Monday, June 23, 2008

Meatless Meanderings

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So thanks to my husband, I have been eating very little meat (pork, beef, poultry) and so I'm finding contentment in meatless meals. One classic is macaroni and cheese. We all have a recipe for it, whether it comes from a blue box, made with a roux or even picked up at the store. Ironically, on Food Network the other night, there was a Macaroni & Cheese competition!

I cracked open one of my America's Test Kitchen cookbooks and decided to try one of their recipes out. It came out wonderfully, especially with my twist on adding french fried onions! In fact, I'm submitting this to the Thursday Night Smackdown blogging event in July. It's a great event that encourages folks to use recipes from cookbooks and magazines, rather than those available online. Check it out and submit a recipe too! Here is the recipe for Stove top Macaroni & Cheese, from Here in America's Test Kitchen, pages 158-160:

What We Wanted: A rich, creamy casserole with plenty of cheese flavor, properly cooked noodles, and a flawlessly smooth sauce.

What We Learned: Don't use a flour-thickened bechamel or baked custard for this dish. For the best texture and flavor, make macaroni and cheese on the stovetop (not in the oven) and use evaporated milk in the sauce. For some crunch, sprinkle with toasted buttered breadcrumbs just before serving.
Toasted Bread Crumbs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup fresh bread crumbs (I used panko bread crumbs)
pinch of salt
french fried onions

Creamy Macaroni & Cheese
2 large eggs
1 (12oz) can evaporated milk
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard, dissolved in 1 teaspoon water
1/2 lb elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 oz sharp cheddar, American, or Monterey Jack cheeses, grated (about 3 cups)

1. FOR THE BREAD CRUMBS: Heat butter in large skillet over medium heat until foam subsides. Add bread crumbs; cooks, tossing to coat with butter, until crumbs just begin to color., about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt; set aside.

2. FOR THE MACARONI & CHEESE: Mix eggs, 1 cup evaporated milk, pepper sauce, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and mustard mixture in a small bowl; set aside.

3. Meanwhile, bring 2 quarts water to a boil in large heavy bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven. Add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and macaroni; cook until almost tender but still a little firm to the bite. Drain and return to pan over low heat. Add butter; toss to melt.

4. Pour egg mixture over buttered noodles along with three-quarters of cheese; stir until thoroughly combined and the cheese starts to melt. Gradually add remaining milk and cheese, stirring constantly, until mixture is hot and creamy, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately, topped with toasted breadcrumbs.

VARIATION: "Baked Macaroni & Cheese" - This dish is for those who prefer their macaroni and cheese served out of a baking dish. Smooth and creamy like the stove top version, this version is broiled just long enough to brown the crumb topping and french fried onions.

Follow the recipe for Stove top Macaroni & Cheese, pouring cooked macaroni and cheese into a 9 inch square gratin dish. Spread crumbs and french fried onions evenly over top. Broil until crumbs turn deep brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Let stand to set a bit, about 5 minutes, and serve immediately.

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