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    Friday
    Feb182011

    Not your Grandma's Macaroni and Cheese.

    Or perhaps it is.  The inspiration for my version of Mac n’ Cheese does, in fact, originate with my grandmother.  Although she never actually made it for me, my dad improved upon her recipe and fed it to us over the years.  I have since made changes of my own, until getting to where it is now.  Perfection.  That’s right, I said perfection, and I’m standing by that.  This isn’t made with a cheese sauce or topped with bread crumbs, it’s not the mushy gloop you might find at the deli or on a buffet, and it certainly isn’t that neon orange Krap from a box.  It’s hot, bubbly, cheesy, bacony goodness, like you’ve never experienced before. 

     

    What you’ll need:

    1 ¼ cups each, of 3 different kinds of cheese*

    ½ pound bacon*

    1 pound macaroni

    4 or 5 green onions

    1 ½ cups milk

    Liberal amounts of salt and pepper

     

    *Ingredient notes:  Use good quality cheese.  Don’t buy the pre-grated stuff.  Grate your own.  For a commercial brand, I like Tillamook, but I also like to buy local and imported cheese from the cheese monger.  You can get pretty good stuff from the cheese counter at most grocery stores these days.    

    As for the bacon, use one that’s just a regular slice.  The thickly sliced stuff isn’t the best in this dish.  Also, I am very passionate about the treatment (or mistreatment) of pigs, so please buy bacon that comes from humanely raised pigs if you can.  Niman Ranch and Beelers are a couple of good examples. 

     

    Onto the actual cooking.  I like to cook bacon in the oven.  It’s easy to make, and easy cleanup.  Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil and lay out your bacon slices.  That way, when it’s all done, and the bacon grease solidifies, you can just take the foil off and throw the whole thing away.  Slide the pan into a cold oven and then turn it to 350°.  If your husband is around, you might want to make two pans so that you'll still have enough after he's finished snitching.   

    Now is a good time to chop your green onions and grate the cheese.  The combination of cheeses I used was Colby Jack, Extra Sharp Cheddar, and an Apple Walnut Smoked Cheddar. 

     

    Ok, back to the bacon.  The thickness of the slices can really affect the time it will take to cook.  After it’s been in for about 12 to 15 minutes, start to check on it.  You might even want to flip the slices over.  To me, bacon is not cooked until it’s crisp, so it should look about like this:

     

    Move it to some paper towels to drain.  For the pasta, fill a pan with plenty of salted water, and bring it to a boil.  Follow the package directions, but make sure the pasta is al dente.  It’s going to cook some more in the oven, so you don’t want it too soft now.  Drain the macaroni and rinse it with cold water.  After allowing the excess water to drain off, pour the noodles into your casserole dish, drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and stir to coat.

    Now, let’s chop our bacon.

     

    If your oven is not already preheated to 350° from cooking the bacon, do so now.  On top of the macaroni, sprinkle salt and freshly cracked pepper.  Reserving about ¼ cup of each of the cheeses, spread the rest on top, mixing them together as you do so.  Set aside a couple tablespoons each of the bacon and green onions, and throw the rest into the pot. 

     

    Now stir it all together until everything is evenly distributed.  Drizzle the milk over the top, covering as much area as you can. 

     

    Top with the remaining cheese and press the mixture softly into the pan with your hand. 

     

    At this point, you want to cover the pan, but some steam needs to escape as well.  My dish has a lid, so I like to fold up a piece of foil to place under it, which creates a bit of a crack. 

     

    If you’re covering your dish with foil, just poke a few little holes in it after you’ve got it in place.  Bake for about 45 minutes, or until it looks like this:

     

    When you put a spoon down the inside of the pan to the bottom, there should be very little or no liquid down there.  That’s how you’ll know it’s done.  If there is still liquid down there, simply remove the cover and bake for a few more minutes. 

     

    Allow to rest for a good ten minutes before serving.  It’ll be the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do, but it really is worth it. 

     

    Garnish each portion with a sprinkling of the remaining bacon and green onions and serve with your favorite vegetable.  You’ve got to have something nutritious on the plate, right?  I went for roasted asparagus. 

     

    If you have leftovers, freeze them in individual servings, and you’ll never have to feed your kids (or yourself) that artificially flavored and colored stuff again. 

     

    Have a macaroni and cheese recipe you think can outdo mine?  Without posting the whole recipe, tell me what's special about yours and why I should try it.  The one that interests me most, I'll make and feature here on our blog.      

           

        

    Tuesday
    Feb152011

    Chocolate Cake in a Cup

     

    **not the acutal cake! omg so not the cake.

     

    So, in more than a few places I’ve seen a recipe for chocolate cake in a mug. I think you know the one I mean... it makes the email rounds every 6 months or so, and really, who can resist cake in a cup. Handy, particularly if it's almost 10 at night and you absolutely need chocolatecakerightfuckingnoworyou’llkillsomeone.

    You do too. Don’t lie.

    It’s a neat idea. And for a foodie like me who knows that the whole “cup” cake thing started with cake batter being baked in stoneware mugs back in the early 1800s it’s a bit of food geekery to think you’re making something that old school.

    Microwave notwithstanding.

    What you need:

    4 tablespoons flour

    4 tablespoons sugar

    2 tablespoons cocoa

    1 egg

    3 tablespoons milk

    3 tablespoons oil

    a small splash of vanilla extract

    handful of chocolate chips (optional)

     

    What you gotta do:

    Measure the flour, sugar and cocoa into a fair sized, microwavable coffee mug and stir together with a fork.

    Crack in the egg and stir it in a bit, then add the milk and oil (I used peanut, but any kind should work), and stir vigorously with the fork. Vigorously.

    Nice thing about this one is that there are almost no dishes. Particularly since all of mine are already dirty and on the counter, and on the stove, and in the sink, I think there may even be some on the table...

    Once you’ve forked the batter until it’s nice and smooth, put the cup in the microwave (no fork) and nuke it for 3 minutes.

    Let it cool before you try eating it!

    Hot or cold, this cake is pretty crappy.

     

    I mean yeah, it’s a chocolate fix, but it’s not a very tasty one. No amount of beating will lighten it. It’s dense as all hell and way too eggy. Chocolate scrambled eggs comes to mind. Most snack cake recipes make 8 - 12 servings and use only 2 - 3 eggs. One egg per serving is just too much. I’ve seen a version that includes baking powder, but it’s also got the egg.

    The only way this thing is going to make it to being half way edible is if someone can figure out how to make it rise without the egg (maybe baking soda and then vinegar stirred in at the last second?) or just call it a custard. It could probably be turned into one by increasing the milk and decreasing the flour.

    I’ve gotten this by email and I’ve seen it posted on forums, and for the life of me I really can’t figure out why the fuck the stupid thing keeps making the rounds. It’s horrible. Next time I need a chocolate fix, I’ll just eat the handful of chocolate chips.

    Have you seen this recipe? Forwarded it? Tried it? Please tell me I fucked it up really badly somehow.