Posts Tagged 'nutmeg'

Cheddar-Pecan Green Bean Casserole

Green Bean Casserole

Cheddar-Pecan Green Bean Casserole

Green bean casserole is an iconic dish that most Americans expect on their Thanksgiving holiday table. Originally made with canned green beans and condensed cream of mushroom soup, I took the basic elements of this classic dish and gave it a fresher, modern spin.

First, I substituted tender haricots verts for the canned green beans.

What are haricots verts? Quite simply, they are very small and slender French green beans. (Haricot verts is French for green beans.) They tend to be more tender and flavorful than the thicker American green beans. Most markets now carry them both fresh and frozen.

Next, instead of using canned soup as my sauce, I made a quick cream sauce and flavored it with some shredded sharp white cheddar cheese. (Isn’t everything made better with cheese?!)

Lastly, I tossed chopped pecans and panko bread crumbs with the classic French fried onions for a crunchy topping that makes the dish in my opinion.

This homemade version of the classic canned soup green bean dish is sure to become a favorite at your house. The haricots verts, pecans, and the touch of sharp cheddar in the sauce elevate this dish to new heights. It’s so good you’ll serve it year round!

Cheddar-Pecan Green Bean Casserole

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra to grease the baking dish
1 1/2 pounds fresh or frozen haricots verts, trimmed
8 oz. button mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoons freshly ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup French fried onions
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 395 degrees. Lightly grease a 9- x 13-inch casserole dish with butter and set aside.

Over high heat, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the beans and cook until just tender, about 2 minutes. Drain and immediately plunge the beans into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain again and set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to give up some of their liquid, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and nutmeg and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms and stir to combine. Slowly stir in the broth and heavy cream. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the shredded cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the green beans and stir until well coated. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan.

In a medium mixing bowl toss together the French fried onions, bread crumbs, and pecans. In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir the melted butter into the onion mixture. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the green beans. Transfer to the oven and bake until golden and bubbly, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Excepted from “Simply Suppers” by Jennifer Chandler.

 

 

 

Croque Monsieur

Croque mr

Croque Monsieur

I had my first Croque Monsieur when I lived in France during culinary school. To this day it has remained my favorite sandwich.

Basically, a Croque Monsieur is a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. But the French have elevated what would be a simple sandwich into a work of art! A classic ham and cheese is slathered with a béchamel sauce to make it even more indulgent.

The key to a good Croque Monsieur is the ingredients. Since the ingredients are few, you need to use good ones. Traditionally, a nutty Gruyère or Swiss Emmental cheese is used. Most markets carry these cheeses, but in a pinch, a good Swiss cheese could be substituted. As for the ham, this sandwich is a wonderful way to use up the leftovers from your Christmas baked ham.

The béchamel sauce is what makes this sandwich. Considered a “mother” sauce in French cuisine, a béchamel is very simple to prepare. Butter and flour are cooked together over low heat before milk and cheese are added to make this traditional cheese sauce. Thanks to the cheesy goodness that the sauce adds, it really is a knife-and-fork kind of sandwich.

This classic French treat is perfect for supper, lunch or a weekend brunch. They are so rich, serve them simply with a salad or soup. However you choose to serve them, I bet they will become your family’s favorite ham-and-cheese sandwich too.

Croque Monsieur

Serves 4

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 slices white sandwich bread, lightly toasted
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 pound baked ham, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. When the butter starts to foam, add the flour. Cook, whisking until thickened, about 1 minute. While continuing to whisk, gradually add the milk. Cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened, about 2 to 4 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and add the nutmeg, Parmesan, and 1/4 cup of the Gruyere. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

To assemble the sandwiches, place 4 slices of the toasted bread on a baking sheet. Lightly brush each of the slices with 1 tablespoon of mustard. Top each with 1/4 of the ham and 1/8 of the remaining Gruyere (about 1/4 cup). Top each with one of the remaining toasted bread slices. Pour the cheese sauce evenly over the tops of the sandwiches and sprinkle each with 1/4 of the remaining Gruyere. Transfer to the oven and bake until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned about 3 to 5 minutes. Serve hot.

