Paul isn’t Hayden his love of mac ‘n’ cheese
It has been a long week.
Who am I kidding? The week just started today, and I’m already done. It was a long week before it even got here, but fair effort or not, the week will end one way or the other.
So, fair effort I shall give.
I must admit that I am procrastinating. I simply can’t think of a damn thing to cook, but I know it will come to me eventually.
It reminds me of studying history at Loyola, even with the support of my amazing bride eons ago. I would have a report due on a particular book, and would wait until 6 p.m. the night before to crack the cover, sometimes even waiting for that crucial moment to tear the cellophane off of the volume.
I would find myself in the basement of our house in Parkville reading, writing and formulating (aka academically regurgitating) an idea and would inevitably watch the sun come up; but the paper would be done. And so would I.
Not much has changed in the past fifteen years except that this doesn’t happen too often. But it is still fun on occasion to burn the midnight oil, and when I can’t get the writing juju just right, I just plug in the guitar and start playing.
One thing is sure; the guitar is one sweet sounding instrument when you have something else of import on your desk. But no, tonight is different. I’m feeling the urge to procrastinate.
I know what I need to do. I just want to act like a defiant six-year old and not do it.
In reflecting on this and having studied classical piano in my youth, I use at the very tenets of music and this leads me to believe that Prokofiev, Haydn and Chopin were all nuts. They just didn’t want to do their homework so they played the piano or wrote music.
Of course, I am no master composer or any composer for that matter, but mayhap the association of myself with these minds helps me to rationalize my current state.
An idea strikes me. I will make mac ‘n’ cheese, a classic dish that can always be tweaked out to suit the needs of a discerning populace.
Thomas Keller can have his mac ‘n’ cheese which boasts a nice chunk of lobster tail. I like to keep it more aesthetic; and more affordable.
Using whole wheat pasta as the base for this gives the dish a nice bite, as this coarser pasta stands up to heat and moisture with more vigor.
When the day is done and the dish is empty, you will be happy that you turned this classic into one of your own. Your choice of cheeses and other vegetables will allow you to personalize the mac ‘n cheese to your liking. Just don’t wait until midnight to make your dinner and it will be all the better.
Now that the article is done, it is time to get ready for work. I don’t think I will be doing this again anytime soon. Now I just need to convince myself that it’s almost Friday.
Mac and Cheese
2 ea. Roma tomatoes, quartered
8 oz. pasta shells
2 oz. Ham or bacon, diced
1 fresh garlic clove
½ ea. minced shallot
2 c. Cream
½ c. Dry white wine
½ c. Or more cheeses of your liking
Wondra, as needed
1 tsp. Coarse ground mustard
1 c. Fresh spinach, blanched and squeezed
½ c. Peas, fresh or frozen
S&P as needed
Cook your pasta at leisure. Shock it in cold water to stop the cooking process, and then you can add it to your sauce at service time. It will keep in the fridge and could even be cooked a day ahead of time, but no longer
Toss the Roma tomato quarters in olive oil, salt & pepper and roast in a hot oven until nice and toasty; set aside. You want the water to be cooked off of the tomatoes for the most part. This will ensure a nice concentrated flavor
If you are using ham, put 1 tsp. of oil in a saucepan and then the ham. Otherwise place the bacon in the pan by itself
Render the fat out of the bacon or quickly panfry the ham and then add the shallots, allowing any water to dissipate
Add the garlic and cook until just turning, making sure not to burn it as it bitters as it darkens
Deglaze the pan with the wine and then add the cream
Cook for two minutes and then thicken with Wondra, following the instructions on the can…or jar…or whatever you would call that cardboard-aluminum monstrosity. This is seriously good stuff, and the saucy secret of many a good chef
Add the mustard, squeezed spinach and peas and then adjust the seasoning
Add the cheese a little at a time until it is well distributed and the sauce is creamy
Finally, add the pasta to heat through and then serve with the roasted tomatoes (remember those from the beginning?)