Recipe 52: Everything Bagel Mac and Cheese

When you go gluten-free, whether by choice or by necessity, you end up missing out on a lot of things. Some are things that it’s probably better to do without, like the majority of a fast-food menu. Some are little indulgences you don’t even think of until you can’t have them anymore.

Regular bagels are one of those indulgences.

Don’t get me wrong, there are companies that make gluten free bagels. But I can’t just go to the local bagel joint and pick up a quick meal, nor can I grab my choice of flavors from the bag brought home for the family over the holidays. It’s not one of those things I moon over constantly, but I do feel a slight twinge of sadness when I can’t partake.

Luckily for me, the genius at The Food in My Beard has my back. An everything-bagel mac and cheese? Um, yes!

In preparing to do this recipe, I found two companies that make a gluten-free everything-bagel. I used the one made by Udi’s, as I’ve had their plain bagels and enjoyed them. Katz also makes one. If you know of others, drop me a line!

 

Everything Bagel Mac and Cheese (from The Food in My Beard)

Ingredients

  • 12 oz cream cheese (1 and a half packages)
  • 8 oz fontina cheese (our grocery store didn’t have any, but a quick search said you can use provolone, gruyere, or gouda as a replacement; I used gruyere)
  • 8 oz jack cheese (I assumed this meant monterey jack)
  • 1 cup cream (I used Half-and-Half)
  • 2 tablespoons butter (I never saw where this went in the recipe, so I left it out)
  • 12 scallions
  • 2 white onions
  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • 1.5 tablespoons poppy seed
  • 1.5 tablespoons sesame seed
  • 2 everything bagels
  • 1 pound elbow pasta (I used corn elbows)
  • pecorino romano

Directions

Chop the onion and garlic. On a large baking sheet mix the onion and garlic with a small amount of oil and salt. Bake at 350, stirring occasionally, until browned and crispy. Should take about an hour at least. When just about browned, mix in the sesame and poppy seeds, and cook another 5-10 minutes to lightly toast.

Mix together the cream, fontina, jack, and cream cheeses. Chop the scallions and add to the mixture.

Boil some salted water and add the pasta. Mix and cook. When the pasta has a few more minutes of cooking time, scoop about 1/2 cup of pasta water into the cheeses. Mix well to get everything to start melting. Finally strain the pasta and add it. Mix well and all the cheeses should have melted and formed a sauce.

Pour into a baking dish. Mix in the cooked everything bagel spice mixture(you may not want all of it in there, use discretion and taste). Finally, toast the bagels and food process to crumbs. Use this mixture as breadcrumbs on top of the pasta. Also top with pecorino romano. Bake at 500 for about 10 minutes until bubbly, browned, and delicious.IMG_7387

 

VERDICT: 3.5/5
One downside to this recipe is mine, not the original chef’s: I toasted my gluten-free bagels twice and they still wouldn’t crumble. I ended up tearing them into pieces, but it was more like croutons than bread crumbs. I kind of picked them off the top and ate them separate from the mac itself. If you can have regular bagels, this will probably work better for you.

As for the main bulk of the recipe, you better be sure you like onions and scallions and garlic, because the flavor is pronounced. In fact, despite the fact that this is a mac and cheese, the seasoning was much more pronounced as a flavor than the cheese sauce. This is not a bad thing, but keep this in mind.

I asked Loverman what he thought of the recipe. He gave it a simple “not bad,” then proceeded to have seconds.

 

Hey!  I finally made it to 52 recipes!  Have a recipe I would try out? Let me know!


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 22: Maitake Mushroom Mac – a Weekly Mac Original!

Although I have what I’d like to consider a fairly diverse palette, I do recognize that I can get weirdly picky about certain foods.  Take spinach, for example:  Raw is always fine, but sometimes when it’s wilted and half the time when it’s fully cooked it tastes gross to me; and despite many attempts to discover it, I have yet to determine where exactly that line is between Good and Not Good.  For someone who has not had qualms about trying eel, alligator, or escargot, among other unusual things, I can get very specifically persnickety about certain very common foods.

Mushrooms are one of those foods.  For many years the only exposure I had was those mushy slices on pizzas or the slimy jarred specimens.  Nothing about either appealed to me or made me curious to try more.  They were flaccid – there was no other word for it – and tasted foul to me.  I did not understand how people could actually willingly consume these bizarre fungi.