Variation: Feeling indulgent? Top your Croque Monsieur with a fried egg and you will be enjoying a treat the French call a Croque Madame.

From Simply Suppers by Jennifer Chandler.

Shrimp Alfredo

Shrimp Alfredo

Shrimp Alfredo

A decadently creamy Alfredo sauce is probably the quickest and easiest pasta sauce to whip up. Made simply of butter, Parmesan cheese, and heavy cream, a homemade version of this sauce is infinitely better than anything you could buy pre-made at the store.

This popular sauce was invented by Roman restaurateur Alfredo di Lelio back in 1914.  He added Parmesan to a classic butter sauce in an attempt to create a dish that would be appetizing to his pregnant wife.  Little did he know that this simple three ingredient sauce would become a classic in the United States thanks to Hollywood actors like Douglas Fairbanks that frequented his restaurant.

Since the sauce is made of just three ingredients, it is important to use high-quality components.  Never use margarine or a butter substitute.  Also, look for a wedge of a good Parmesan in your deli department. Pre-grated cheese won’t give you as flavorful as sauce or melt as smoothly.

I like to add a touch of freshly ground nutmeg to all my cream sauces. It’s a trick I learned in culinary school in France.  The nutmeg adds another layer of flavor to a dish. A dish is fine without it, but a little can add that special touch to the end result. The trick is to always use freshly grated nutmeg and never use the powdered version.

Serve Alfredo sauce plain over your favorite pasta or dress it up with sautéed shrimp and mushrooms like I do in this version. Chicken could easily be substituted for the shrimp if you are not a seafood fan.

Shrimp Alfredo

For the Alfredo Sauce:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the pasta:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced button mushrooms
1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion (1 small onion)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound medium shrimp (30/40 count), peeled and deveined
1 box (1 pound/16-ounce) fettuccine, cooked per package directions and kept warm
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

To make the Alfredo sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the heavy cream and butter to a boil. As soon as it boils, stir in the Parmesan cheese and cook until melted. Remove the sauce from the heat and add the nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and keep warm.

To assemble the pasta: In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter and oil. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid from the mushrooms evaporates and they become slightly golden, about 10 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and sauté until cooked through, about 4 minutes.In a large mixing bowl toss together the warm pasta, the Alfredo sauce, and the shrimp mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with Parmesan cheese, if desired. Serve immediately.

Serves 6 to 8.

 

 

Recipe from Simply Suppers by Jennifer Chandler

Story excerpted from Jennifer Chandler’s bi-weeky Commercial Appeal newspaper column Dinner Tonight.

Photo and Food Styling by Jennifer Chandler.

Vegetarian Gumbo

veggie gumbo

Vegetarian Gumbo

“Vegetarian Gumbo with Beans?!” – You may question.  I did too … but my friend Justin Fox Burks insisted I give his recipe a try.

Well … as usual … Justin’s recipe was some darn good stuff.  His concoction of veggies and spices offers a tasty gumbo that had everyone at our table asking for seconds.

Justin and his wife Amy Lawrence are co-authors of the fabulous vegetarian recipe blog “The Chubby Vegetarian.”  Their blog has become my go-to for all things veggie.  It is a great resource for dishes so delicious and creative that you will never miss the meat. This recipe is also featured in their new book “The Southern Vegetarian” (May 2013, Thomas Nelson Publishers).  I was lucky enough to get an advance copy and am loving everything I have made so far. It’s a must for vegetarians and meat-eaters both!

Back to the gumbo … Justin’s recipe calls for liquid smoke. An ingredient I had never used before.  But since it was at Whole Foods I figured it was safe to eat! I used the Hickory smoke flavor. It gave the gumbo that depth that a smoked sausage adds a traditional gumbo.

