Recipe 43: South Indian Style Macaroni and CheesePosted: July 6, 2013
Hello, Weekly Mackers! Happy belated Independence Day to my fellow Americans, happy even-more-belated Canada Day to my Canadian readers (according to the list of those following this blog, I know I have a few), and if you are from neither of these countries and you had a holiday recently, well, I hope it was fun as well. If not, perhaps you can make up a holiday to celebrate around this time of year. Then we can all have a sort of party together, like “OK, today we’re rocking it out in Canada for Canada Day, tomorrow we’re headed to Venezuela for Dia de los Amigos, then to Tibet for the Celebration of Great Happiness or Germany for the Black Forest Cake Fest (depending which you prefer), but be back in America for the fireworks!” Late June/Early July could be one international party. Totally plausible.
Anyway, speaking of crossing borders for good reasons, you may have noticed I have added the tag “faux ethnic” for this mac. Obviously it’s not a traditional recipe (or if it is, please be kind to me in pointing out my mistake, but I don’t imagine asiago cheese or macaroni being terribly common ingredients in traditional Indian cooking – at least not the Indian food I have had), but it does have some hints of international flavors. For this mac, it’s all about the spices. I love Indian food, and the local Indian restaurant that Loverman and I have come to frequent have more than earned their respect from us not just because of their delicious food and good service, but their willingness to deliver food out to us when most restaurants in that suburb won’t come out to our village. Win.
I made this particular mac yesterday because I was going to be playing hostess to two dear friends of mine I’ve known since high school. One of them lives locally, but the other, Kristin, has since moved out to Philadelphia where she is a bit of what I consider a modern Indiana Jones. Now, I have not known her to fight off Nazis (or Thuggees or Soviets), nor have I seen her look particularly dapper in a fedora (though I’d be glad to see her try the look), but she has been willing to uproot everything for a good archaeology position, and I’m not sure I know anyone more passionate about what they do professionally. I really admire that about her, and I probably don’t tell her that enough.
One of her many adventures brought her to India – on a whim, really. The story goes like this: While she was an undergraduate, she knew she wanted to study abroad. She was considering Ireland and another country in Europe (I have forgotten which one). At the very last minute she changed her mind from Ireland to India, and she spent a semester in the south of that country, and she has never been the same since. In addition to the many things she could not help but learn there, she fell in love with the country, the customs, and of course, the food. As I mentioned, I had no illusions that this would be anything like a real Indian recipe (while I have made recipes that profess to be Indian at home, I don’t think I’d have the nerve to make it for Kristin, who spent several months there!), but I figured something that said right in the title that it was in the style of a certain cuisine, that might give me more of a pass.
South Indian Style Macaroni and Cheese (from Better Homes and Gardens)
- 8 ounces dried macaroni (mine were made of corn)
- 2 cups frozen peas
- 1/2 cup soft bread crumbs (I used dried because that’s what I had; I don’t think it mattered)
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Asiago cheese (1 oz.) (I wish they sold Asiago in smaller chunks; not I have a bunch in the fridge to figure out what to do with)
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon garlic paste (find this in the ethnic aisle of your local grocery store, or check a local Indian market)
- 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded fresh ginger (I used powdered since so little was going to be used; I used just a pinch)
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (or your favorite gluten-free blend)
- 3 cups milk (I used skim, use what you have)
- 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (8 oz.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook macaroni according to package directions;. Place peas in colander. Drain pasta in colander with the peas. Set aside. Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine bread crumbs, Asiago, and paprika; set aside. In another bowl stir together salt, garam masala, black pepper, cayenne, and turmeric; set aside. In large saucepan melt butter. Add garlic paste and ginger; cook and stir 1 minute. Add salt-spice mixture and cook 2 minutes. Stir in flour until combined, about 1 minutes.(I totally added the flour right to the butter, then the garlic paste, ginger, and other spices. That is how every other recipe has had me make a roux and I was on auto-pilot!) Add milk all at once. Cook and stir until slightly thickened and bubbly. (Possibly because of my error mentioned above, mine never really got thickened or all that bubbly, and remained soupy before it went into the oven) Stir in cheddar cheese until melted. Stir in cooked macaroni and peas. Transfer to 2-quart rectangular baking dish; sprinkle with bread crumb mixture. Bake, uncovered, 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbly and crumbs are golden. Makes 6 servings.
I was concerned that this might not turn out all right given the error I made as indicated in the recipe text. As I poured it into the baking dish, it was so liquidy, I was grimacing, dreading having to serve it. Still, the wonderful aroma of the spices filled the kitchen – and it was too late to make anything else anyway. When my guests arrived, Kristin did comment, “That smells awesome!” and became even more interested when I told her what was baking in the oven. When it was eventually finished and cool enough to eat, I found the peas offered a nice contrast in texture to the noodles, probably why they are such a popular addition in so many other mac and cheese recipes. The flavor was not at all what I expected, but by no means in a bad way. In fact, the recipe packed a bit more of a punch in terms of heat than I had expected, though it was not unpleasant; while I have often noted that I am a wuss with spicy foods, I am much more willing to partake of them when there is flavor behind them and not just heat for the sake of heat. This mac has flavor. And my trowel-blazing friend? She delighted in it and demanded the recipe at once. Well, my friend, here you go.