Comforting Macaroni and Cheese
Now that fall is here (despite the fact that summer is lingering) it usually means the resurrection of comfort foods. When sick, or tired, or far from home, everyone seems to yearn for the gastronomic equivalent of a warm sweater, a kiss on the forehead, a favourite blanket. Comfort foods nourish the soul as well as our bodies. They tend to be foods that remind us of simpler times. They are familiar, simple foods. While an oven baked meatloaf with mashed potatoes, cheesy macaroni and cheese and a steaming cinnamon infused apple pie have been staples for many of us, for some of us comfort food may include a delicious gooey lasagna, a complex curry, earthy borscht or udon noodles.
No matter what evokes these feelings of comfort in each of us an ideal comfort food should "stick to the ribs", meaning it supplies a sense of fullness and satisfaction long after it has been consumed. There is absolutely NOTHING on the planet as comforting to me as a delicious, homemade macaroni and cheese. There's something very satisfying about making this classic yourself from start to finish. I make no apologies whatsoever for its cheese, butter and carbs.
When L'il Burnt Toast was "knee high to a grasshopper" she often had friends who didn't want to end their play date and would end up inviting themselves for dinner. I am sure those of you who have young children can relate very well to this..and the fact is...we don't mind at all do we? On one such occasion my daughters little friend egged my wee one on to be invited since we were having macaroni and cheese. Macaroni and cheese is a labour of love, which is always evolving, being the very first dish I ever learned to cook on my own. We sat down to dinner, I scooped a small portion for eagerly waiting little tummies. The "child not of my womb" picked up fork in hand, pushed a few penne from one side of her plate to another and announced, "This is going to make me barf". Of course she was fully expecting something that comes from a box. Silly me! It is my opinion that even if there is a time and a place for packaged macaroni and cheese a good homemade, gooey macaroni and cheese is a whole lot better than something made in a factory!
I am also sending this over to Presto Pasta Nights which has been the baby of Ruth over at Once Upon a Feast for over 3 glorious years. Whenever we feel the urge for some pasta we can go over to her site and have 3 years of entries from all over the world to choose from from pasta salad to lasagna to Pho. There is a pasta for every season, every ingredient and every taste. All of these delicious pasta dishes have been submitted by all of you!!! This week the event is being hosted by Jennifer at Cook, Eat, Play, Repeat.
I have followed and tried to join in on the fun whenever I have pasta. My cupboards are always full of pasta in countless shapes and sizes. It is simply too hard to resist at our local Italian grocers, especially since they have expanded!!! I want to have pasta every day of the year!!!!
With a splash or wine, some homemade Italian bread, and a little Dijon mustard this macaroni and cheese from Canadian Chef Michael Smith has its rightful place right up there with your own favourite family comfort foods. I added a little Parmesan and Provolone cheese on top since it is what I had on hand. Michael always says that a recipe is only a guideline so feel free to change it up however you like.
I have also linked this post for Roz over at Bella Vita because life really is beautiful!!
**Macaroni and Cheese**
from the best of Chef at Home, Michael Smith
1/2 stick (1/4 cup/60 mL)of butter
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2/3cup (160 mL)of flour
a big splash of white wine
1 can 12 oz/354 mL)of evaporated milk
4 cups (1 L)of milk
1 tablespoon (15 mL) of paprika
2 tablespoons (30 mL) of Dijon mustard
a pinch of cayenne pepper
16 ounces ( 1lb/454 g)of cheddar cheese, grated or combination of cheddar and Monterrey Jack)
a sprinkle or two of sea salt
fresh ground pepper
1/2 loaf of Italian bread, torn into large pieces
a generous splash of olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Drop the pasta into boiling, salted water and cook until almost tender, about 12 minutes. Make sure the water tastes like a day at the beach, as the pasta will absorb it and become properly seasoned. The pasta should not be fully cooked; it should have just a touch of firmness when tasted. Drain well.
To make the sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, add garlic and stir for several minutes until it softens and flavours the butter. Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until a smooth paste forms. Continue cooking for a few more minutes, in effect toasting the mixture and adding flavour to it. Slowly stir in the wine and continue mixing until smooth and then add both milks, mixing well again. Continue whisking until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Add paprika, Dijon, cayenne, salt, pepper and cheeses and stir until melted.
Pour into a 9-inch by 13-inch ovenproof casserole or similar dish. Toast the bread with a splash of olive or two of olive oil, then sprinkle it evenly over the top of the cheese mixture. Bake until the mixture is heated through and the bread topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes.