Thursday, December 20, 2007

Cooking Lesson......Lost count: Mac 'n' cheese

When I think Mac and cheese, I think Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. It is what I grew up with. A fresh out of the oven cheesey goodness was not something I got until I was in high school and by that point I hated anything not out of the Kraft box.
My freshman year of college I ate a lot of Kraft mac 'n' cheese. I ate so much I got sick of it. I haven't eaten it since.
But now 2 years older and growing foodie with a boyfriend who likes to say that his food tastes "can go from eating McDonald's to commenting on wine like an enthusiast." A man who loves mac 'n' cheese. So two months ago at a party, I gave the guests a recipe that I thought they would like. I gave my boyfriend cheesemonger's mac 'n' cheese with brie, gruyere, and cheddar. I never thought he would actually make it. But he insisted last week that he wanted to make it for me before I left. Who was I to complain?
First we went and picked out the cheeses. Now the recipe calls for sharp cheddar, but do you go with block cheese, fresh cheese, already shredded cheese. We went with fresh cut cheese, but my boyfriend's question was what kinda of sharp cheddar. I shrugged. It depends on what you like I told him, so we choose just a sharp cheddar. Then was the decision of the brie. How to choose that, I don't know. We just choose one, I'm no cheese expert. I just really like it and so does my boyfriend.
After the grocery store and a 2 day wait, we began to cook the recipe. It wasn't that hard and it is always fun to teach him something new. Our only problem is we didn't get the roux brown enough so it wasn't a thick mac 'n' cheese. I cut out the nutmeg and I believe with the cheeses we choose that it would over power it all. However, the mixture of the three cheese was excellent. It was so delicious that I don't know how to describe it, but my boyfriend describes it as rich. But it was so good, I went back for seconds and probably could have eaten the whole thing.

Paul's 3 cheese mac 'n' cheese
(adapted from Gourmet magazine Cheesemonger's mac and cheese)

1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Gruyère cheese
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 6 ounces)
1 1/2 cups diced rindless Brie (cut from 1-pound wedge)
5 tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
4 cups whole milk
1 3/4 cups breadcrumbs
1 pound penne pasta or rigatoni

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until tender but firm to bite. Drain. Transfer to large bowl.

Mix all cheeses. Set aside 1 cup for topping; cover and chill. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and stir until mixture turns golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add thyme and nutmeg. Gradually whisk in milk. Simmer until thickened and smooth, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Add cheeses from large bowl. Stir until melted and smooth.

Pour cheese sauce over pasta; toss. Place in square glass pan or anything that can hold the pasta. (We used an 8" pyrex dish and it fit) Sprinkle breadcrumbs. Bake pasta until beginning to bubble and tops are golden, about 20 minutes.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

10 minute freak fest

I spent 10 minutes walking back and forth staring at the form in the bag. I was waiting for it to flop around and jump of the cutting board, but it just stayed there. I cringed, I repeated "I can't," I said eww several times. Then I took a breath, I walked over to the bag and very hastily started cutting the bag with a small knife. I really thought it was going to twitch and I'd scream and runaway. Some sick horror movie, but it never happened. 
No, the red snapper laid on the cutting board, staring at the ceiling, dead. Very much dead. It had no fins, no heart, no guts, nothing to keep it alive. So why was I so scared. Because it stared at me. Just like I didn't like my stuffed animals staring at me while I slept. I don't like my food to either. It took me the same amount of time to decide to eat the whole crab staring at me in D.C. in August. I'm a wimp, I know. 
There are some that don't hesitate. But there are only a handful of times you see something alive before you eat. Unless you are a rancher or work at a slaughterhouse. And I am a person who rarely ever sees the "meat" before eating. So the act of cooking it and seeing it scared me. 
But after the initial shock , the fish staring at me. I got over. At some point you forget that it still has eyes and a head. 
Only problem, no recipe. What to do? Clip rosemary from a neighbor, mince some garlic , drizzle olive oil, and slice lemons. Place on fish and cook. So simple after the initial shock, and he wasn't going to jump off the pan now. 
And the boyfriend approved so it had to be good. Now what to cook?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Goin' French!

Oh how long has it been since I've posted! Almost a month! It's not that I haven't cooked or made new recipes, trust me I've destroyed many of a kitchen. 
What have I made?
Cupcakes, cookies, weekly banana bread, lamb, buffalo burgers, fish 'n' chips, just to name the few. So why do I come back to you today?
I'm done with school. I'm done with college. Not just for the semester. No, tomorrow I graduate. I will have taken 3 and 1/2 years of my life and get some piece of paper for my hard work. And in a month I'll be in Alabama at Southern Living magazine. Life's crazy, but the kitchen slows me down. You have to take your time there. You have to watch things, sometimes you have to be even extra careful. 
Maybe that's why I like cooking and baking because it takes that time and dedication. Yeah sometimes you screw up like the chocolate souffles I made for my boyfriend. Bad doesn't begin to describe the mistake I made with them. Did he say it? No. Was I? Heavens, No! It happens about once a week, but he never complains. 
So today for lunch I sit here typing to you with  a steaming bowl of French Onion Soup, my version that I've created. My boyfriend had never had it. A tragedy, so last week I made some, really good too without slaving 48 hours making beef stock. I went out on a whim and combined two recipes. The risk was worth the reward. 

French Onion Soup

2.5 Tbsp butter
3 large sweet onions
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups beef stock
1 cup chicken stock
bay leaf

Melt butter in stock pot. Cook onions until carmalized about 10 minutes. Add wine and deglaze. Add both stocks cook for at least 20 minutes. Add spices at end. Taste and respice if needed. 
*It is always better to make soup a day ahead and season it the day after.