Recipe 69: Lemony Mac and Peas

I actually made his a few weeks ago, but I’m only getting around to posting it now.  Oops?

Lemony Mac and Peas (from Better Homes and Gardens, April 2016)

Ingredients

2 cups fresh peas

1 cup milk

3/4c ricotta

1/4c pesto

8oz dried rigatoni (I think Loverman used a full pound)

1 cup cubed ham

4oz shredded mozzarella

Lemon

Directions

Shell the peas.  In a medium saucepan, cook one cup of the peas six minutes in boiling salted water.  Drain under cold water.  Transfer to to a food processor.  Add milk, ricotta, pesto, and 2 tsp lemon zest.  Process until smooth.

Meanwhile cook rigatoni according to package directions, adding remaining cup of peas the last four minutes.  Drain, return to pot.  Stir in pea-ricotta mixture and cubed ham.

Transfer to a greased 2qt baking dish.  Top with mozzarella.  Bake at 425F for 20 minutes.  Makes four servings.

image

Verdict: 2/5

The best either of us could say about this was “meh, it’s OK.”  It wasn’t bad or anything, but it wasn’t particularly exciting either.  Now keep in mind, when he made this, Loverman used twice as much pasta as he should have, so everything probably got diluted.  Neither of us was intrigued enough that we’d want to try it again.


Recipe 66: Sausage and Apricot Baked Brie Mac and Cheese

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been out of work for a while due to my health.  This makes money tight, but we manage.  Sadly it does put a damper on such things as V-Day, when you’re supposed to shower your loved one with gifts and candy and all sorts of unnecessary things.  But we always have money for food, including some occasional treats.  Now, I might not have the money these days to make a lobster mac and cheese, but a little indulgence here and there won’t kill us.

Sausage and Apricot Baked Brie Mac and Cheese (from All Things Mac and Cheese)

Ingredients
9 tablespoons butter, divided
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 pound breakfast sausage (mine was pork)
1 pound bow tie pasta (I used small corn shells)
6 tablespoons flour (I used Pamela’s)
2 cups milk (mine was skim)
2 cloves garlic, minced
black pepper to taste
12 ounces Wisconsin brie cheese, rind removed and cubed (mine was not Wisconsin, but use whatever Brie you can, I say)
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs (I used regular GF breadcrumbs)
Directions
Heat oven to 350°F.
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in sauté pan. Add onion and cook over low until soft and caramelized. Set aside.
Cook sausage in skillet, breaking it apart with spoon into crumbles. Remove from heat and drain. Cook pasta according to package directions, heavily salting the water. Drain and rinse briefly with cool water. Set aside.
Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter. Sprinkle in flour, whisking to form soft roux. Cook until golden brown and bubbly, stirring; slowly pour in milk. Bring almost to boiling point, stirring constantly until sauce thickens. Add garlic, pepper and brie, mixing until smooth. Fold in prepared pasta, sausage, caramelized onion and dried apricots.
Pour mac and cheese mixture into 9×13-inch casserole dish; top with breadcrumbs. Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately.

image

Verdict: 4/5 – The main reason this doesn’t score higher is because it is kind of a complicated recipe.  None of the steps are individually complicated, but I had all four burners on the stove going, so that doesn’t exactly count as being easy to make.  But in terms of flavor?  Worth it – perfect for breakfast, which is how I served it.  I was worried either the sausage or the apricots would overwhelm the dish, but everything really married together quite well, all adding different textures.  Loverman said he would just have me crumble the sausage more finely and cut the apricots more finely, so it really is just something that needed some minor finessing for all that.  Try this out as s breakfast casserole and you’re sure to be a hit!

 

 

 


Recipe 55 – Smokin’ Mac for Two

Every now and then, we find a website that speaks to exactly who we are, whether it be something temporary, like wedding planning, or something long-term, like home and garden tips.

I think All Things Mac and Cheese is that site for me.

