Saturday, March 13, 2010

ina garten's baked mac and cheese - still on a fuckin' mission

ina garten's baked mac and cheese - 22I'm sick of being on a diet every freakin' weekend. Although the turkey burgers and chicken salad wraps tasted great, I was just dying for some food food. My boyfriend probably felt the same as well, because he refrained from suggesting that we make healthy food like he used to. We chose to make baked macaroni and cheese today. Before getting started, I made sure that we look up a recipe because I just wasn't in the mood for inadequate mac and cheese. Because I used Alton Brown's recipe last time, I thought I'd stay in the Food Network family but go with my home girl Ina Garten (how I love thee).

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While he prepared the roux, I went to the fridge to grab some cheese.

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Uh oh... tell me it isn't true... tell me there's more cheese somewhere else! Apparently all I had planned for was 16 oz of cheese (one 8-oz block of sharp cheddar, half a block (so 4 oz) of monterrey jack, and half a bag (so 4 oz) of the Italian mix we used for the chicken parm). There was no way I'd actually less than the amount of cheese a recipe calls for.

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Phew- luckily we found some leftover cheese his mom hid in the back of the fridge. This mystery cheese was white in color, had a rind on it, and its texture almost resembled mozzarella. I personally didn't care what type of cheese it was, but it was irritating not knowing what type of cheese we were using. Even after tasting it, I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Anyways, we used the remaining block of mystery cheese, added the milk, and made our beschamel.

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Apparently I have every type of pasta stored in my house, except elbows. We found a bag of ditalini in his pantry, which I guess could be an adequate substitution. A few handfulls of breadcrumbs and crumbled bacon pieces were spread on top, and then baked.

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After much anticipation, we took the yellow gooey pasta out of the oven. I gathered the silverware and bowls (notice the choice of color- yeah, I was trying to be cute), then scooped out big chunks for either of us. (Hey, I told you I wasn't on a diet here!)

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While I did enjoy the meal, (and we both obviously completely devoured our bowls), it just didn't hit the "spot". I think we can all agree that we have this preconceived notion that mac and cheese should resemble the mac and cheese we grew up eating from a box (a.k.a. processed, gooey, fake). Although I will always have a spot in my heart for Kraft mac and cheese, I think we can do better. I think there's a mac and cheese recipe out there that can be deliciously homemade with real ingredients, while still retaining that gooey creamy consistency that the "box" would.

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Okay, I'm done with my ranting and preaching. Back to real life. You know what I did later that day though? Got a big tupperware, stuffed it to the brim with mac and cheese, and took it home for dinner (and then breakfast, and then lunch the following day). I just fucking love macaroni and cheese!

Taken from Ina Garten

Kosher salt
Vegetable oil
1 pound elbow macaroni or cavatappi (ditalini)
1 quart milk
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
12 ounces Gruyere, grated (4 cups) (we used our strange mix of random and mystery cheeses)
8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 pound fresh tomatoes (4 small) (replaced with bacon)
1+1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.
3. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish.
4. Slice the tomatoes and arrange on top. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the fresh bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

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