Mac and Cheese with greens
Hey! You're back! And by you, I mean we. We're back.
It's been a while since we wrote a new post, about nine months by my count. Coincidentally, we've been quite busy for nine months, because nine months ago was when we decided to move from Brooklyn to Buffalo. The reasons for the move are a bit complicated, but we now have a whole house to ourselves and are very happy with the decision.
That being said, our time has been full of house shopping, job searching, and various other logistics, so there hasn't been much time for cooking, let alone writing about cooking (and editing, and photographing...). We're also working on mastering our new stove, which Hillary loves because it fits perfectly with the rest of the house. However, adjusting to electric burners has been a learning experience.
Writing this blog is something we enjoy doing, so we'll continue, now with some added advantages. We now own a grill! And a garage where we can store equipment for deep frying turkeys, and a basement where we can ferment beer. So not only will we still write, but we have lots of new things to write about.
Anyways, on to today's recipe. Please forgive the photos - they were taken with my phone because the camera wasn't charged, and I felt like we needed to get back on the wagon to work up some momentum.
Macaroni and cheese is an awesome meal for someone learning about cooking. Though dead simple and delicious, it also incorporates some snooty cooking techniques without being intimidating. Did you know that mac and cheese involves both a Roux and a Béchamel sauce? If you knew that, like myself, you may be a nerd, but it doesn't matter either way.
Silly French sauce names aside, mac and cheese is great for experimenting, because most things taste great smothered in cheesy sauce. You can't really fail too hard. For today's recipe, we chose a few random cheeses and mixed in arugula and baby spinach to add a healthy element. The ratios for the base sauce are adapted from this gnocchi mac and cheese recipe, which I assure you is delicious.
The first thing you need to do is boil some water for pasta and preheat your oven to 375°. We used about half box of shells. While you wait on that, chop up three cloves of garlic.
Next, the cheese. We chose Fontina, a strong charp cheddar, and a jack cheese with habanero peppers in it. The total amount of cheese here is roughly a cup, with a smaller amount of the habanero cheese, because that stuff is rather strong. I learned an important lesson about that last time we made enchiladas. Cheese choice is only limited by what you like.
At this point, your pasta is probably done or close to done. Before putting the arugula and spinach in, you'll want to wilt it. A handy shortcut for this is putting the greens into your strainer before dumping the pasta and water in. Instant wilted greens, just stir!
Now that the pasta and greens are all set, we can get to the sauce part. What you'll need is two tablespoons of butter, a tablespoon of flour, 3/4 cup of milk, your chopped garlic, a teaspoon of dijon mustard and your cheese.
We don't have any pictures of the next bit because everything happens quite quickly, but melt your butter in a pan on medium high. Next, drop in the flour and whisk it together with the butter quickly until smoothed out, then add your garlic. Let this go for a minute or less, continually stirring with the whisk so that nothing burns until combined. While continuing to stir, add the milk and mustard. Keep stirring for a minute until the milk has thickened up. Then, one handful at a time drop your cheese in and let it melt into the sauce. Once the cheese is incorporated, remove the pan from the heat and salt and pepper it to your taste.
Next, mix this sauce with your pasta in a baking dish. Since I never measure pasta out, I put the sauce into the dish first, then add the pasta bit by bit and mix it in. If you run out of sauce to evenly coat the pasta, stop adding pasta.
We also like to add a breadcrumb topping, which consists of about two tablespoons of melted butter mixed with breadcrumbs until it forms a consistent, spreadable mix which you then put on the top.
Throw this in the oven for 25 minutes or until browned and bubbling.
Mac & Cheese with greens
Half a box of shell pasta
A few handfulls of baby spinach and arugula mixed
1/2 c grated fontina cheese
1/2 c grated sharp cheddar
1/4 c habanero jack cheese
3/4 c whole milk
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp all purpose flour
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp of dijon mustard
Preheat oven to 375°.
Boil the pasta in salted water and drain over the greens to wilt them. Set aside.
In a pan, melt 2 tbsp of butter and whisk together with flour until combined. Whisking constantly, add milk, garlic, and mustard, cooking until thickened. Still stirring, melt the cheese into the sauce one handful at a time. Remove from heat and salt and pepper to taste. Mix with the cooked pasta in a baking dish.
Melt the remaining butter in a bowl and add breadcrumbs until you have a sandy consistency. Top the pasta and sauce mixture with this.
Bake 25 minutes or until browned and bubbling.
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