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My kind of hotdish

“Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
-Vonnegut, A Man Without A Country

Hats off to Rox for posting this quote on her blog a couple of weeks ago. Sometimes, I feel so uncreative, I don’t even know where to start. I’m surrounded by creative people every day and I marvel at their ability to generate ideas, create beautiful works of art, or make useful objects. Hell, even pick out interesting outfits. How can I be more creative? What is my art?

Duh. Cooking. And this blog. How I have forgotten thee. I have been busy cooking since the new year began, especially thanks to my new immersion blender that Jake gave me. Now I can fearlessly blend soups right in the pot! And a big batch of soup makes for excellent lunches. I made the Balthazar mushroom soup from SK, which would have been impossible without the new appliance. A word to the wise, blending hot liquids in a blender is dangerous and quite the hassle. An immersion blender pretty much replaces a regular blender. It’s less to clean and can be used right in pots and dishes. None of that “puree-in-batches” crap. I’ll never eat chunky soup again.

Brown bag this

Brown bag this

Today, feeling a little more willing to work, I wanted to take on a bigger project than just saute, heat, and blend. I awoke with a bit of a headache and felt like escaping from everyday responsibilities, like laundry. After stealing a box of elbow macaroni from Jake’s house, I decided baked mac and cheese would be perfect. And ooooh was I right.

Pretty much every celebrity chef has their own recipe for M&C, but I went to the Holy Grail of Martha since I’m new at this. Plus her recipe calls for things you’re more likely to have at home. I cut a few corners, like using medium cheddar, parmesan, and wheat bread, but overall the dish was great. Next time, I’ll plan ahead and use a more pungent cheese and maybe bread crumbs instead of cubes.

Warning: this makes A LOT. I halved the recipe, fed myself, Jake, and Roxie, and have enough for three generous lunches.

Martha’s Macaroni and Cheese
Serves 12. You’ve been warned.

6 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
5 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyere or 1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated pecorino Romano
1 pound elbow macaroni

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place bread pieces in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour butter into the bowl with bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.

2. Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.
3. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere or 1 cup pecorino Romano. Set cheese sauce aside.

4. Fill a large saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 fewer minutes than manufacturer’s directions, until outside of pasta is cooked and inside is underdone. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.) Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.

5. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar and 1/2 cup Gruyere or 1/4 cup pecorino Romano; scatter breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes; serve.

ENJOY! You have just created a masterpiece.

Now go for a walk or run a few flights of stairs. Which reminds me, I should get to that laundry.

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2,152 Responses to “My kind of hotdish”

  1. January 18th, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Morgan says:

    I just made mushroom soup a couple days ago! I was thinking it wasn’t mushroomy enough and probably needed more mushrooms for the amount of stock, so maybe I’ll try that one from smittenkitchen some time.

  2. January 18th, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    Jess says:

    That SK soup is great! I used sage when I made it, but I kind of wish I used rosemary, instead.

  3. January 20th, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Hayley says:

    I am gonna make that Mac an Cheese too! I just haven’t gotten around to it yet, I am glad you like it.