Recipe 27: Bone Marrow Mac-N-Cheese

This mac is actually the one I had hoped to make for the halfway mark, but as you may recall, while grocery shopping I got distracted by shiny objects, so that didn’t happen.  But I made extra time this week to go not just to my usual grocery store, but also to my friendly neighborhood butcher.  Funny thing – I had originally started calling them that just to sound quaint and cutesy, but for real, every time I have gone there, they have been genuinely polite, helpful, and, well, friendly.

I saw this mac several months ago and was kind of stoked for it.  I can’t entirely justify why: At that point I’d never had beef or veal marrow, but I imagined it tasted like steak with the consistency of butter.  An all natural beef-butter.  I don’t know why I had that notion, but the idea of beef-butter mac and cheese sounded sinfully delicious.

This will buy my dog’s love for a while.

The only trouble with this mac is that it requires you to have some leftover marrow bones from a prior recipe.  So that meant after obtaining the marrow bones from my Friendly Neighborhood Butcher, I had to use much of the marrow first.  I used another recipe on the same site where I got this mac recipe.  I smeared the marrow on my gluten-free bread, just waiting for the beefy buttery flavor-explosion.

It didn’t come.

I was surprised that beef marrow – or at least the bones I got – had surprisingly little beef flavor.  In fact, it had surprisingly little flavor at all.  It was mainly just… fat.  And not like bacon fat or schmaltz that still maintain the flavor or the originating protein.  Sure, a fat that my little diva-dog treated like manna from Heaven, but just fat nonetheless.

Well, I thought, maybe it will taste different with mac.

Bone Marrow Mac-N-Cheese(from $35 a Week)

Ingredients

• Leftover beef or veal bones with some marrow still left in them; enough to produce a few tablespoons’ worth of rendered fat
• 1 1/4 cup good-quality bread crumbs from leftover bread (I used homemade gluten-free bread)
• 8 oz. pasta of your choice (I used corn elbows)
• 3 T flour (or gluten-free equivalent)
• 1-2 T butter
• 1 T mustard powder
• 3 cups whole milk (I even went out and bought whole milk for this!)
• 1 bay leaf
• 2 tsp onion powder
• 1 egg
• 4 oz. grated Parmesan
• Salt to taste
• Freshly ground pepper to taste (white or black)

Directions

Roast the bones standing up in a steep-sided dish at 400 degrees, until all the fat has rendered out of the center.  Toss the bread crumbs with enough beef marrow to coat, add a pinch of salt, spread on a cookie sheet, and toast at 350 degrees until well-browned and very crunchy. (this took about 20 minutes for me)

Grease an 8 x 8 Pyrex dish or casserole dish with similar capacity.

Heat a pot of salted water for the pasta.

Heat remaining marrow plus enough butter, if necessary, to equal 3 Tablespoons in a medium pot over medium heat (I got a little less than 1 1/2 Tablespoons of marrow; the rest was butter). Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep stirring for about 5 minutes; the color should be a light golden brown. Slowly add the milk, a little at a time, while still whisking constantly. There should be no lumps. When it’s all combined, add the bay leaf and onion powder and simmer on low for 10 minutes, stirring often, until thickened.

Cook the pasta just until al-dente stage; it should be too firm to consider edible, but not totally hard.

Beat the egg in a medium bowl. After the sauce has simmered, pour about 1/2 cup into the bowl with the egg, whisking all the while (yes, you have to do it like this; if you just add it in the sauce, the egg will be scrambled in there and ruin it). When well combined, pour back into the pot with the rest of the sauce, add the cheese, and whisk to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Drain the pasta and return it to the pasta pot. Pour in the sauce, stirring well to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and top with the bread crumbs.

The homemade breadcrumbs were so awesomely crunchy.

Verdict: 3.5/5

Loverman and I are rather divided as to the rating for this mac.  He didn’t finish his helping, explaining, “It tastes weird.”  Although I kind of get what he is saying, I disagree: I thought it was pretty great.  I think the “weirdness” came from the marrow, which did offer a slightly different flavor throughout.  It wasn’t exactly beefy, but it wasn’t bad, sort of savory and mildly salty.  I was surprised, however, that the dominant flavor I got was onion.  Although it was not the beefy-butteriness I had hoped for* it was still cool in my book.

