Here’s to 2010!
Happy New Year! Don’t know about you…but I am so excited about 2010. It’s going to be a big year for me with a new book, some exciting new food adventures on the horizon … and this new blog!
As with all my cooking…my recipes are about getting good food on the table simply. My posts will offer quick, easy and delicious ideas for your next meal. I’ll also occasionally share some fabulous food finds and dining adventures.
Right now I am knee-deep in the developing stages of my next book Simply Suppers. Set to be released in the Fall 2010, Simply Suppers is all about comfort food you can get on the table in no time flat. My editorial deadline is the beginning of March, so I am spending my days (and nights) cooking, testing and re-testing some satisfyingly delicious comfort foods. Since I genuinely love to cook, the adventure of writing a cook book is truly a lot of fun and something I feel blessed to be able to do for a profession. (Thanks to all of you who made my first book Simply Salads such a national success!)
For my first blog entry, I’d love to share with you a recipe for these chilly January nights…my homemade and ultimately delicious Mac-n-Cheese with a Twist.
Unlike the orangey-yellow boxed variety that many of us grew up on, homemade Mac-n-Cheese is a ooey, gooey, creamy delight for both the kids and grown-ups at the table. It’s a sinfully good indulgence that I just can’t pass up.
I like to use two cheeses in mine. First, a sharp, tangy white cheddar that adds a delicious bite to the sauce. Next, I throw in some Gruyère which adds a sweet nuttiness. Then to truly make this pasta dish stand out, I add country ham, fresh herbs and crunchy topping made from crusty artisan bread.
Mac-n-Cheese with a Twist
Serves 4 to 6
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for the casserole
½ pound macaroni
2 cups low-fat milk
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 ½ cups grated white cheddar cheese
1 cup grated Gruyère cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
¼ pound country ham, sautéed and cut into small dice
3 slices crusty French bread, minced to breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley
Pre-heat the oven to 375°F. Butter a large casserole dish and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the macaroni until it is just tender, about 4 to 6 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, and drain again. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, bring the milk just to a boil, remove from the heat, and set aside.
Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. When the butter foams, add the flour. Cook, whisking, for one minute. While continuing to whisk, gradually add the milk. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 5 to 8 minutes. Do not brown. Remove the pan from the heat.
Stir in the nutmeg, 2 cups cheddar cheese and ½ cup Gruyère cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the macaroni into the cheese sauce and stir until well coated. Add the diced ham, thyme, and parsley and stir until well combined. Place the mixture in the casserole dish.
Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. In a small bowl combine the bread crumbs, remaining cheeses, and the melted butter. Evenly spread the bread crumb mixture over the top.
Bake until golden brown, about 40 minutes. Serve warm.
Back to the Basics: Prefer just plain old mac-n-cheese? No problem. Just omit the herbs and country ham.
Food Fact: I just love the nutty flavor of a Gruyère. Great for melting, this firm cow’s milk cheese hails from Switzerland and is now found in most grocery stores. Freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheeses are acceptable substitutes.