Monday, July 9, 2012

love people; cook them tasty mac 'n cheese

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. 
Matthew 25:35
"Love people; cook them tasty food."

As you've probably seen, I mention this quote in the header of the blog.  It's one of my favorites, and so I thought I'd post regularly in honor of its message. 

We all know that cooking for others is such a labor of love.  It can be fun and rewarding, and yet it can also be stressful... especially if we don't know what to do or how a recipe will turn out.  I thought this might be a good reason to share with you my fool-proof recipes, so that you can be confident about your gifts to the loved ones you bless.  Think about it this way:  I've already messed them up so you don't have to!

I had a friend years ago named Cynthia.  She was on fire for life, for God, for the world... and when she was feeling good, boy did she love food!  She suffered from Stage Four breast cancer for quite a while only after overcoming a long battle with eating disorders, and she believed tremendously in the power of comfort.  Before each speaking engagement, she would share with the audience her most beloved verse: 

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ."  2 Corinthians 1:3-5

When we take time and effort to cook for others, especially when they're experiencing a difficult time in life, we are offering them comfort.  And I can't imagine any better dish to share in celebration of the gift of comfort, and in memory of Cynthia, than homemade mac 'n cheese.  

Now, I totally know that my previous post was also a cheese recipe, but isn't that really all the more reason to love TLDK???  Tenet #1 about food blogging:  Post about cheese and chocolate - it'll keep people coming back every time!

Comforting Mac 'n Cheese - 8 servings

  • 1 lb. pasta (FYI - the shells variety holds onto to the sauce really well)
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups milk or half-and-half (Go for the gusto, I say!)     
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. hot sauce
  • 8 oz. American cheese, finely chopped
  • 4 oz. white cheddar cheese, shredded
  • dash paprika
~ Cook the pasta, according to the directions on the box, until al dente.  Drain and return to pot off of 
~ Meanwhile, melt butter in medium saucepan.  Gradually add in flour, whisking constantly, until 
   golden brown.
~ Continue whisking as you add in milk, salt, mustard and hot sauce.  Whisk until smooth and 
   thickened, about 6 minutes.
~ Add cheese, one handful at a time, stirring constantly until melted.
~ Pour melted sauce over pasta and mix thoroughly.
~ Pour mixture into serving/disposable dish and sprinkle with paprika.

Tips and Tricks

1.  The recipe calls for 1 tsp. salt, but we prefer a bit more.  Make sure to test the sauce and adjust accordingly.  Kosher and/or Sea Salt provides more intense flavor in smaller amounts than table salt.  

2.  As always, right-out-of-the-oven or right-off-the-stove food is the very best, but this dish does work just fine preparing it in stages.  If need be, I prepare the pasta until almost al dente the day before, so it can handle being reheated the next day, and I also prepare the sauce a day ahead as well.  I store the pasta and sauce in separate containers.  When ready to combine, I run the pasta under warm water to rinse away starch and separate noodles.  Meanwhile, I pour cheese sauce into a stock pot and slowly reheat.  When sauce has thinned a bit, I add the noodles and continue with the original recipe directions.  

3.  This dish is a great side item, but is also heavy and rich enough to use as a main entree served with a side salad.

Original recipe from Panera by way of Annies Eats, slightly adapted by The Lazy Daisy Kitchen