It’s a site sponsored by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, and although I’m not from Wisconsin, I thoroughly embrace what they’re doing here: matching their cheeses with recipes so people can enjoy their cheese a variety of ways. They could have gone with grilled cheese, which is also an excellent choice, but no, they chose the often-forgotten mac and cheese. Here’s to you, Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

It may not be as celebrated as Wisconsin, but New York, where I’m from, also produces a good number of cheeses. We even have a Cheese Trail. I would encourage using New York cheeses, but I think the spirit of this recipe site is to use what is local and available to you.

Smokin’ Mac and Cheese for Two (from All Things Mac and Cheese)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups pasta shells or spirals, dry (I used corn rigatoni; this is about 4 oz)
  • 2 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced (this is about 4oz before cooking)
  • 1 tablespoon flour (I used brown rice flour)
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • pinch black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (this makes the sauce a fun orange)
  • 3/4 cup milk (mine was skim)
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) Wisconsin smoked gouda cheese, shredded

Directions
Cook pasta according to package directions to al dente.
Heat medium skillet to medium high and add bacon and mushrooms. Allow to cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms begin to brown and bacon is crispy.
In separate saucepan, whisk together flour, salt, pepper, paprika and milk until combined. Heat over medium-high heat until just below a boil, reduce heat to low and stir for 1-2 minutes until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in cheese until melted and combined.
Combine pasta, mushrooms, bacon and sauce in a large bowl and toss to combine. Portion into 2 bowls and serve.

Mmm... Orange glop...

Mmm… Orange glop…

[edited to add picture]

Verdict: 2/5
I don’t know if the problem is in the recipe or the execution, but I suspect that for once, it’s not me. The biggest problem I had with this sauce was with the consistency, which was rather gluey. Already I’ve got a bit of a cheese-baby going on, and I just finished eating. The smokey flavor of the Gouda and paprika really drowned out everything else, leaving the bacon and the shiitake more as texture elements. Maybe using a non-smoked Gouda would have yielded tastier results. However, this did feed two people, exactly: Loverman and I each had a bowl, and even if there was more we would not have taken seconds.


Recipe 41: BBQ Mac and Cheese

This past weekend when Loverman was grocery shopping, he saw a nice pork shoulder.  Having been craving pulled pork for a while, he decided to pick it up.  When he started making it Sunday, he warned me, “It may get smokey in here for a bit.”  Not long thereafter the apartment filled with smoke.  And I do mean the entire apartment.  Both floors, in every room to some degree.  For some time we had every window open and had to disconnect the downstairs fire alarm, because it kept going off.  The dog followed me as I retreated upstairs in a vain attempt to escape the smoke.  She seemed to instinctually know, as all animals should, that smoke is not a good sign and should be fled immediately.  It seemed to traumatize her a bit, as for a while she followed me everywhere, even the bathroom, as if in need if reassurance that the apartment was not going to burn down.

Despite this inauspicious start, the pork turned out delicious.  Only one problem: There was a lot of it, and there are only two of us – three if you count the dog, but she’s only a little thing, considered fairly overweight, if not outright obese at 16 pounds – so there was only so much we can eat at one time.  My task: Find some recipes to use up the excess of pulled pork.  I didn’t initially seek out a mac and cheese recipe, but it came to me quite early in my search.  This came courtesy of Stubb’s BBQ Sauce company, but I didn’t use their BBQ sauce for the recipe.  It may make a difference, I really don’t know; I only know of a few BBQ sauces that are gluten-free for certain, so I stick with what I know.  Do what works for you, I say.

Sweet Heat BBQ Mac and Cheese (from Stubb’s BBQ)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound smoked pork shoulder
  • 12oz. dried ridged pasta, preferably rotini or farfalle (I have a hard time finding gluten-free pastas like this, so I used penne)
  • kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 small yellow onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (or gluten-free equivalent)
  • 3 1/2 cups whole milk (I used skim)
  • 1 1/2 cups Stubb’s Sweet Heat BBQ Sauce (I used a Memphis-style BBQ sauce)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Cheddar cheese (4oz.)
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese (4oz.)
  • 4oz. cream cheese (I used a product that is half cream cheese, half Greek yogurt to test it out)
  • 2/3 cups panko (or gluten-free equivalent)
  • 1/2 cup grated Pepper Jack cheese
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh chives – optional (I left them out)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Use leftover pulled pork from your last great BBQ or slow roast a pulled pork in your slow cooker or heavy duty roasting pan in the oven. For Stubb’s Slow Cooker Pulled Pork recipe, see our Grilling Tips videos (or, you know, just use whatever pulled pork recipe you like). Don’t sauce the pork if you haven’t already. Shred the pork into about 2″ long pieces.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of well-salted water according to package directions until just barely al dente. Drain and set aside.

