Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Mac & Cheese Casserole, January 27, 2015

Last night was another thumbs-down dinner. I made the "hearty macaroni & cheese" from the Gooseberry Patch Fall" cookbook and did not enjoy it. I was pretty sure boiled eggs, peas, onions, Italian breadcrumbs, and chicken were a little much to add to mac & cheese for my tastes and I was right. Jeannene thought it was pretty good. She wasn't so sure about the endive & radicchio salad and downright disliked the dressing I made. I thought the dressing, a cherry balsamic dressing, was yummy. I think I would have liked the salad better with watercress or arugula (our grocery had no watercress and the one container of baby arugula they had was browned on the edges) instead of radicchio, but it was good, too. Since I didn't like the casserole, I am offering you another one, to which you can add whatever you like. If that includes all that stuff I mentioned above, have at it. Me, I like my mac & cheese a bit plainer---although I think I might really like cured chorizo in this. I also usually like it unbaked, just made atop the stove in a saucepan. Baking seems to dry it out. This one, however, stands up well to the oven. If you want, though, just stop at the end of the stovetop directions and serve it like that.

Honestly, the best part of dinner last night was dessert. My sweetie had been through a rough day at work, so to cheer her up, I picked up a pint of Ben & Jerry's Peanut Butter Half-Baked, which is chocolate and peanut butter ice cream, mixed, with hunks of brownie dough and peanut butter cookie dough. It's too bad it's a limited edition flavor because it's stupid good.

Baked Mac & Cheese
1/2 lb. ditalini (or macaroni or whatever small pasta you like), cooked
1/2 stick butter
1/4 c. flour
2 c. milk
8 oz. extra-sharp cheddar, shredded (plus extra for topping)
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour, stirring until you have a smooth mixture. Gradually whisk in the milk. Simmer on medium heat, whisking, for a minute or two, until thickened and bubbling. Add cheese, salt, and pepper, and stir until well-mixed. Add macaroni, then put into a 2-qt casserole. Bake 25 minutes. Sprinkle with extra cheese and bake another 5 minutes or so. Serves 4-6. 

Endive, Watercress, & Orange Salad
2 Belgian endives, torn into bite-size pieces or sliced
1 large bunch watercress (or half a head of radicchio or a bunch of arugula)
2-3 oranges, chopped
1 shallot, minced
1/3 c. great quality extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp. cherry balsamic vinegar (or whatever other fruity flavor you like)
2 tbsp. mayonnaise
1 tsp. Dijon
Salt & pepper

Toss the endives, watercress, oranges, and shallot gently. Whisk the rest together until thickened. If you're going to eat the whole salad immediately, toss the dressing with the salad. Otherwise, toss individual portions with dressing. Serves 4. 

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