Comfort Foods

Rachel Ray gave me a new twist on one of my favorite comfort foods – mac and cheese. I saw on her newest show where she made a crab cake mac and cheese, and I knew that’s what I was having for dinner the next night.

The final review: It was great, and it’s still in my fridge because it makes a HUGE portion! There were a couple things I will tweak the next time I make it though. Instead of Gruyere cheese, I’m thinking Havarti, and instead of dollar store hot sauce – definitely going to just use spices and some ketchup with vinegar. Same effect, different flavor. But overall pretty tasty, and good for multiple rounds.

So my other comfort meal of the week, was a new one actually. Steak. But with Gaelic Sauce. I have learned that I have been cooking steak entirely wrong forever! I’ve always put the steak in a dry pan to sear it, and it’s come out chewy and somewhat dry.

This time, I seasoned the steaks – really well – and then when I put them into the pan, I put in a little bit of butter and some oil. So now the steaks have something to hold in the juices. And it makes a fantastically crispy shell to hold in the yumminess.

The gaelic sauce was a mix of the pan juices, whiskey, and cream, and then I added in some onions and mushrooms – because onions and mushrooms taste good on steak. It simmers until it thickens, and then the sauce goes over the steak. And it tastes really good with seasoned french fries!

Halloween Goodies

This Halloween, we actually convinced more than one person to come over for some partying! So of course, I had to make food. There’s 7-layer dip on the left, bruschetta and toast with some parmesan, and all kinds of veggies on the right. And this was before the mac and cheese! Oh wait, did I forget to mention the scrumptious halloween bars in the middle?

It was awesome having people come over, even if it was only for a couple hours, and I got some pretty awesome reviews about the food spread. I just think that I’m my mother’s daughter, and made way too much food. But that’s okay, now there’s plenty of leftovers!

So this mac and cheese, I’ve mentioned it twice! I guess I have to explain it! I got it out of a cooking for groups book that belongs to the roomie, and then I changed it a little. It uses penne rigate noodles, sweet italian sausage, heavy cream, chicken stock, garlic, mushrooms and did I mention the cheese?! There is 2.5 cups of italian style shredded cheese in this dish, not to mention the half-cup of parmesan.

So basically, boil up the noodles and brown up the sausage. Then drain the sausage onto some paper towels and use the same pan (this is my favorite part! Less to wash!) to saute the mushrooms and garlic with some butter and olive oil. After about 5 minutes, pour in a cup of heavy cream and a cup of chicken broth, and stir it, bringing it to a low bubble. This is the part where I should have been cackling. Finally, add the 2 cups of italian cheese, and let it all melt together. After draining the pasta, pour this cheesy goodness and the sausage into it and then pour all that  into a casserole dish. Cover the casserole dish with the other cup of the two cheeses and bake until golden.

And let me just top all this off by saying that 80s horror movies like Scream are cheesy, and hilarious, but they make a great party movie because no one is actually scared. They’re just yelling at the stupid characters and telling them what they should be doing. It’s awesome.

Mac and Cheese Experiment

My goal was to make home made macaroni and cheese. I’ve never done it before. But me and the roomie being the cheese-hounds that we are, I couldn’t just make it with cheddar and call it a day. That defeats the purpose entirely. About the same time that I decided I wanted to do this, shredded cheese was on sale at the grocery store. Fantastic! So I picked up about 8 different kinds, along with two block cheeses, to accompany the other kind I had in the fridge, and some small custard cups. That way, I could make individual portions with different mixes. This is gonna be fun.

So I ended up only making 6 mixes, because that was what sounded good together. They were:

  1. Havarti and cheddar
  2. Havarti, bleu and muenster
  3. Mozzarella and bleu
  4. Colby-jack and muenster
  5. Feta, cheddar and pepperjack
  6. Mozzarella and cheddar

I found a recipe that called for a mixture of evaporated milk, sour cream, eggs and seasoning, and then I could play the layering game of macaroni, cheese, sauce…so on and so forth. This made it really easy to make individual portions. Then once it was baked, we just pulled out the portions and sat down to try them all. I kept a pen and paper near by so I could make notes on what we thought about each of them.

The decision: All of our mixtures needed some garlic, and some of them needed some other seasonings or meat. The favorites? It came down to the havarti, bleu and muenster, and the feta, cheddar and pepperjack. Though with both, we decided that if using a chunky cheese like bleu or feta, it needs to be melted down into a cheese sauce first.

Here’s my notes on the rest in case anyone else wants to give it a shot:

  1. Havarti and cheddar – classic taste, would be good with mild Italian sausage.
  2. Havarti, bleu and muenster – needs to be melted, the bleu is too overpowering when just crumbled.
  3. Mozzarella and bleu – not creamy at all, needs Italian seasonings to compliment the mozzarella.
  4. Colby jack and muenster – kind of boring…no burst of flavor. Would be good with ground beef though and some spice.
  5. Feta, cheddar and pepperjack – needs a sneaky spice, like cayenne, and needs to be melted down. The feta amps up the flavor from just plain cheddar and pepperjack, making it a unique choice.
  6. Mozzarella and cheddar – though good on a pizza, it only got two bites. Not really a point with pasta, too bland.