Recipe 5: Mac and Cheesesteak

I honestly don’t remember how I stumbled upon the website Food in My Beard, and I honestly don’t care either: I have found it, and it’s awesome.  It’s amusing.  Its fans are called Beardies.  And it has a ridonkulous amount of recipes that sound crazy-good.

In my quest to find 52 mac and cheese recipes to try this year, I have come across so many recipes that mimic each other.  One might be called “Three cheese mac” and another called “Mom’s mac and cheese,” but the ingredients are the same, so despite the different titles, they are the same.  Even ones with different ingredients often have such similar ingredients that I can’t believe they would taste so different to warrant reviewing them both.

Enter Food in My Beard.  Dan, the author, is clearly a mac and cheese fan too – he has over fifteen different mac and cheese recipes to date.  That is impressive enough – but they all seem wildly different from each other.

The one I wanted to try first was this mac and cheese steak recipe.  Although I have been to Philadelphia, I actually have never had a proper cheese steak.  Shameful, I know; in my defense, I was visiting a friend and taking in the culture.

Observe the culture.

Despite never having a proper Philly cheese steak, I do know that I like cheese, beef, and caramelized onions – so I thought this sounded like a good place to start combing through the food-strewn beard.

Mac and Cheesesteak (from Food in My Beard)

Ingredients

  • 0.8 lbs American cheese, grated
  • 0.8 lbs provolone cheese, grated
  • 6oz. Asiago cheese, grated
  • 2 onions(I recommend something sweet, like vidalias)
  • 2 lbs. shaved steak
  • 4 Tablespoons flour (I used Pamela’s, a gluten-free flour blend.  Also, 4 Tablespoons is the same as 1/4c)
  • 4 Tablespoons butter, plus a little more
  • 6 cups milk (yes, 6.  I used skim)
  • 1 1/2 lbs gemelli pasta (I used rice elbows because that is what I had)
  • Breadcrumbs (they do make gluten-free breadcrumbs too!)
  • Optional banana peppers (I left them out)

Directions

Sear off the steak in batches to get it all nice and brown (this was probably the most time-consuming part for me – easy, just time-consuming). Remove from pan. In the same pan cook the onions down in some butter until very browned (I used 1 Tablespoon, and I don’t think even that much was purely necessary, as there was still a lot of “meat juice” in which to cook the onions.  Yeah, I said “meat juice”). Meanwhile heat the butter and flour whisking often until smooth and very slightly starting to brown. Add the milk whisking constantly and bring to a simmer. Once the simmer is achieved and the mixture is thickened, kill the heat and let the temperature drop a bit (I confess I didn’t kill the heat to let the temperature drop; I don’t think it hurt things any). Turn the heat back on low and slowly start adding the cheese in handfuls, whisking to be sure everything is melting evenly. Drop the pasta into salted boiling water. Cook a few minutes less than the package says (I actually cooked the pasta while I was searing the steaks). Strain and mix with the sauce. Mix in the meat (I put the meat in first, then the cheese; my reason why is below). Spread onions and optional banana peppers on top and lightly press into the mixture with a spoon. Top with breadcrumbs (I used maybe half a cup-ish?  I didn’t measure, just scooped it out by hand and sprinkled) and bake at 400 until the sauce is bubbling and the top is browned (this took me maybe 5 – 10 minutes). If it hasn’t browned, broil it for a minute or 2.  There is no serving size listed, but this serves a lot of people.  Totally.

Verdict: 4.5/5

Despite the simplicity in terms of actual execution, there are a lot of little steps.  This can seem a bit overwhelming when trying to scramble and get everything done.  In fact, while the mac was browning in the oven, here was just a partial view of the aftermath of dirty dishes.

OK, I didn't use the kettle. But still.

Don’t worry.  You can totally do this.  With great food comes great responsibility.

Amusing anecdote related to this recipe: I gave the list of cheese I needed for the recipe to Loverman when he went grocery shopping.  I thought a request as specific as 0.8 lbs of American and provolone cheese each would prompt him to go to the cheese counter and get a nice block.  Instead I got a bunch of pre-packaged slices.  *facepalm*  Oh well; as we established last week, common sense isn’t always my forte, and he is like me in that.  But waste not want not: I ripped it, crumbled it – did everything to make it as much like shredded cheese as possible.  I feared I would have another failure to report back to you guys because of the ingredients at my disposal.

Totally not the case.

As a rule, it is an enormous blessing that the Internet does not come with Smell-O-Vision.  This is one time I wish there was an exception.  First there was the aroma of seared beef to enjoy.  Then came the onions.  That sweet-and-savory perfume of onions caramelizing in beef drippings and a touch of butter reminds me of French onion soup, and it permeated the entire apartment for a while.

As for the cheese, I confess I was a bit reticent.  Provolone is not my favorite, nor is Asiago (I think they can be a bit strong sometimes), but ohmygod people, this was awesome.  Despite starting with the sliced American and provolone (I did get a block of Asiago to shred at home!), the cheese sauce was smooth and creamy and amazing.  It paired perfectly with the caramelized onions and the steak.

There was, however, a lot of it.  I don’t know if my gluten-free pasta absorbs differently than regular pasta (never noticed it before, but hey), but I found that there was way too much sauce for my pasta – or at least for the size casserole dish I had (and I used the biggest one I own!)  Thankfully I noticed this before mixing the two: I mixed the beef in the pasta first, then added the cheese sauce to reduce the possibility of spillage.  Also, after getting some spillage anyway, I put my casserole dish on top of a cookie sheet… And I still had a lot of leftover sauce that absolutely could not fit into my casserole dish.  I feared this might result in an under-cheesed dish, but thankfully my fears were unfounded.

Although next time I might use panko instead of breadcrumbs.

This was creamy and savory with a touch of sweet from the vidalia.  I took a bite and turned to the hubz and declared, “I think I love this.”  Although he enjoyed it, he was more subdued in his praise.  We both had seconds and we have plenty of leftovers.  I already promised to give my neighbor a sample, and although it pains me to give away some of this delicious dish, I also feel obliged to spread the joy.

So yes, I loved this.  You will too.  Unless, you know, you’re vegetarian.  But I know I am a Beardie for sure.

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One Comment on “Recipe 5: Mac and Cheesesteak”

  1. Ami says:

    “Observe the culture.” LOLOLOL!

    I don’t eat (cow) steak anymore (tuna steak, yes), but once upon a time I used to, and it sounds pretty delicious. And shaved was indeed my favorite form of steak.

    A suggestion: when I have a recipe that makes a ton, I will sometimes take a small portion and freeze it for a night or two, and then take it out again & eat it for lunch to see if it froze well. If so, the original dish is still not too old to freeze, and then I also know going forward that I can freeze some.


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