Melt butter in a large 8-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently until translucent and soft.

Whisk in flour and cook for 30 seconds. Whisk in milk slowly. Raise heat to medium high and whisk constantly until the mixture begins to thicken and bubble.

Whisk in Stubb’s Sweet Heat Bar-B-Q Sauce (or whatever other sauce you’re using) and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a low simmer, whisking constantly.

Reduce the heat to low and use a wooden spoon to stir in all cheese except Pepper Jack until melted. Stir in the reserved pork and pasta until well coated. Pour the mixture into a 12″ cast iron skillet.

In a small bowl, mix the panko, Pepper Jack, and olive oil. Sprinkle evenly over the mixture in the skillet.

Bake until the topping is browned and the cheese sauce is bubbling through the topping and around the edges of the skillet, around 40-45 minutes. If the topping begins to brown too deeply, tent loosely with foil (I didn’t need to do this). Let the dish rest for at least 15 minutes. Sprinkle with chives and serve.

Porky goodness

Porky goodness

Verdict: 3.5/5

Although I like the contrast between the soft noodles and the toothsome pulled pork, it did feel a little too stringy to me.  Even though I didn’t use the Sweet Heat BBQ sauce they called for, I did think the sauce I used added a nice sweet touch to the flavors of the mac that paired well with the mild spice of the pepper jack topping.  Speaking of, I loved that pepper jack topping: with the panko it was a perfect combination of crunchy and chewy.  There were plenty of leftovers, and they warmed up just fine.  Overall a solid choice.


Recipe 39: Alton Brown’s Baked Macaroni and Cheese (a-la Loverman)

Well here it is, the last recipe of this endeavor.  Alas, I did not meet my goal of 52 recipes for 2012 – but I did get 75% of the way there!  That counts for something, I suppose.  In retrospect, hoping for a recipe per week was a bit overzealous: Even though I love me some mac (um, obviously), I can’t even begin to describe just how sick of it I became.  Despite the many variations, the many recipes still waiting in my list of bookmarks to be made, there is only so much carbs-and-cheese a person can take without getting utterly weary of it.

While the challenge is over, I will still probably update with recipes here and there, but since my culinary focus will be diverted elsewhere, the updates will likely be sparser than they were when this blog first began.  Though, to be fair, they have become pretty sparse lately.

Anyway, this mac actually comes courtesy of the hubz.  On a night we were both home, he made dinner – and he made this mac.  As I mentioned way, way back at Recipe 1, Loverman is something of an Alton Brown fanboy, so I find it fitting that we should end 2012 with another Alton Brown recipe.  However, the original recipe called for some ingredients that he left out, and omitted some that he included, so it’s not a pure Alton Brown-ism.  Thus the addendum “a-la Loverman.”

Alton Brown’s Baked Macaroni and Cheese a-la Loverman (adapted from this recipe from Food Network)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni (Loverman used corn penne instead)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour (or gluten-free alternative)
  • 1 tablespoon powdered mustard
  • 3 cups milk (Loverman used cream-top from Pittsford Farms Dairy)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 large egg
  • 12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
  • “A fair amount of ham, fried to enhance the hamminess” (Loverman’s description, not mine)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Fresh black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup crushed cereal to use as topping (we had a combination of rice Chex and corn Chex… The original recipe called for panko; I think Loverman didn’t realize we had some gluten-free panko in the cupboard)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it’s free of lumps. Stir in the milk, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.

Cut ham into bite-size pieces and fry up.

Temper in the egg (Loverman says this was the trickiest part). Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the ham and macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the crushed cereal to coat. Top the macaroni with the crushed cereal. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

Here are the leftovers.

Here are the leftovers.