Enjoy!

The Chubby Vegetarian Gumbo

Click here for the original recipe.

2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped tomato (1 medium)
1 1/2 cups chopped onion (1 medium)
8 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons creole mustard
1 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 tablespoon vinegar
10 dashes Tabasco
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 quart vegetable stock
4 cups sliced okra (1/4 inch slices, stem-end discarded)
1 1/2 cups red beans (1 16 ounce can, drained and rinsed or makes your own)
10 ounces crimini mushrooms (quartered)
1 1/2 cups diced zucchini (1 medium)
1 1/2 cups diced  green pepper (1 large)
1 1/2 cups diced red pepper (1 large)
1 cup thinly sliced celery (2 ribs)
4-5 cups cooked jasmine rice
1/2 cup sliced green onion (for garnish)
5-6 sprigs baby dill (for garnish)

To make the roux, place the canola oil and the flour into a medium-sized dutch oven. (This is the pot in which you will eventually make the gumbo, so using it now saves on dishes later. A heavy pot like this is essential when making a roux because of its ability to distribute heat evenly.) With the oil and flour in the cold dutch oven, turn the heat on medium. Whisk the mixture constantly until you notice that it has become nutty (it’ll kind of smell like — gasp! — fried chicken) and fragrant (both of which happen about five minutes into the process). At this point, turn the heat to low. Keep a close eye on your roux, and whisk the mixture about every minute so no part of the roux burns. Continue in this fashion for about another twenty minutes or until the roux has taken on the color of an old penny. Remove the pot from the heat. Congratulations — you just made your first roux!

Place the tomato, onion, garlic, worcestershire sauce, mustard, liquid smoke, vinegar, Tabasco, soy sauce, thyme, red pepper flakes, paprika, nutmeg and oregano into the work bowl of your food processor. This is quite an unconventional method for making gumbo, but it works beautifully. Blend mixture until smooth. This is your flavoring agent for the whole dish. Now return the dutch oven with the roux still in it to a burner set to medium-high heat, and immediately add the mixture you just made in the food processor. Stir to incorporate. Continue cooking and stirring the resulting mixture until most of the liquid has evaporated, and it resembles a paste. Add the vegetable stock and stir. Once the mixture is heated through, turn the burner to medium-low. Add the okra, red beans, mushrooms, zucchini, green and red peppers, and celery to the pot. Cook uncovered for about 20 minutes until everything is heated through, but not mush.

To serve, ladle out some gumbo into a bowl and top with about 1/2 cup of rice, a few green onions, and a sprig of fresh dill. Have plenty of crusty french bread and butter on hand for sopping up the amazing broth.

Serves 6 to 8.

Cooking Tip: If you like okra but are not a fan of the sliminess that sometimes can occur with it, sauté the sliced okra in batches in one tablespoon of canola oil until lightly browned. Add the cooked okra to the gumbo. Problem solved.

Potatoes Au Gratin

This dish looks so elegant on the table that no one will believe how easy it was to make. I often serve it at dinner parties with steaks or roasts.

Potatoes Au Gratin
Adapted from Simply Suppers by Jennifer Chandler

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra to grease the baking dish and the foil
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
5 medium baking potatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon French’s Dijon or Spicy Brown Mustard
1/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9- x 13-inch baking dish with butter and set aside.

In a large saucepot combine the milk, cream, butter, garlic, and nutmeg. Peel the potatoes and cut into slices about 1/8-inch thick. Add the potato slices to the milk mixture to prevent discoloration.

Over medium-high heat, bring the milk mixture to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are slightly tender but still firm, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to the prepared baking dish, arranging the top layer of the potatoes in an overlapping pattern, if desired. Add the Dijon and mustard and stir to combine. Pour the milk mixture over the potatoes. Sprinkle the Gruyere cheese evenly over the top. Cover the dish with a buttered piece of aluminum foil, buttered side down.

Bake until the potatoes are fork tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the potatoes are golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Serves 6 to 8.