However, there were some tentative forays into the mushroom possibilities.  My mother, another mycophobe, tried a chicken-mushroom soup that she enjoyed, and when making it herself, she cut the little shrooms extra small so as not to offend even her own palette; I liked it too.  A few years later, at the salad bar in college, one day I decided to be bold and add a couple of raw button mushrooms to my leafy spread.  Still a tad spongy, but definitely not the squishy grey blob I’d had before, and with a pleasant mild earthy taste.  The door was opened to further explorations.

Still, as the years passed, I didn’t go running for the shrooms in the produce aisle.  I knew it could be all right, but I was still leery.  Old food prejudices die hard, I suppose – I mean, they are a fungus, after all; that’s hard to get over.  When Loverman and I were dating and he told me about some Polish dish he liked that was mainly button mushrooms, I expressed my uncertainty, but reluctantly permitted him to make it.  My mouth did not reject the mushroom-laden plate, and in fact I really enjoyed it.  But there were still some times when I’d have mushrooms and get grossed out, so it was – and is – still trial and error.

I want to have a diverse palette.  Not even necessarily a sophisticated palette (as a rule my favorite wine choices are ridiculously sweet, for example), but I’d like to be one of those people who enjoys the majority of food choices out there.  Every so often I’ll try a new food or one that I have been cautious of trying again just to see if I will like it.  In the case of mushrooms, I have bought buttons here and there to try in dishes.  I even bought a pack of “mixed mushrooms” which contained shiitake, maitake, and oyster mushrooms – mainly because I had seen a green-friendly product that would allow you to grow your own oyster mushrooms, and I was curious whether or not I would like them.  Turns out, oyster mushrooms were not for me.

The maitake, however, were all right.  I was only recently reminded of this by the most recent issue of Edible Finger Lakes, which featured an interview with Eugenia Bone, who recently wrote a book on mushrooms, and a small one page bit on mushrooms that can be foraged locally.  One of these is maitake, AKA hen-of-the-woods, not to be confused with chicken-of-the-woods, which is apparently a different mushroom.  It has been described as having such a hearty, almost meaty texture that it has reportedly helped some aspiring vegetarians make the switch from meat.  Well, aspiring vegetarian I am not, but I do aspire to expand my culinary horizons – and hey, there is nothing wrong with reducing one’s meat consumption.

There are plenty of places that can help you learn about foraging for mushrooms safely.  This is not one of them – unless you want help going to the local fancy-pants grocery store and picking up a pack, as I did.  I used most of it in a non-mac recipe that was excellent, but I still had a fair amount leftover.  What better use could this leftover chunk have than to become my next mac and cheese creation?

Funny thing: The Internet abounds with recipes for macs and cheese that include mushrooms, but not many that call specifically for maitake mushrooms.  Apparently a restaurant or two makes one, but the recipes are not immediately available – and what is the Internet for if not instant gratification?  No good.  So, in the spirit of culinary courage, I researched some cheese pairings that work well with maitake (I didn’t want to smother the natural umami of the shrooms but rather compliment it), consulted a few other mac recipes, and concocted my own recipe.  So here I stand before you (well, OK, I am sitting on the couch), humbly presenting the very first Weekly Mac Original Recipe.

Much as I am not a professional chef, I am likewise not a professional recipe author or tester.  I hope I’ve made this clear enough for anyone, but please feel free to ask for clarification if I’ve fallen short, either by leaving a comment below or by e-mailing me at weeklymacATyahooDOTcom

Maitake Mushroom Mac (a Weekly Mac original!)

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. pasta of choice – I used corn elbows
  • 1 or 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, plus more for later
  • Half of a medium-sized yellow onion, diced (any other sweet onion would work well, too)
  • 3.5 oz maitake mushrooms, cleaned off and roughly chopped into bite-sized pieces… I’m sure 3 oz. or 4 oz. would be just fine, too; this is just how much my leftovers weighed.
  • 1 Tablespoon flour or gluten-free flour substitute
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup shredded Gruyere cheese (this is approximately what I had leftover from the last recipe)
  • 1/4 cup shredded Pecorino Romano, or just use the same amount of Parmesan or Gruyere
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese (a mild cheddar would probably work too)
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese (use the real stuff if you can; it’s so much better than shaky-cheese)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350F.  Boil pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, add olive oil to a medium pan and put heat at medium-low to medium.  Add onion and sauté until onion is very soft and translucent, about 5 minutes or so.  Increase heat slightly and add maitake mushrooms to the onions, cooking until most of the moisture has left the mushrooms, maybe 3 – 5 minutes.  If the mixture seems too dry, add a little more oil, but I didn’t need to.  Your mileage may vary.  When this has been cooked, set aside – or if the pasta is cooked and drained by now, add it to the pasta.  Don’t put the pan in the sink yet; you’ll need it later.

