It had been awhile since I had a good, renewing cook. Convenience food and leftovers have reigned in my kitchen throughout the holidays and breakfasts have been in large part old standards. But the hectic pace of the holidays eased and to ring in the New Year I got some white wine and put Paul Simon on much louder than Paul Simon was ever meant to be played.
I'm a white wine fan. White wins in every category for me, value, less teeth stainy and ability to mix with Sprite. So cast off that white-wine-is-for-drunk-aunts stereotype and gitrdun with gerwutz, grub some grenache and cop some riesling.
Sometimes my food decisions are made for me and when I woke up New Year's day my stomach all but wrote it in blood on the back of my door. Macaroni and cheese is the epitome of comfort food and is extremely easy to fancify as much or as little as you like.
*Quick digression: This is one of those times where I'm not sure how much I'm channeling Rachel Ray. I fear that the defining technique in this mac recipe I learned from her bright-ass kitchen but I hereby promise not to use "YUMMO" or "ENTREETIZERS" in any way besides sarcastically.*
I find myself buying things in the opposite order that food safety or common sense would dictate. I buy the tasty, interesting stuff first and then end up forgetting, say, the macaroni. This trip to the Coop was no different and I started off in the wine aisle. I ended up getting a French (sorry House Republicans!) blend that included a grenache blanc. Le Vieille Ferme Cotes De Luberon was on sale for like $14, got me a cooking buzz and added some delicious complexity to my mac. All I can really ask for. Ohhh, also screw cap bonus points.
I do abide by the Food Network staple phrase "Don't cook with anything you wouldn't drink" but given my status as an optional Rossi drinker it doesn't restrict me all too much.
Matt’s “and Cheese”
Brought to you by the Dairy Farmer’s of America in conjunction with the California Milk Processing Board
6 ounces butter for roux
2 ounces butter for sauce
4 ounces flour
1 lb macaroni
1/2 white onion
2 garlic cloves
1 glass white wine (6 ounces)
2 tb dijon mustard
1 cup whole milk
6 ounces grated cheddar, medium sharp
3 ounces grated fancy cheese (dry jack, fontina, almost anything would be excellent)
6 ounces chopped rocket (arugula)
Go ahead and get the pasta water boiling while we talk about the steps involved. A pound of pasta is going to take quite a bit of water to cook correctly. Remember to get the water to rolling boil, salt it, dump pasta and turn down the heat while stirring everything so you don’t get pasta stick. They key here is to undercook the pasta slightly because it will cook more as you mix in the sauce and wilt your greens. Cook it to the point where it tastes rawer than al dente; a fair amount of bite to it.
Not counting the cooking of the pasta, this essentially a three step cooking process. First you make a roux, then from there a sauce and finally, you finish the mac and cheese with fresh herbs and greens. I’m not all too sure about whether dumping chopped greens into mac and cheese is a step in the same way spending the better part of 30 minutes making a roux is a step, but this is my recipe, and I can classify however I please.
The roux serves one of two purposes well, a thickener for sauces or a flavoring agent when making dark stuff like gumbo. When Forrest was working on his gumbo recipe in Salem I spent many hours perched on the counter next to the stove is he constantly scraped his roux around the bottom of the pot. You begin by melting 6 ounces of butter in either the bottom of a nice pot or in a separate, heavy skillet. Add the flour a little at a time until it has a kind of doughy consistency. Roux develops flavor by cooking the flour and the addition of fat makes it easier to regulate the cooking process.
To say making a roux is mesmerizing is somewhat inflationary but I think its about right. It changes color the same way that sunset does, imperceptibly if viewed constantly but close your eyes for two minutes and the difference is clear as night is dark. It transitions from a creamed butter color to a rich orange but for this recipe I wait until it has gotten more of a coppery pumpkin.
It’s a matter of personal preference and patience. I was in the zone (read: wine + Peter, Bjorn and John) and thus didn’t mind spending a half hour slapping roux around old blue. I took the roux out and put it in a bowl so that I could sauté my onions and garlic and deglaze some of the flour that went rogue. That extra 2 ounces of butter melted mighty fast on the already superheated pan and the onions sautéed in no time flat. I added the garlic once the onions were almost done and then deglazed with the white wine. Cook that down a little and mix the mustard into that reduction. This might be one of the best smelling cooking stages that I have ever stumbled upon. Scrape your roux back into that mix and add the milk. Whisk heartily and peep your sauce. Since for the most part I just made it up I have no idea how authentic it was, but doesn’t it feel French?
Put your cheeses in there and then your slightly undercooked pasta. Mix well and add your greens.
I used some of my Christmas tupperware to give some to my man Chaz aka Cheese aka De-Yo and I got one of the best compliments about my cooking that I had ever received.
“So I was really drunk and come home to lay into that macaroni and cheese but tasted it and felt that the flavors were too subtle for me to appreciate while that drunk. So I ate it the next morning and you know what, I was glad.”
I’ve always considered myself to be fairly computer literate but I am having the hardest time finding a better way to disseminate beats. But here is my Mix & Cheese for the BB faithful each song lovingly uploaded one at a time to Box.net.
The Dramatics – In The Rain
Dept. of Eagles – Teenagers
Peter, Bjorn and John – Objects of My Affection (off Writer’s Block)
Dept. of Eagles – Floating on the Lehigh
PB&J – Paris 2004
Dirty Projectors – Remade Horizon
Lykke Li – Little Bit
Paul Simon – Run That Body Down
PB&J – Say Something (off Seaside Rock)
Aberfeldy – Young Forever