7 October 2010

Celebrating Wine with the Ultimate Comfort Food

Comforting Macaroni and Cheese

Thank you for joining me once again for this week of cooking with wine to celebrate the Okanagan Wine Festival which celebrates the wine harvest until October 10th. Each day I am trying to incorporate a little wine into my cooking or at the very least linger over my kitchen stove with a glass in hand "Galloping Gourmet style". Do you remember Graham Kerr, my childhood idol, who rallied us around the television long before The Food Network? The series was known for its lighthearted humour, tomfoolery and the copious use of clarified butter, cream and fat. Graham also liberally featured wine, serving it with most meals, slurping it down while cooking, using it in his dishes, and waxing poetic about its virtues. All I have to say to that is we have both come a long way and moved over to a health conscious lifestyle!
 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.

And what wines go well with this blast from the past? If you're going with a cheddar base, serve a cabernet or zinfandel with the dish. Add a good amount of Parmesan reggiano either into the cheese sauce or shave it on top of the dish. Also add a few twists of fresh cracked pepper. Cabernet and zinfandel love cheddar but they hit their zenith with parmesan reggiano. And the pepper notes will tie it all together.

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 box (454 g)of penne pasta
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.

Serves 6

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  1. Oh yes, comfort food at it's best! I'm from the south where macaroni and cheese is listed as a vegetable on most home-style menus. I will say that, while my mother's was quite tasty (and always served as a side dish), I've made some that are far better and are served as entrees. Your's sounds like a winner!


  2. The ultimate comfort food indeed! That Mac & Cheese looks devilishly good.



  3. There truly is nothing like good old comfort food and mac and cheese hits the spot for me as well. Nothing like indulging every once in a while. I love the idea of adding wine to it. How very adult!

  4. I agree completely; mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. No matter how we dress it up, with add-ins and toppings, it's still the basic combination of pasta with gooey cheese that always makes us happy.

  5. That does sound utterly delicious Val and I bet the evap. milk changed the sauce somewhat. I am cravinf macaroni cheese now :)

  6. It seems that mac and cheese is really popular among bloggers these days. I must get on board, cuz I could eat the whole pan of this! I'll let you know how it turns out! Thanks, Valli!

  7. Val, this is one of Allie's favorite dinners- she asked me to make it this week before I have surgery and over a couple of days basically polished off the casserole! :) The only thing she won't let me do is add the bread topping (though everyone else loves it!) Gorgeous!
    xoxo Pattie

  8. I do remember Graham Kerr! That is a name that I haven't heard in a long time. We love macaroni and cheese. Your recipe sounds delicious.

  9. Comfort food at its best! I've never added the toasted bread on top and it sounds delish.

  10. The bread "crumbs" on top are enough to get anyone excited. Crunchy, creamy, gooey and warm. Mac and cheese works every time!

  11. we had a delicious pastitsio yesterday which is the closest greek equivalent that i can think of to the well known mac and cheese - this really is the ultimate comfort food!

  12. I remember Graham Kerr. He was such fun to watch!

    And yes, mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food...love the croutons on top!

  13. Wasn't he great! Always hopping around the kithen. now that is trued comfort food and I am saving this recipe!

  14. Ha! I almost lost my smoothie when I read ...this is going to make me barf." ha ha ha...kids! I must try this grown up version of mac and cheese...it sounds absolutely comforting :)

  15. Graham Kerr was unforgettable!!! Bib scarf, and all! I do a mac 'n cheese mini unit in my grade 8 and 9 classes at the end of the term. I teach them how to make a roux. We have been working on seasonings. We do a cheese tasting and then I teach a basic recipe that we compare with KD, a "gourmet" recipe, and they do a "design your own" recipe. They all love the buttery bread crumbs on top of the basic recipe, as do I. I love onions in my mac 'n cheese... quite a few, actually, and then just cheesy goodness with the toasty buttered crumbs. There really is nothing like it, is there?

  16. I love the size of the bread cubes for your garnish, Val!

    (Ah yes, Graham Kerr. He was my favourite too.)

  17. Having recently prepared my first macaroni and cheese from scratch, I totally agree with you that it is a labor of love and always evolving. I am now collecting ideas for my next try, so thank you for this.

  18. That is a hilarious story about the little girl! I have seen that reaction time and again with kids who are used to nothing but packaged and processed foods! It is sad really! I would have LOVED your mac n' cheese as a kid!

  19. Graham Kerr. I remember him well. He was a part of my whole food epiphany along with Julia. We owe him and Julia a whole lot of gratitude for starting the food movement. Your Mac and cheese is a perfect comfort food.

  20. It sounds very good, but I think you mean 60 ml of butter and not 60 kL. That would leave a quite unhealthy version and dripping in butter fat. Of course, some of our American friends might not have understood the difference. All they have to do is multiply by 1 000 000. (big smile)

  21. I appreciate you detecting the error Don. The perils of blogging in the wee hours of the morning:D

  22. Val...I will certainly thoroughly enjoy pouring a great big splash of white wine in this recipe...it looks and reads so scrumptiously great!

    Have a great weekened,

  23. I totally remember Graham Kerr and used to collect the recipe cards my local grocer used for advertising. Cheers to lingering over a pot on the stove with a glass of wine! I think mac-a-cheese as we call it, is the ultimate comfort food and have been craving it for weeks. Sounds so yummy right now.

  24. Val,

    I had to add one more comment, if I may: I forgot to tell you that when I was in college, I had my first macaroni and cheese because it was so affordable. So I will always associate it with 'security' from my days of 'povera'. Thank you for sharing it on my weekly blog get-together. I hope many others find you through your wonderful additions to the link-up! Roz

  25. I used to love Graham Kerr too.

    This is comfort food indeed. My husband told our granddaughter yesterday that his two favorite foods that I make (she probably asked him) were Macaroni and Cheese and Meat Loaf. There you go.

  26. Mac and cheese is one of my favorite foods, and it always makes me think of my grandmother! I really miss her cooking. Great post! A little wine never hurt anybody, now did it?

  27. I, too, remember Graham Kerr, who by the way, has also moved on to a healthier life style.

    As for mac 'n cheese...yours looks positively gorgeous! I just made an interesting one with pumpkin myself. That said, once I got "beyond the box", I love trying out new versions. Thanks for sharing this one with Presto Paeta Nights.

  28. Questa foto rende perfettamente la bontà di questa ricetta, ciao

  29. Oooh I loved watching Graham Kerr - I used to watch the show with my mum when I was little and I think I can say he got me into cooking later in life!
    Love the recipe - looks totally yummy!

  30. This is absolutely the ultimate comfort food. Great addition with the toasted Italian bread! I loved Graham Kerr's show and his wit! He had a great white sauce and I loved how he always talked about his wife, Treena. He was definitely a pioneer in TV food show!

  31. Ummmm, I want the crunchy topping!

  32. Most definitely the ultimate comfort food...Looks amazing :)

  33. That's it..I need to make a Mac n Cheese this week!


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