Sunday, October 14, 2012

Catching Up! And Mac and Cheese: The Recipe

Thanks to work, work, my brother visiting from LA, work, getting a cold, and work, it has been a while since I last wrote! Consider this a multitasking blog post:
1. Chowdah update
2. Explanation of mystery week
3. This week's dinner: Mac and Cheese

Chowdah Update:
Without going into too much detail, Clam Chowdah was a total success. The soup was surprisingly healthy tasting, despite the cream and butter used to bookend the recipe. My frozen clams worked perfectly (thank you to my roommate's culinary wiz of a mom, who suggested getting them from Whole Foods), and the consistency was a nice middle ground between the brothy clam chowder that I loathe so much and the stuff that makes you wonder if you might as well eat a heap of cream cheese with clams on top. Mashing the potatoes at the end does wonders for thickening the soup without extra cream. My one critique was that the soup totally lacked salt. I also tossed in some red pepper flakes, which always pack a nice punch. You can check out the revised recipe here, and see below for some delicious photos.


My new favorite thing is making a mise en place. It makes life so easy once everything is prepped.
These chopped and frozen clams made adding the protein a simple task. 
I couldn't find bread bowls, but any sourdough will do.
Don't pretend that whole wheat will have the same effect-- it's sourdough or nothing at all!
 
Mystery Week:
Yes, there is a week lacking from my blog. That is because I cooked but did not memorize anything this past week. My brother was visiting from Los Angeles, and he suggested a Quinoa Burger inspired by an LA joint called Burger Lounge. After stalking the website for as many ingredients as I could determine, I went crazy with creativity and concocted a veggie burger with a good amount of success! I'll write about it at some point, but that's what I have been up to this week. Some other curious activities I participated in this week:
Mac and Cheese Time!
As temperatures drop and the cozy clothes come out (that is no longer just a metaphor-- I actually just pulled all of my cold-weather clothes out from under my bed), it's time to start thinking about some comfort food for our family dinners and for my Walking Cookbook repertoire. Making a bubbling, gooey, decadent pan of Mac and Cheese is an amazing way to ring in the fall, but I have to admit... I don't even have the Kraft Mac and Cheese recipe memorized, let alone homemade. I feel like making "real" Mac and Cheese is tricky business. The incorrect cream to cheese ratio can lead to a watery or greasy texture, and for some reason eggs are involved in the recipe (I will soon find out why).

This week's recipe is from Marja Vongerichten (the lovely wife of Jean-Georges), featured in Food & Wine Magazine and served in JG's restaurant, The Mercer Kitchen. I like the fact that I won't need to cook the sauce at all ahead of time-- it cooks in the oven. I also like the addition of cream cheese, which  I imagine has an almost undetectable sweetening effect on the dish. Straightforward, simple, and easy to make ahead of time and bake up to a day later (just bring it to room temp first), this dish is sure to be a winner.

I'll lighten up the dish with a nice fall salad (pears, craisins, and nuts with a vinaigrette), and our dessert will be a nice strawberry shortcake.

No bread crumbs to feign crunchiness... this crisp exterior is all cheese, baby!
The Recipe: Marja's Mac and Cheese, by Marja Vongerichten, adapted from Food & Wine Magazine
Yield: 8-10 servings
Ingredients:
  • 3/4 lb. elbow macaroni
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 4 oz. extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 4 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  • 4 oz. cold cream cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
Preparation:
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the macaroni for 3 minutes. Drain the macaroni and return it to the pot. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and toss well.
  • Butter a 10-by-15-inch baking dish.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the heavy cream with half-and-half, milk, eggs, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
  • Stir in the cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses and the macaroni.
  • Spread the mac and cheese in the prepared baking dish and scatter the cream cheese cubes on top.
  • Bake the macaroni for 5 minutes. Using the back of a large spoon, spread the melted cream cheese cubes evenly over the surface. Bake for 40 minutes until bubbling.
  • Removing the baking dish from the oven and preheat the broiler. Broil the mac and cheese about 3 inches from the heat source until richly browned, about 2 minutes.
  • Let stand for at least 10 and up to 20 minutes before serving.
Time to memorize: 4 days

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