stove-top mac and cheese

i am in an end of summer food rut. this is supposed to be the time where you have so much bountiful produce you don’t know what to do with it but make a million new and delicious recipes. instead i find myself craving mac and cheese or tacos, depending how warm it is in the evening.

it wasn’t until today that i realized i’m really not a summer cook. i have a few summer staple meals i like but don’t really explore much beyond them. project for next year i suppose. for right now i’m looking forward to winter squash, weather conducive to eating soup, and getting back to eating apples. i already have at least 10 fall staples that i can’t wait to make but it just doesn’t feel right yet even though saturday marks the official beginning of fall. i don’t care. last week in portland we had weather in the 90s and this week is 70 all the way through. not fall. ok?

so here is the beginning of me coping with the paradox of wanting hearty fall food but not being ready to give up on summer and nectarines and peaches and berries and corn and delicious tomatoes… mac and cheese seems like a good start away from summer food.

this mac takes about 20 minutes to make because you skip the baking step that makes the top so crispy and wonderful, but it also skips the 30 minutes plus waiting for it to bake. (i have a secret for you, to have baked mac and cheese you basically make the sauce, toss it with the noodles, add some more cheese in the middle and on top and throw it in the oven.) i know it’s easy to get lazy and pull out a box of annie’s mac and cheese (or whatever kraft crap you put in your body) but this is worth it.

tillamook cheddar was on sale at the store last week which prompted this as a repeat for dinner a few times this week. for those of you not in the northwest, tillamook is the shit. delicious delicious cheese that cannot be compared to anything. i would show you a picture here of when boyfriend and i went to the cheese factory last year but our batteries were all dead from going camping in torrential downpour that made the car a more desirable place to sleep than our sad drowning tent.

so, deliciously easy mac and cheese in less than 20… here you are.

stove-top mac and cheese
serves 2 hungry people

1/4 cup butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk or milk substitute*
1/2 pound cheddar cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste
pinch garlic powder

to begin boil your water for pasta. the sauce takes about 10 minutes to make so half of the 20 minutes prep time i gave you was actually waiting for your pasta water to boil. you can either get started now and stir your sauce on low while you wait for the pasta to finish or play the get-everything-finished-at-the-same-time-game and begin the sauce when you throw the pasta in. i chose the latter the second time i made this but if you’ve never made a roux before you might want to play it safe.

for the sauce: melt the butter over medium heat. as soon as it is melted add the flour and stir until it quickly forms a paste. add the milk and stir constantly until the liquid is about twice as thick as a good cream soup. slowly add the shredded cheddar until it incorporates into the sauce. add salt and pepper to taste and just a touch of garlic powder: too much can kill a dish and too much garlic powder is easy to add.

pour over cooked pasta and mix in. serve with wine. 🙂

if you plan on saving and reheating any of this keep the sauce and the pasta separate! they reheat well on their own but are horrible when you try to heat them together as the butter separates and it just gets messy.

*if you plan on using a milk alternative i recommend hemp first or soy milk second. they have a neutral flavor not present in other nut milks (i’ve accidentally made hazelnut mac and cheese before and it was not delicious) and are thicker than rice.

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