rustic shaped pasta (I used decidedly un-Irish mini-rigatoni)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 12 ounces evaporated milk
  • 5 tablespoons lightly salted quality Irish butter
  • 2 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/3 cup stout beer
  • 3 ounces shredded smoked Gruyere
  • 8 ounces shredded Irish Cheddar
  • ½ cup bread crumbs, Japanese panko, or fresh country white
  • ½ cup crisp cooked apple wood or maple bacon crumbles
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves or several sage leaves for garnish (OPTIONAL)

Directions:

  1. Place water and lager beer into a 4 ½ quart or larger saucepan over high heat and bring to boil, add pasta and cook until just al dente. Drain and keep warm.
  2. Meanwhile in 3 quart saucepan, over medium-high heat, bring the milk, half-and-half, and evaporated milk just to a boil, keep hot. In a 4 quart saucepan, over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter and stir in flour until it begins to color slightly, whisk in hot milk, mustard, salt, cayenne, and stout, and bring to a strong simmer. Reduce heat to low and stir in cheeses until melted. Place pasta into serving dish and pour the cheese sauce over the pasta.
  3. Place remaining butter in a large saute pan over medium heat and stir in bread crumbs, stir until golden brown, stir in bacon crumbles. Spread mixture over top of macaroni. Garnish with cilantro or sage leaves.

Okay so I used Harp lager and Guinness stout for this recipe, but any stout and any lager will do, as long as they aren’t flavored with anything fancy. No chocolate stouts. Just plain old Guinness and Harp are excellent; good, hearty, Irish alcohols. I recommend good quality beer for this- don’t use PBR or Natural Ice or something, please. I’d also recommend buying or making some black & tans to drink with it. Although you can definitely taste the beer in the recipe itself, it’s more fun that way.

I have to say this recipe was amazing. The bacon was a great addition to macaroni & cheese that I’d never done before, despite being the macaroni & cheese queen. And you don’t taste the cayenne- it is not overwhelming. So don’t be afraid to use it. If you can’t find Irish butter or Irish cheddar, you can use regular salted butter and regular sharp cheddar cheese. I made my panko crumbs extra crispy along with the bacon, ’cause that’s how I like it. The bacon, of course, isn’t 100% necessary. But I’d use it if I were you.

Arwyn, my little black Irish imp, wanted to say hi. Hi!

She’s a lady… whoa, whoa, whoa.

Before I start rhapsodizing about cheese-covered macaroni, I want to give you all a heads up. Yoyo gave me a widget specially for all you Cupcake Rehab readers (it’s over there to the right, below the ads). Using the code ‘CUPCAKEREHAB’ is good for 20% off all her merchandise! I know, right? And ’tis the season for buying presents; especially handmade presents, because I think giving someone you love something that is made with love is always more special than a gift card. Although I do love me some gift cards. Anyway get your butts over there and buy some stuff, get 20% off, and be jolly. Ho, ho, ho.

Oh, macaroni & cheese. How I love thee. I have made so many variations of macaroni & cheese, it’s kind of crazy. Well no, not kind of, it really is. I’ve made buffalo chicken macaroni & cheese, garlic & herb macaroni & cheese, macaroni & cheese with cayenne, three cheese mac-n-cheese, mac-n-cheese with broccoli, plus a version of Ina Garten’s macaroni & cheese. But it’s one of my favorite foods, so I can’t really help it. And of course, it’s perfect comfort food for chilly weather- or downright cold weather. And despite making so many different kinds and variations, I have never made a Paula Deen recipe. INSANITY! So in my search for another recipe I happened upon this. If you didn’t know, Paula’s restaurant is called Lady & Sons, so of course her macaroni & cheese is called “The Lady’s Mac-n-Cheese.” The Lady does some things differently than I, so I tweaked it a bit. The original recipe can be found here.

Om nom nom nom…

Before I get to that, though, I want to talk about a new product I tried recently. You may have seen the commercials for it on television: Kraft Homestyle Deluxe Macaroni & Cheese. The premise of this is that it’s oven-baked, or rather, it can be… and it’s topped with bread crumbs. I was intrigued, and being a mac-n-cheese addict decided to try it. I bought the “Four-Cheese” variety; made with “Parmesan, Colby, Asagio and Cheddar.” I paid about $3.29 for one 12.6 ounce package. I planned on feeding three people with it, and it said it held 4 servings, so I went with it. Well… no. It doesn’t quite feed three adults, so forget about it if you have kids. Maybe two people could eat one package and be satisfied. The taste? Not bad. I’ve had way worse (namely, the original Kraft macaroni & cheese in the rectangular box with the orange powder) but really, I’ve also had way better. As a matter of fact, I’d rather eat straight up Velveeta shells & cheese instead of this; at least that way I know what I’m getting and don’t expect anything crazy. They went with a cream sauce plus powder seasoning mixture for this new “homestyle” venture, I guess that’s better than all powdered, although I must say Target has an Archer Farms macaroni & cheese that’s really way more delicious than this, and its made with just a powder. It’s a five-cheese kind and it too has a breadcrumb topping, only it’s seasoned. I’d much rather make that. I didn’t get a “four-cheese” taste from the Kraft, whereas with the Archer Farms one you could really taste all the different cheeses (I used to mix a pound of cavatappi with the pasta that comes with it to make more, and add some white cheddar to the sauce mix, way before I started to make homemade). They do have it in a lunch-bowl size as well.