*Oh man, a little beefy flavor with that onion overtone would have made it like a French onion soup in mac form.  That would be awesome.  Maybe something to attempt for the future…


Recipe 26: Macaroni and Cheese with Parmesan Crust

WHOA!  WE’RE HALFWAY THE-ERE!

Yes,  I needed a Bon Jovi moment.  You’ve been there, right?

So holy crap, people: This is the halfway mark for this crazy, crazy challenge.  How the heck did half the year go by so quickly?  Are we really getting towards the end of June?  Oh man, now I sound like an old person.  I’m old!

All right, let’s put the theatrics aside and get back to mac.  I think I’ve had a pretty fair variety, but there’s always more that can be done.  I hope for this second half coming up I can offer you guys more diversity of flavors.  One thing that will help with that – I’ve finally been hired!  I don’t start until mid-July, but having a paycheck bigger than unemployment-insurance will certainly help in the grocery bills and in picking up some of the more unusual ingredients.  I don’t even know how many macs I have bookmarked to try (I’ve made a whole folder in my browser labeled “Mac and Cheese Recipes”) but I do know that there’s a whole lot more than fifty-two.  If I manage to hit the fifty-two mark before the year if over (and honestly, I have no idea if even the fifty-two is plausible or not, but here’s hoping), I’ll see how many I can squeeze in.  Even after 2012 is over I’ll probably still update occasionally with new recipes, though with nowhere near as frequently.

But I’m jumping way ahead of myself, aren’t I?  Let’s just enjoy the present as it is, shall we?

I had intended to try something somewhat fancy-dancy for the halfway mark.  Then I forgot about that when I went grocery shopping and didn’t get anything particularly special.  So instead I’ll be channeling the spirit of the first mac I tried and go with something pretty simple that can be whipped together with relative ease from ingredients you probably have laying around anyway.  Added bonus: The source for this recipe indicates that recipe costs about $16 to feed 4 – 6 people.  Not too shabby!

 

Macaroni and Cheese with Parmesan Crust (from BrokeAss Gourmet)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Dreamfields macaroni elbows (or regular macaroni elbows) – or gluten-free option; I used gluten-free elbows
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 tbsp flour – or gluten-free option
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp powdered mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly butter a large rectangular casserole pan or 4-6 individual oven-proof dishes (such as small souffle dishes). – I used the casserole dish so I’d have fewer things to wash.  Yeah.

Cook pasta in salted boiling water according to directions. Drain, return to pot and set aside.

In a medium pot, melt butter over medium-high heat. Sprinkle in flour until a sticky dough forms. Cook dough, whisking constantly, for 1-2 minutes.

Slowly pour in milk until a thick white sauce forms, continuing to whisk. Whisk in nutmeg and mustard powder. Gradually add cheese, and whisk until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes, continuing to whisk. – It is very gluey here.

Use a spatula to scrape all of the sauce into the cooked pasta and stir gently until all pasta is coated. Transfer pasta-cheese mixture into the prepared pan(s) and top with shredded Parmesan. – I used more Parmesan than called for because what was called for didn’t cover the top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cheese on top bubbles and is lightly-browned in spots. Serve hot. – But not too hot.  Be safe, folks.

WHOA-OA! LIVIN’ ON A PRAYER!

Verdict: 4.5/5

This might seem a bit high, and I think Loverman would disagree with me.  The reason I rate it so high?  It would make an awesome base for just about any add-in.  I think it would be great with chicken or even shrimp, adding Mediterranean spices… Maybe some ground turkey?  Chorizo?  Loverman said he thought it would work well with hotdogs, ketchup, and hot sauce (the lattermost of which he did add).  And that Parmesan crust!  This is a great substitute for the traditional bread crumb topping.  It’s got the mild saltiness of Parmesan with a wonderful chewy toothsome quality.  After all, what makes cheese even better?  More cheese.