Verdict: 4/5

This was nice, and I admit the “hamminess.”, which was not included in the original, added a nice taste and textural element that I feel would have left the original lacking.  The hubz made a double-batch, so we had leftovers for a while, but they were definitely welcome.

 

I hope you have enjoyed reading of this challenge I undertook for 2012, even if I was unable to complete it.  Again, there will likely be some updates to come as well, though they will not be as frequent.  And here’s to a happy and healthy 2013!


Recipe 34: Mustard Kielbasa Mac and Cheese

I actually made this mac last night, but I didn’t type it up until today.  Why?  I’m a bit under the weather.  Not dying or anything – I’ve definitely been worse – but the most appealing activity I can think of at the moment is sleep.  Long, luxurious sleep.  And then after eating and other necessaries, sleeping some more.  I spent much of yesterday napping, and Loverman even woke me up when he came home from work to inquire about dinner.  “So basically you want me to get up and make dinner?” I grumbled.  Don’t worry, he was just checking how much of a snack he should have to tide him over until I got around to making dinner; he knows how to feed himself.  Staying up for work tonight will be interesting.

This recipe is courtesy of Food in My Beard.  You may remember it from such Weekly Mac highlights as Lobster Mac and Cheese, Pork Belly Mac and Cheese, and my favorite Beardie recipe (so far), Mac and Cheesesteak.  I took a forced sabbatical from using his recipes for a while since I was doing so many from his site, but I certainly did not forget the power of the beard.  When I saw this recipe, I thought it was necessary to try this.  Why?  Much like mushrooms, it’s only been recently that I’ve begun to appreciate kielbasa.  Again, like mushrooms, it was largely owing to overcoming negative exposures in my youth (jeez, I’m becoming a sort of food-Freud or something).  Growing up, the kielbasa I’d had was always insanely salty and prepared rather plainly, usually just boiled.  Thankfully, after some patient exposure therapy courtesy of Loverman and friends, I discovered it could be an enjoyable part of a meal.  And so when I read this recipe, I recognized another chance to put aside long-held culinary prejudices and make amends.

 

Mustard Kielbasa Mac and Cheese (from Food in My Beard)

Ingredients

  • 1 Lb Kielbasa (if you are gluten-free, check your ingredients; I used Hillshire Farms)
  • 1 Onion
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter
  • 2 Tablespoons Flour (I used Pamela’s)
  • 3 Cups Milk
  • 20 Oz. Yellow Cheddar (you can use white cheddar of course, but then you won’t get a fun, insanely yellow color at the end)
  • 1/3 Cup Mustard (I just used plain yellow)
  • 1 Lb Small Rigatoni (I used corn penne
  • 1 Handful Chopped Arugula (I had baby arugula and just shredded it by hand)

Directions

Chop the kielbasa into pieces that match the size of the pasta. Cook the kielbasa in a splash of oil to brown up a bit and release some fat. There is a lot of sugar in kielbasa, so stir often to prevent the bottom of the pan from burning. Remove the kielbasa from the pan keeping the fat in. Saute the onion in the oil/kielbasa fat mixture until just lightly browning. Add the butter and melt. Add the flour and mix well. Cook the flour in the pan for about 3-5 minutes stirring almost constantly until it turns golden brown. Add the milk and mix well to assure no lumps form. Bring to a simmer.

Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes while shredding the cheese. Add the cheese to the pot and stir to incorporate. If you add the cheese while the sauce is too hot, it will separate, but this can be fixed with a stick blender (I am lazy so I just added the cheese while it was still hot; it seemed to work fine).  Add the mustard and arugula to the sauce (it takes a little bit, but eventually it will turn an almost unnatural shade of yellow, and it will make you kind of giggle). Boil the pasta for a few minutes less than directed. Strain and toss in the sauce. Add in the kielbasa and toss. Pour into a baking dish and bake at 450 for about a half hour until bubbly and browned on top (mine was slightly burned, but thankfully it didn’t ruin things).

Oops.

 

Verdict: 3/5

Opposites on the color wheel AND the school colors where I did my undergrad!

