A Proper Mac and Cheese

So, following the awful recipe that was the “Cauliflower Mac and Cheese”, we endeavored to find a recipe that would redeem Mac and Cheese once and for all. The Garlic X3 cookbook offered such a contender (Giatura made it once before, but this was my first chance to try it). So, without further ado, the recipe:

Macaroni and Cheese with Tomato Topping:

Serves 8

  • 1 lb pipette (originally called for elbow macaroni)
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (Colonna Italian Style)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, 1/2 tbsp dry (recipe called for 3 tbsp fresh) minced
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup frozen, chopped onions (called for 1 medium onion)
  • 6 plump garlic cloves, pressed (called for 3)
  • 1 fresh red chile, seeded and minced
  • 3 tbsp bleached flour (calls for unbleached)
  • 3 cups 2%, lactose free milk, HEATED (calls for whole milk)
  • 3 cups mild cheddar cheese (called for sharp)
  • 1/2 cup low fat sour cream (calls for whole cup – DO NOT USE NO-FAT)
  • Kosher salt (a dash)
  • Ground pepper (a dash)
  • 1 tbsp fresh chives
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme/1 tsp dried (we used dried)
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, cut in 1/4 inch slices

Giatura (Gia) started by liberally greasing the casserole dish with unsalted butter, while I began unwrapping and pressing the garlic.

a garlic press atop the pressed garlicThis is an awesome garlic press. The pressing surface is huge, so more of the garlic gets pressed each time. The silver tab on the far right enables the pressing surface to swing out for easy cleanup. Yay GoodCook garlic press!!! ❤ Gia

She preheated the oven to 375°, and put the water on for the pasta. The pasta should be cooked to al dente, or to two minutes before the time listed on the box. Next, Gia combined the breadcrumbs and Parm, while I cut what little fresh parsley we had. Thankfully we had enough to mix in the 2 tbsp necessary for the breadcrumb/parm mixture.

mixture of cheese and breadcrumbs in a bowl with spoonsThe breadcrumb, Parmesan, and parsley mixture.

Gia melted 2 of the 6 tbsp of butter (medium heat), and added the garlic, followed by the onions (she defrosted, drained, and dried them first). That got covered, and allowed to cook for 3 minutes on a low heat. She separated the solid pieces from the liquid – the solids were set aside, and the liquid was poured into the breadcrumbs.

Next she melted the remaining butter (same heat), while adding the flour. I whisked that in, and it was then that we discovered the milk was supposed to be hot… and needed to quickly heat it up in another pan. It didn’t ruin anything in the end, so no damage done. The mixture was supposed to boil for a moment (happened), then thicken after having the heat turned down. This never quite happened, so we eventually added the cheddar, sour cream (which was interesting to scrape out of the container), salt and pepper, followed by the onions/garlic from before. The recipe called for MORE salt to then be added with the pasta, and we promptly ignored that. This got liberally stirred together.

macaroni in cheese sauce, gooey cheese stuck to spoonYummy Gooey Goodness

The mixture just fit in the casserole dish, with enough room to add the breadcrumb mixture on top. It then went into the oven for 35 minutes, was allowed to cool for maybe 2, and then promptly enjoyed. Gia says: Om nom nom nom!

the final productFinally done! Om nom nom!

The Quest for the Ultimate Comfort Food

I haven’t been feeling well for the past week or so – most likely a cold or something – and the way I know it’s something serious and not seasonal allergies is because my eating habits have changed. I’m drinking hot tea like water, I’m drinking more juice and water than usual, I’m often only eating at all because I know I need to, and I’m craving chicken broth. Usually, chicken broth might add a nice flavor to a dish, but my general attitude is “take it or leave it.” Instead, it’s been a staple of my diet for the past few days.

So begins the quest for the ultimate comfort food. I’ve experimented with pastina, by which I mean a mix of different tiny pastas that come in a variety of shapes. I like to cook half a cup of it in 2 cups of chicken broth, which I’ll season according to my current mood. The pastina soaks up all the broth and tastes amazing. It’s one of the few foods I’ll continue eating until it’s gone, regardless of how little it takes for me to actually stop feeling hungry.

But when I’m sick I want chicken soup. It’s about the only time I really want chicken soup. The chicken itself is good because my rational brain knows I need protein, but mostly I want the broth. In liquid form, thanks.

So, today I decided to try working things out a bit differently. I prepared the pastina in salted water instead, cooking it until it was about al dente, then turned off the heat and let it sit so it could soak up the remaining water. Then I heated 2 cups of chicken broth (College Inn Light & Fat Free) over a very low flame. I added some fresh herbs my aunt grows in her backyard and was kind enough to share with me: oregano, lemon-thyme, and lavender. I also added some salt, ground ginger, and of course garlic powder. (better suited to seasoning a broth, I think)

I put 2 oz chicken breast in the broth, and once that had turned white, I added cut green beans and the pastina (complete with the cooking water it hadn’t yet absorbed). Some time cooking over a slightly higher flame, a sprinkling of (dried) Italian seasoning, and several stirs later, I had a rather promising soup.

chicken soup with pastina and green beans

The flavors are subtle but pleasant, and there’s a bit of a kick to it that sneaks up on one. (most likely from the ginger) The soup clears out the sinuses and satisfies hunger quite nicely. I think, if a vegetable is needed at all, it should be in smaller pieces and cooked so it’s no longer crunchy. Measures should be taken to keep the chicken from drying out. But overall, I’d say this soup is a pretty good contender.

What’s your ultimate comfort food?

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