Last night Kurt and I went to see the Reduced Shakespeare’s “Ultimate Christmas” show at Reston Community Center with Katherine and Jacki (two of my high school friends and members of the Mommy Dinner Club) and Jacki’s husband John. It was the first time for me and Kurt to see any of this three-man troupe’s shows, but the others had seen one about the Bard himself. Kurt, who is somewhat of a grinch about Christmas (long family story), wasn’t sure he’d like it, but I told him it would be very funny. During the performance, I kept glancing over towards him and would see him chuckling away; I myself was at times laughing so hard I cried.
Prior to the show, we went to a kabob place down the road from the theater; the food was fantastic! Their “special sauce” was delicious over my gyro. Too bad I didn’t take a picture…
I knew I needed to make something for my mom and Ken for dinner before Kurt and I left, so I went with the tried and true mac ‘n’ cheese. Interestingly, another blogger on WordPress had “liked” one of my posts and I popped over to her blog and found a recipe for mac ‘n’ cheese. It was pretty much the same formula I used for noodles and roux, but I add thyme, paprika and onion powder (the powder is a recent concession because I hate grating onion) instead of cayenne. What was different was that she didn’t melt the cheese into her bechamel; she mixed the macaroni with the sauce, poured it into the casserole then topped the whole thing with all that cheese. I was intrigued and decided to test it out. By the way, her recipe is here.
Cheese-crusted Mac ‘n’ Cheese
- 3 cups of regular macaroni, cooked slight less than al dente
- 4 TB unsalted butter
- 4 TB AP flour
- salt and pepper
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp paprika (I used Hungarian)
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- 3 cups milk
- 2 cups, grated, firmly packed cheese (I used leftover cheddar and gruyere)
First I preheated the oven to 375 degrees and coated a large casserole dish with cooking spray. I heated a large pot of water for the macaroni and set out my ingredients:
When the water started to boil, I salted it heavily then added the macaroni and set the timer for 7 minutes. I then started the roux by melting the butter in a heavy-bottom saucepan on medium low heat.
When the butter was melted, I dumped in the flour and whisked it into the butter:
I let the mixture bubble for one to two minutes:
When the roux lost its “raw flour” smell, I whisked in the milk slowly, working out any lumps til the mixture was smooth.
In went the seasonings and salt and pepper to taste. I went light on the salt, knowing that the cheeses will add saltiness to the casserole.
I let the sauce simmer for a few minutes to thicken.
While the sauce was simmering, I drained the macaroni (it needs to be slightly undercooked because it will cook more while baking in the oven) and poured it into the casserole:
Once the sauce had thickened, I added it to the macaroni,
and combined the two gently with my spatula:
I topped the noodles with ALL THAT CHEESE!
I baked the casserole for 40 minutes, until the crust had browned slightly:
I hate to admit this, but both Kurt and I had a little of that crusty goodness before we left; Ken’s “Aren’t you going out to dinner?” largely fell on deaf ears.
My second recipe is another all-American standard– peanut butter fudge. This one is made in the microwave and I use Alton Brown’s recipe which you can get here. I made it because Ken had argued that since I made the pecan bars for dad, I should make him something he likes. I always get a kick out of making PB fudge for Ken because of his former “I don’t do peanuts” claim (he used to say he was allergic to them). This recipe is really easy; it takes longer to measure, cut out and line the baking pan with the wax paper than it does to “cook” the fudge.
Here’s my stuff:
Measuring and cutting the wax paper is a prep step you can’t skip; the fudge hardens and it is easier to just lift it out and cut on a board than to cut it in the pan. Next I put the butter and peanut butter into a microwave safe bowl (Pyrex casserole).
I sealed it with plastic wrap and microwaved it on high for 2 minutes, stirred and microwaved another two minutes. It came out like this:
In went the vanilla:
I added the powdered sugar and stirred/mashed until everything was well combined:
I spooned the mixture into my prepared pan and used the back of the spoon to spread the mixture across the entire pan in an even layer:
I folded the wax paper flaps over the top to keep the fudge from drying out and refrigerated it til it was firm enough to cut.
I lift out the fudge block and cut it into tiny squares (or not):
It’s lunchtime, so I’m outta here to enjoy some leftover mac ‘n’ cheese and a square (or two) of fudge while I figure out what to make tonight…