 

I think my disinclination towards kielbasa still lingers a bit in that I still find it slightly saltier than I generally care for.  But that is one ingredient out of a whole recipe.  Just as I didn’t grow up with a very respectable preparation of kielbasa, I also had never heard of pairing them with mustard until recently – and it works.  The mild sharpness of the mustard with the saltiness of the sausage pair nicely.  I suppose if you were gutsier than me you could try something other than yellow mustard – a Dijon or a Chinese spicy perhaps?  I personally didn’t think the arugula added anything, but it didn’t detract from anything either – and hey, it does sneak some greens into your mac, and if that’s what it takes, then why not?

 

On another note, any suggestions how to improve things here?  Drop me a line!


Recipe 21: Creole Mac and Cheese

Yesterday Loverman and I were invited to a “porch party,” a get-together our friends hold – surprise, surprise – on their back porch to enjoy the nice weather and each others’ company.  These get-togethers are pretty informal, just bring something to throw on the grill, a side dish, and maybe a beverage of choice.  Since we were also requested to bring a dish to pass, I figured it was the perfect excuse opportunity to make another mac.

The title I found on this one says “Creole Mac and Cheese.”  Aside from the use of andouille sausage, I’m not sure how authentically Creole the seasonings are.  Then again, a while ago I had up here a supposedly Cajun Mac and Cheese, and it was the same deal.  So I understand and accept this may not be authentic, and I hope you do, too.

Creole Mac and Cheese (from AllRecipes.com)

Ingredients

  • 1 (8 ounce) package elbow macaroni (I think mine was corn)
  • 1 cup andouille sausage, diced (I used 4 pork andouille sausages)
  • 4 tablespoons butter (this is divided)
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs (or gluten-free alternative)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 onion, chopped (I used two rather titchy yellow onions instead)
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped (I did use it despite my dislike of celery, but doing it again I’d leave it out; that’s just my preference, however)
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (or gluten-free alternative)
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard (I used a Dijon mustard because I am a crazy rebel like that)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (I used a sharp yellow Cheddar)
  • kosher salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Cook macaroni in a large pot of boiling water until al dente. Drain.
  2. In a small pan, cook the andouille sausage over medium heat until done. Set aside. In the same pan, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add bread crumbs, and stir to coat. Cool, and then mix in Parmesan. Set aside.  (My sausage was pre-cooked, but I did this step anyway to get some of the sausage-grease into the crumbs)
  3. In a medium saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Saute onions and celery until translucent. Transfer to a bowl.
  4. In the same saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, to make a white roux. Try not to let the roux brown at all, it should be white. (I think I let mine get brown; I tend to do that.  I don’t think it mattered) Mix in paprika and mustard, then stir in milk. (The mixture will smell spicy and be kind of pinkish from the paprika) Bring to boil over medium heat, then add Gruyere and Cheddar cheeses. Simmer, stirring often, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter a 9×13 in pan, or similar sized casserole dish. Transfer cooked macaroni to the dish, and toss in the andouille sausage. Stir in the cheese mixture. Sprinkle the breadcrumb and Parmesan mixture evenly over the top.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes, or until crust turns golden brown.

Verdict: 3/5

I am kind of low-balling this despite good reviews from the guests who ate it.  I am so wussy about spice, and this was a bit too intense for me.  Still, there is definitely flavor and not just heat for heat’s sake, which I detest.  Maybe caramelizing the onions would be nice or letting the crumb topping get even a little browner so the Parmesan can get meltier would have been all right.  Some reviews that were given by the diners included “Hoo, that does have a kick to it – but it’s good though!” and “Mm… Nom nom nom” followed by a hug.  Really.

I neglected to bring my camera or borrow my hosts’ camera to take a picture of the mac when it came out of the oven, so here is a cell phone quality picture of the aftermath of eight people having descended upon it.  After this picture was taken, two more portions were served to late comers, leaving only one portion left to bring home.

Not a pretty sight, I know – but it was enjoyed, so there is that.

In unrelated news, Happy Mothers’ Day to all you mamas out there!  Here’s hoping you had a great day.  Well, I hope even you non-mamas had a great day too – but especially the mamas on their day.