What improvements do you think could be made for the second half of this challenge?  I’m open to suggestions!  Here’s one: Maybe you could tell some folks about Weekly Mac to spread the cheesy word!  Y’know, just putting it out there.


Recipe 25: Mac and Cheese Soup

Hello, Weekly Mackers.  I don’t know what the weather’s been like by you, but here at the Maison de Mac, it has been ridonkulous-hot.  I confess I may be biased: I tend to handle weather extremes quite poorly, especially when it’s extreme heat.  I have not been feeling like doing a whole lot in the kitchen, especially if it involves hovering over the stove-top.  But I can’t let y’all down, can I?

I knew looking at this recipe that it would probably be better suited for the fall or winter, but I couldn’t resist.  Last time I made a recipe that was less than mac, it was a dismal failure.  I couldn’t just leave the category like that, I needed to give it a chance to redeem itself.  So I braved the sweltering hot of my kitchen to whip this up.  Oh, the things I do for the love of the Internetz!

Mac and Cheese Soup (from This Woman Cooks)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups dry elbow macaroni (I used rice fusilli)
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1/4 cup minced celery (I left this out, but maybe should have kept it in)
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour (or gluten-free equivalent)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used sake because that’s what I had open – and no white wine at home)
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups whole milk (I used skim)
  • 4 cups shredded sharp cheddar
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup crumbled bleu cheese – optional (not “optional” in my book!)
  • 2 tbsp. minced fresh chives

Directions

Cook macaroni in large pot of salted water according to package direction; drain and set aside.

Sweat onion and celery in butter in a large saucepan over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour to coat and cook 1 minute (this got really quite clumpy for me). Deglaze with wine and simmer until nearly evaporated (I didn’t simmer long enough; I think I felt panicky over the clumpiness). Stir in broth, mustard, nutmeg, and cayenne. Simmer until slightly thickened, 5 minutes, then whisk and warm through. Do not let boil or base may become grainy.

(Note: Nowhere in the original recipe does it indicate when to add the milk.  I added it around now.)

Add cheddar, 1 cup at a time, allowing it to melt completely before adding the next cup. Stir in macaroni, lemon juice, and salt; remove from heat.

Combine bleu cheese and chives in a small bowl. Garnish each serving with bleu cheese mixture.

Mmm… Soup…

Verdict: 2.5/5

This was not a bad recipe, but it could have been better.  I think maybe 1/2 cup more noodles would have been better, and maybe the addition of bacon.  I should have used the whole milk instead of skim; it would have been thicker and heartier.  however, you see the addition of the lemon juice at the end?  This isn’t so much for a note of citrus, but rather because by adding the acid tot he milk, it causes it to mildly curdle; not in a bad way, but in a way that actually helps thicken it slightly (fun fact: If you add acid to warmed milk, it can be the beginning of creating some homemade ricotta).  The soup had a feel rather like a potato soup, but a little salty – maybe my stock wasn’t low sodium?  I didn’t check, but I usually just buy the normal stock.  The addition of the blue cheese was not optional in my opinion, and not just because of my affinity for the stuff; it added a savory note that helped interrupt the somewhat salty overtones.

Have you ever made any of the recipes here?  Do you have any suggestions for me to make?  Let me know!


Recipe 24: Mac Hack Helper

We haven’t had a mac hack in a while, have we?  Well, here we go.

Got a box of mac?  While it’s cooking (er, boiling), get a pan and brown up about a pound of ground beef.  I suppose you could use ground turkey or even a non-meat substitute, but I’m trying to emulate another quick and easy boxed item here.  One which involves hamburger.  You could throw in some spices too if you want (and a lot of unnecessary salt too, if you’re really trying to be authentic), but I’ll leave that up to you.  Mix it up with the mac and cheese and serve it up.

Nothing fancy here, but mac hacks generally aren’t, are they?  Don’t worry, I have a recipe all lined up for next time… I have been eying this one for a bit, and I am both curious and slightly nervous as to how it’ll work out.  Are you intrigued too?  Well, I guess you’ll just have to stick around for the next recipe, won’t you