Cooking Tip: The difference between freshly grated nutmeg and commercially ground is night and day. To grate whole nutmeg, use a special nutmeg grater or scrape the seed over the finest rasps of your box grater. I buy my whole nutmeg at the grocery in a specially designed jar with a grinder built into the lid.

Cheddar-Pecan Green Bean Casserole

Did you know it’s the 55th anniversary of the Green Bean Casserole?!

It’s an iconic dish that most Americans expect on their holiday table.

Originally made with canned green beans and condensed cream of mushroom soup, I took the basic elements of this classic dish and gave it a fresher, modern spin.

First, I substituted tender Haricots Verts for the canned green beans.

What are haricots verts? Quite simply, they are very small and slender French green beans. (Haricot verts is French for green beans.) They tend to be more tender and flavorful than the thicker American green beans. Most markets now carry them both fresh and frozen.

Next, instead of using canned soup as my sauce, I made a quick cream sauce and flavored it with some shredded sharp white cheddar cheese.  (Isn’t everything made better with cheese?!)

Lastly, I tossed chopped pecans and panko bread crumbs with the classic French’s French Fried Onions for a crunchy topping that makes the dish in my opinion.

This homemade version of the classic canned soup green bean dish is sure to become a favorite at your house. The haricots verts, pecans, and the touch of sharp cheddar in the sauce elevate this dish to new heights.  It’s so good you’ll serve it year round!

Enjoy!

Cheddar-Pecan Green Bean Casserole
From Simply Suppers by Jennifer Chandler

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra to grease the baking dish
1 1/2 pounds fresh or frozen haricots verts, trimmed
8 ounces button mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup French’s French fried onions
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 395 degrees. Lightly grease a 9- x 13-inch casserole dish with butter and set aside.

Over high heat, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the beans and cook until just tender, about 2 minutes. Drain and immediately plunge the beans into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain again and set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to give up some of their liquid, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and nutmeg and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms and stir to combine. Slowly stir in the broth and heavy cream. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the shredded cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the green beans and stir until well coated. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan.

In a medium mixing bowl toss together the French fried onions, bread crumbs, and pecans. In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir the melted butter into the onion mixture. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the green beans. Transfer to the oven and bake until golden and bubbly, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Cooking Tip: What are haricots verts? Quite simply, they are very small and slender French green beans. (Haricot verts is French for green beans.) They tend to be more tender and flavorful than the thicker American green beans. Most markets now carry them both fresh and frozen.  American green beans, fresh or frozen, are an acceptable substitute.

 

 

 

Double-Decker Peach Cobbler

When my friend Laurie Major told me about her grandmother’s peach cobbler I just had to give it a try. 

Mrs. Mohler made it with 3 layers of crust!  I am all about the crust, but am a little lazy at times. I have made this into a double-decker cobbler. But if you have an extra 10 or 15 minutes, you can add that third layer of pastry.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  I thought it was so good I included it in my new cookbook Simply Suppers!

Enjoy!

Double-Decker Peach Cobbler
From Simply Suppers by Jennifer Chandler

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra to grease the baking dish
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/2 cup water
2 bags (16-ounce) frozen peaches, thawed, or 12 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced (about 5 to 6 cups)
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons bourbon
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 unbaked pie crusts (9-inch), homemade or store-bought
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 pint vanilla ice cream (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish with butter and set aside.

In a large saucepot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add 3/4 cup of the sugar and water and cook, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Add the peaches, lemon juice, bourbon, 2 teaspoons of the cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the flavors have melded, about 5 minutes. Add the flour, stir to coat, and cook until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Evenly spoon 1/2 of the filling into the prepared dish. Top with a layer of pie crust. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and spoon the remaining 1/2 of the filling evenly over the crust. Top with the second pie crust. Brush the top crust with the beaten egg. Evenly sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of the sugar and the remaining 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon over the top. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly, about 18 to 20 minutes.