My suggestion? Make homemade. It’s always better for you, even just based on the lack of preservatives, etc. Plus, you can personalize it from start to finish and make the right amount that you need. The Kraft wasn’t terrible, but I probably wouldn’t buy it again- I much prefer homemade. But if you’re really short on time, it’s okay in a pinch, or good to have in the house as a “just in case” option for dinner. Just buy two if you’ve got a family bigger than 2 (or teenagers in the house) and make sure you doctor it up by adding your own cheese. And if you really want a tasty powdered-in-a-box macaroni & cheese dinner, buy this one. Add a lb. of cavatappi to the pasta they give you, add a little white cheddar to the sauce mix, and you’ll make plenty, plus leftovers. But I really think homemade is the best way to go.

And on that note… here’s some really delicious macaroni & cheese for you… homemade, no powder.

THE LADY’S MAC-N-CHEESE (modified slightly by yours truly)

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb cooked pasta, cooked al dente and drained (I used pipette, but elbows are okay, so is pretty much any kind you like)
  • 3 cups grated Cheddar, plus 1 cup for topping
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Once you have the macaroni cooked and drained, place in a large bowl and while still hot and add the cheddar.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and add to the macaroni mixture. Mix thoroughly until all pasta is covered. Pour macaroni mixture into a casserole dish, top with 1 cup cheddar and bake for 30 to 40 minutes.

I prefer to use sharp cheddar, but a mix of mild and sharp would work too. So this version was a bit unorthodox (for me); I’ve never made a macaroni & cheese with eggs before, but it really just melted in your mouth. It reminded me of the homemade macaroni & cheese my mom used to make when I was a kid, with the cheese bubbly & browned on top. A lot of people have had problems with the egg, they say it scrambles and that the mixture isn’t creamy. I had no problems, and I added the egg mixture directly to hot pasta right out of the pot, but I also added heavy cream to mine, so maybe that made it a bit creamier? I didn’t find it to be overly “eggy” but again, I tweaked the recipe. The recipe isn’t the creamiest, really, but it’s different. I like different. Although, even though it’s different… it is just straight up mac-n-cheese. There aren’t any other flavors going on, nothing fancy. But god, is it good.

What I did was I mixed the beaten eggs with the sour cream, milk and heavy cream. I cut the butter into very small pieces, then mixed that in as well. I let it sit while the pasta cooked (8 minutes according to my pasta box/brand), and then as soon as I drained the pasta I mixed it together with the cheese. Then I mixed in the egg mixture and made sure it was thoroughly combined, so all the pasta was covered. I don’t know if how I did it made a difference, or if it was just my tweaking, but I found it to be delicious, and so did anyone else who ate it.

And the best thing about it is not only is it amazing the first time around.. but even better fried. Mainly because it’s a great idea for using up the leftover macaroni & cheese, but also because fried mac-n-cheese is one of the best things on earth. In September I went to Chip Shop in Brooklyn with Jay & some friends of ours. You may know them from the Food Network & Travel Channel specials they’ve been featured on. Anyway we went there and we indulged in some lovely fish & chips, but more importantly some fried Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, fried Twix bars, fried pizza and fried cheesecake. We didn’t get to try the fried macaroni & cheese (or fried Twinkies) but really, it was an amazing experience. Believe it or not, we didn’t even feel gross after eating that much fried food… the batter isn’t disgustingly heavy or greasy. So if anyone out there is near Brooklyn, I highly suggest Chip Shop. They’re gods.  But if you can’t get there… try some of this…

THE LADY’S FRIED MAC-N-CHEESE

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe “The Lady’s Mac-n-Cheese” prepared, chilled in the refrigerator overnight, and cut into 15 squares, recipe follows
  • 1 pound bacon (optional)
  • All-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Plain bread crumbs
  • Peanut oil, for frying

Directions:

  1. Heat peanut oil to 350 degrees F.
  2. Wrap each square of cheesy mac with 1 strip of bacon, and fasten with toothpick. Dredge each square in flour then egg and then bread crumbs to coat. Fry for about 3 minutes until golden brown.

Yeah. Holy shit. That’s all I can say.

There are TONS of macaroni & cheese recipes out there. So don’t be surprised if this isn’t the last one you see here. I want to try them all! This is an excellent Thanksgiving mac-n-cheese recipe- I’m definitely making it again on Thursday myself. It comes together easy, no roux, no flour, and yet it’s so delicious. Real stick-to-your-ribs food.

And if you’ve got a problem with the calorie count of this… I’ll quote my girl Paula: “I’m your cook, not your doctor.”

All gone *sad face*