Now in a medium pot, melt butter and add flour or flour-substitute, making a roux by stirring the flour into the butter.  Try to keep it white, but I usually mess this up and let it get brown (although not this time – go me!), so unless it’s burned horribly, you’re probably OK.  Gradually add the milk, stirring continuously.  Add the Colby jack, Gruyere, and Pecorino Romano – slowly so it won’t turn into glop – continuously stirring to incorporate the cheese into the milk-mixture.  Taste it, and if it needs salt or pepper, add some.  I tend to just add a dash of each for good measure, but I only added a bit of pepper, as I felt the Pecorino lent it enough saltiness.

Once the cheese is thoroughly incorporated, the sauce is ready: Thoroughly combine the pasta, onion and maitake mixture, and cheese sauce in a 7”x11” dish.  If you’re really worried about it overflowing or you’d prefer a thinner mac, then go ahead and use a 9”x13” – I just prefer my mac thicker, plus with the volume of food I didn’t see need for the larger dish.

In the same pan in which you cooked the onions and mushrooms, add another healthy glug of olive oil (yes, that’s a technical term – approximately another 2 Tablespoons if you’re looking for something more scientific) and turn heat to low.  Add the breadcrumbs, rosemary, and thyme, and stir to incorporate thoroughly; if it is too dry and not coming together well, you didn’t glug enough – add some more olive oil.  When it is incorporated and starting to become fragrant, remove from the heat and allow to cool.  Once cool, mix in Parmesan cheese.  Add the breadcrumbs-Parmesan mix to the top of the pasta-cheese mixture – make sure you spread it evenly!

Put in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the top turns a nice golden brown.  Then wait 5 – 10 minutes for it to cool before glomming it down like the marvelous mac-monster you are

Hen-of-the-woods, a vegetarian ingredient.

Verdict: 3/5

Not to toot my own horn, but toot-toot!

OK, it’s not the best mac I’ve ever tried, but for it being the first time I’ve tried concocting my own recipe, I feel I went pretty darn well.  I think making it again I would leave the mushrooms a bit chunkier, since I think some of that nice, meaty texture got lost.  Loverman felt it needed to be a bit cheesier, so maybe increasing the cheddar or the gruyere would help.  I do also think that – despite what I usually think – the bread crumbs were a bit much.  Maybe just 1/4 cup or so might be enough?  I do like the thyme and rosemary to compliment the savory flavor of the maitake – clearly there, but not overwhelmingly so.

If any of you try this, please let me know!  Even if you don’t like it, let me know anyway (but politeness is appreciated – and suggestions appreciated even more).  I hope this will just be the first in a series of original recipes… And nowhere to go but up from here (hopefully).


Recipe 13: Bistro Mac and Cheese

Last night I made another new mac and cheese for dinner.  Just a few days after my previous one.  I normally like to space out my recipes more but when I realized that Recipe 13 would be the quarter-mark for this challenge, I got excited and decided I needed to take care of it as soon as possible.

So before we go on to the recipe, getting 1/4 through this challenge begs the question: How’s it going?  Well, I am fairly sure I haven’t gained any weight – but to be fair, I wasn’t exactly a junior-petite before the challenge started either.  I love trying new recipes, so this forces them into my weekly repertoire – though of course it’s a bummer when they turn out wrong, whether due to my own missteps or just a bad recipe (in my opinion, of course).  I still make a lot of mistakes and I’m not going to hide that or justify it either; I’ve made no secret that I’m a person with faults and not a professional chef, and I’d like to think that makes this blog a little bit more approachable to the Average Joe/Jane, who I’m guessing has more sense than to take on such a wacky endeavor as this.  Which raises another point:

I am so sick of mac and cheese.

Scandalous I know!  But really, think about it: All the best things about mac and cheese become wearisome when you are eating them over and over – the richness, the creaminess, the carb-overload.  Next time you think to yourself or gush to your friends, “I swear, I could eat *insert food item here* every day?”

No.  No, you can’t.  And really, you shouldn’t.

Fret not though, Weekly Mackers!  I am not going to be abandoning this mad task I’ve given myself.  It really is fun to see what tastes wonderful and what falls flat on its face.  And if you folks are so eager to read about mac and cheese recipes (maybe? anyone?), then I am happy to guinea-pig myself out for your culinary education.  See how much I care?  This is all for you.

