Loaves & Fishes

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This Web Page by Pauline Harding for Art Nurk, askpauline@comcast.net
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Pauline's Famous Macaroni and Cheese

Single Batch, to eat now!

·         1 16 oz boxes of noodles.  The classic is elbow macaroni, but I prefer twists of one kind or another.

·         1 onion, finely chopped.  Leave these out only if you’re cooking for really really picky children.  If you chop them fine enough, maybe they won’t notice.

·         1 stalk celery, finely chopped. You can leave this out if you don't have any, but it does add a surprising amount of flavor, so use it if you can. Again the idea is to chop it so finely that it isn't noticed.

·         1 clove garlic, finely chopped. I don't usually use this, but if you are a garlic lover you can go ahead and add it.

·         3 tbsp olive oil – you could use butter instead, but this is one of those great moments when the healthier choice is also the better tasting one – olive oil makes a smoother sauce.

·         3 heaping tbsp flour – you can use more-or-less any kind of flour.

·         1/2 tsp mustard powder.  This isn’t strictly necessary, but it does kind of make the cheese flavor pop, like when you add nutmeg to spinach. If you don't have the powder, use prepared mustard - the stoneground gourmet kind, not the stuff you get on hot dogs at baseball games.

·         1/2 tsp curry powder.  also not strictly necessary, but adds to the flavor. The idea is to add just enough that you can taste it, but not so much that people can identify the flavor.

·         Salt.  To your taste. I'm guessing I use about 1/4 tsp.

·         Pepper.  To taste.

·         2 cups milk – I use 2%, but it really doesn’t matter that much. 

·         About 8 oz cheese, roughly cubed.  You can use anything you’ve got in your fridge that is in decent shape.  (Don’t use anything that doesn’t smell nice.  It won’t get any better in the sauce.)  This is a good way to use up leftover bits and pieces.  If I don’t have any leftovers, I often use sharp cheddar.  A little mozzerella is OK, but not the whole 8 ounces, as it is too stringy. Also, the total amount of cheese is somewhat variable. 

·         About 3/4 cup Italian flavored breadcrumbs – I buy the store brand, but it’s also easy to make your own.  Instead of the Italian flavored kind, you could use plain breadcrumbs and mix in some Italian herbs.  You can also make your own breadcrumbs, of course. The amount is somewhat variable.  You can skip this part if you don’t have any bread crumbs, but it does add some flavor and texture, so it’s worth using it if you can. (Keep your breadcrumbs in the freezer - they'll stay nice, and you don't have to defrost them before sprinkling them on. If you have a loaf of bread that is a bit stale (but not moldy!), you can cut it up and freeze if for when you're making mac cheese.)

·         1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese - I don't always use this, so you can leave it out if you don't want to bother. When sprinkled on the top of the mac cheese before baking, it helps make that lovely crusty top layer. I grate my own parmesan and store it in the freezer - like the breadcrumbs, it does not need to be defrosted before using. I wouldn't use the stuff that comes ready-grated in the round green box - I don't think it would work the same way.

·         1 rectangular baking pan, 13”x9”x2”.

Put a pot of water on to boil for the noodles, cook them to al dente, and drain.  Be very careful not to overcook - ideally, you want to drain the pasta at the first moment when there is no longer white, hard part in the middle of a cut-in-half noodle. Use your timer set to the minimum time stated on the pasta box, and check often.

Meanwhile, using the pan you will use for the sauce (a medium saucepan), cook the onions, celery, and garlic in the olive oil, until the onion is translucent.  Stir in the flour, and cook for about a minute.  (This is called a “roux”.)  Add the seasonings.  At this point you should be working over low heat. Slowly stir in the milk, being careful to keep stirring to avoid lumps or separation.  (It's best to add a bit, stir until it is uniformly incorporated, then repeat. The first cup should be done in at *least* four parts, the second can be added in two parts.) Cook until the mixture thickens and boils.  (Now you have a “white sauce”.)  Add the cheese, and keep stirring and cooking until the cheese melts – voila!  Cheese sauce!  Pour the noodles into the pan.  Pour the cheese sauce over the noodles.  Mix well.  Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese over the top.  Put it in a pre-heated, 350F oven for about 25 minutes. It is done when it is hot and the top starts getting brown.) 

 

Variations:  You can also mix in some diced deli ham, some broccoli (I’d use a box of defrosted frozen chopped broccoli), or both. 

 

Classic Macaroni Cheese to Freeze

Makes 2 large or 4 small casseroles.  The ingredients for this recipe are slightly different from the one above, for no particular reason. Eat one now and freeze the rest, or give the whole batch to a friend in need.

 

·         2 16 oz boxes of noodles.  The classic is elbow macaroni, but I prefer twists of one kind or another.

·         2 onions, finely chopped.  Leave these out if you’re cooking for really picky children.  If you chop them fine enough, maybe they won’t notice.

·         2 cloves garlic, finely chopped.

·         6 tbsp olive oil – you could use butter instead, but this is one of those great moments when the healthier choice is also the better tasting one – olive oil makes a smoother sauce.

·         6 heaping tbsp flour – you can use more-or-less any kind of flour.

·         1 tsp mustard powder.  This isn’t strictly necessary, but it does kind of make the cheese flavor pop, like when you add nutmeg to spinach.

·         1 tsp curry powder.  Ditto.

·         1 tsp salt.  Or to your taste.

·         1 tsp pepper.  Ditto.

·          4 cups milk – I use 2%, but it really doesn’t matter that much. 

·         16 oz cheese, roughly cubed.  You can use anything you’ve got in your fridge that is in decent shape.  (Don’t use anything that doesn’t smell nice.  It won’t get any better in the sauce.)  This is a good way to use up leftover bits and pieces.  If I don’t have any leftovers, I often use sharp cheddar.  Also, the amount is somewhat variable. 

·         1 ½ - 2 cups Italian flavored breadcrumbs (2 large casseroles x ¾ cup each or 4 small casseroles x ½ cup each) – I buy the store brand, but it’s also easy to make your own.  Instead of the Italian flavored kind, you could use plain breadcrumbs and mix in some Italian herbs.  The amount is somewhat variable.  You can leave this out if you don’t have any, but it does add some flavor and texture, so it’s worth using it if you can.

·         2 rectangular bake pans, 13”x9”x2”, OR 4 square pans, 8”x8”.

 

Put a pot of water on to boil for the noodles, cook them to al dente, and drain.  (I use two pots, one for each box of noodles.  It’s quicker and doesn’t require a large pot.)  Meanwhile, using the pan you will use for the sauce (a medium saucepan), cook the onions and garlic in the olive oil.  Stir in the flour, and cook for a while.  (This is called a “roux”.)  Add the seasonings.  Slowly stir in the milk, being careful to keep stirring to avoid lumps or separation.  Cook until the mixture thickens and boils.  (Now you have a “white sauce”.)  Add the cheese, and keep stirring and cooking until the cheese melts – voila!  Cheese sauce!  Pour the noodles into the pans.  Pour the cheese sauce over the noodles.  Mix well.  Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top.  Now it is ready to freeze.  (If you’re not freezing it, you can heat it at 350F until it is hot and the top starts getting brown.) 

 

To re-heat after freezing, take it out of the freezer and thaw in the fridge overnight or on the counter for several hours.  Cook at 350F until it is hot and the top starts getting brown.

 

Serve with a salad or green vegetable.

 

Variations:  You can also mix in some diced deli ham, some broccoli (I’d use a box of defrosted frozen chopped broccoli), or both.  Try making one plain and one fancy.  This is a good choice for a mom in need, as most kids will eat it (if you don’t put in too many veggies).