Serve warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Serves  8.

Cooking Tip: To make the third layer, place a pie crust on the bottom of the pan. Par-bake the bottom crust for 10 minutes. Then layer as directed in the recipe above.

Time-Saving Tip: I love fresh peaches, but they can be a hassle to peel. Frozen peaches are in-season year-round and work just as well in this dish…without the extra work!

Freezes well.

Praline Bread Pudding

Known as “poor man’s pudding,” bread pudding was originally created as a means of salvaging stale bread.  In my opinion, there is nothing poor about this rich-ly decadent dessert. In fact, it may be one of my favorite treats.

Every ooey gooey bite reminds me of my Grandmother’s New Orleans kitchen.  She used to make a pretty straight forward version from stale French bread, eggs, milk, sugar, and a little orange zest.  What made hers divine though was the whiskey hard sauce she whipped up to garnish it.  

Bread pudding is a pretty versatile dish. It can be made with pretty much whatever bread you have on hand…some of the popular choices being brioche, challah, croissant, panettone, French, and Italian. You can also add whatever flavorings you prefer. Some folks even make savory bread puddings. (Oyster bread pudding is one savory Louisianan version that I find irresistible.) Bread puddings are even more insanely richer with the addition of a decadent sauce like my Grandmother’s, chocolate fudge or the Praline sauce in this recipe.

One of my new favorite flavors is Praline Bread Pudding. When I was writing Simply Suppers (release date Sept 2010), it was one comfort food that I knew had to be included in my dessert chapter.  Remembering a dessert I once enjoyed at a restaurant, I turned to the talented pastry chef Heather Bugg Ries (owner of the Lady Bugg Bakery) for some inspiration. This is my simplified rendition of her to-die-for bread pudding.

Enjoy!

Praline Bread Pudding

For the bread pudding:
Unsalted butter, to grease the baking dish
6 day old large croissants, cut in 1-inch cubes and set aside in a large mixing bowl (about 8 cups)
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups coarsely chopped praline pecans 

For the praline sauce:
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dark corn syrup
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed
Pinch of salt

To make the bread pudding: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9- X 13-inch baking dish with butter and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine the milk, cream, brown sugar, eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Whisk until combined. Pour the custard over the croissants and to coat evenly. Let stand until the croissants have soaked up the custard, about 5 minutes. Stir in the praline pecan pieces.

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and cover with aluminum foil. 

Place the dish in a roasting pan with at least 2-inch sides. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven. Very carefully pour enough hot water around the dish to come half way up the sides of the baking dish. Slide the rack into the oven, being careful not to slosh water onto the bread pudding. Bake until set, about 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the bread pudding is puffed and golden brown on top, about 15 to 20 minutes.

 To make the praline sauce: In a medium saucepot with tall sides, place the brown sugar, baking soda, vanilla, corn syrup, buttermilk, butter, and salt. (This mixture tends to boil over if not watched).  Whisk to combine. Place over medium heat and cook, without stirring, until the sugar starts to bubble, about 3 minutes. Whisk until well combined. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, whisking occasionally, until it starts to thicken, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve warm.

Serve the bread pudding warm with the sauce on the side. 

Serves 8.

Cooking Tips:

Praline pecans are pecan halves that have been candy-coated. They are sometimes also called candied pecans or bourbon pecans.

Dark brown sugar and dark corn syrup lend a rich molasses flavor to this dessert. It is fine to substitute light brown sugar and light corn syrup if that is what you have on hand.

Variation: Ideally you should use day-old bread for this dish. It is ok to use fresh bread in a pinch. Day-old brioche or French bread can be substituted for the croissants.

Do-Ahead: The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Reheat in a double boiler or a microwave.

Time-Saving Tip: It’s not as rich in flavor, but you can use store-bought caramel sauce in place praline sauce.

Mac-n-Cheese with a Twist

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.

Enjoy!

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.


Jennifer Chandler

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