Bistro Mac and Cheese (from Taste of Home)

Ingredients

  • 1 package (16 ounces) uncooked elbow macaroni (I used quinoa elbows)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (or gluten-free flour blend; I use Pamela’s)
  • 2-1/2 cups 2% milk (I used skim because that’s what we keep in the house)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese (I used a sharp white)
  • 1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, softened (they make 3 oz packages now!)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Directions

Cook macaroni according to package directions.  Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, melt butter (unless you are doing the crumb-topping indicated below, you can use a normal pot, not a Dutch oven).  Stir in flour until smooth. Gradually stir in milk and seasonings. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.  Reduce heat; add cheeses and stir until melted. Stir in sour cream. Drain macaroni; stir into sauce.

This recipe can also be baked with a crumb topping. Place macaroni in a greased 3-qt. baking dish. Combine 1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs and 2 tablespoons melted butter; sprinkle over macaroni. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly.  A full recipe, according to the site, serves 8; I made a half-recipe.

I didn't do the crumb-topping. Yes, that's steam!

Verdict: 3.5/5

I hedged for a bit as to whether this should be a 3.5 or a 4.  I really loved the tang of the gorgonzola, which overwhelms the flavor of the mac, and the creaminess from the cream cheese.  Still, with the cream and the decadence it became slightly one note.  It really needed the crumb-topping to break up the taste, and when I warmed up the leftovers for lunch today (hey, I may be sick of mac but a girl’s gotta eat) I made a sort of microwave crumb-topping for my bowl, and it helped break up the monotony so much.  Loverman and I both thought that perhaps some chicken might have been a good option (yes, it’s his go-to suggestion, but in this case I think it’s a fair point), and I wonder if even some shrimp might be a good addition.  I would definitely make this again, and even without the suggested carnivorous additions it’s a great, easy meal to whip together on a weeknight – but make sure you do the crumb-topping.  Though I confess, I don’t really know what is particularly “bistro” about this recipe.

Do you know a recipe that you think would help bust up my mac and cheese funk?  Let me know!  Post on my Facebook wall or e-mail me at weeklymac*AT*yahoo*DOT*com!


Recipe 1: Stove Top Mac-N-Cheese

And so this mad endeavor begins.  I wanted to start with something simple, so I looked at a few options and went with this recipe from the Food Network website.  Though I confess that there was an underlying reason: It is an Alton Brown recipe.

My husband, “Loverman,” is a big Alton Brown fan.  Like bordering on fan-boy.  Of the few things he added to our wedding registry, three of them were Alton Brown books; when he received them, he read them cover to cover, studious as any scholar.  When Alton Brown gives a recipe for a dish, my husband tends to take it as gospel.  So it was I thought starting out with such a dish might start us off on a good note:

Stove Top Mac-N-Cheese (from Food Network)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni (I used quinoa pasta)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 ounces evaporated milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (I accidentally used table salt.  Oops)
  • Fresh black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 10 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded

Directions

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente and drain. Return to the pot and melt in the butter. Toss to coat.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and mustard. Stir into the pasta and add the cheese (Note: Be sure to do this little by little, or else you get a big glob that won’t really melt.  I have made that mistake before). Over low heat continue to stir for 3 minutes or until creamy.  Serves 6 to 8.

Here's my dinner

Verdict: 2/5

Oh, Alton.  I wanted to believe it could be so easy.  Sure, it was easy to put it all together – boiling the water was probably the longest part of the whole process, during which I grated the cheese – but this left me thoroughly underwhelmed.  The flavors weren’t all that bad per se, but they weren’t terribly interesting either – very one-note, bland.  We have several leftovers, but I don’t see either of us eating them without adding something to it.  When I asked the hubz what he thought, he gave a half-hearted “It was OK” before adding his suggestion for improvement: “Sausage,” which tends to be his go-to suggestion to improve any vegetarian dish (well, meat in general).  Actually, I think maybe a spicy sausage, a chorizo perhaps, would add a much needed variation to an otherwise meh dish.

So much for starting off with a bang.  Maybe another recipe soon, partly to wash away this defeat, but secondly because it doesn’t seem a bad idea to frontload this challenge a bit – one, because I can slack some weeks, but secondly it’s much more enjoyable to eat a gooey mac and cheese in the chilly  winter versus the humid summer… Yeah, I should have thought of that before.

Update! We had the leftovers tonight!  We added a little bit of andouille and ketchup (yes, ketchup), and my husband added hot sauce.  We felt these were marked improvements over the original.  With these changes, I’d change the rating to 3/5.