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Posts Tagged ‘bechamel’

maca3

A few weeks ago I started a quest for some good mac and cheese. Nancy makes a killer mac-n-cheese but I wanted my own. I’m sure I frustrate the crap out of Nancy sometimes because I’m always looking for something better when it comes to food and recipes. Now mind you , this mac-n-cheese is not Bobby Flay mac-n-cheese with some crazy-sexy ingredients, but it is really, really good! I would make it for any of my friends and be proud.

My first attempt was with a Jamie Oliver version that didn’t include a bechamel sauce but instead called for mixing the cooked pasta with the cheese and then baking it. I found it to be okay, had some nice flavor as he added garlic salt to his, but overall it didn’t make the grade for heart-attack-5,000-calorie-kill-me-now before-I-have-a-stroke-and-die type of mac-n-cheese. This is what I’m looking for. Why make mac-n-cheese if you aren’t going to go for broke? I thought about mixing in bacon or truffle oil, but why make something simple complicated?

The second version, I made a few nights ago for my best bud Chad, Nancy and the boys. I found this version in Kurt Beecher’s book, “Pure Flavor”. I was also able to find Beecher’s Cheddar in the local store and was glad. Nancy and I visited their flagship store in Seattle last year. Great cheese!

Chad is up from San Francisco and has been visiting for the past week. I’m almost out of energy. I think I’m getting about five hours of sleep each day. We are mild though, old guys I guess. Our pattern consists of playing sports games on the Playstation 3, drinking large amounts of liquids, cussing at the TV and throwing controllers and in general fighting for the most wins. We are both super competitive. Most of the time we have a great time but there are nights where we are about ready to kill each other.

chadjoe

Last night was particularly funny though since you can customize your player characters. Chad always plays with a male character, but I always pick a female character. I figure if I’m going to have to watch a cyber-person on the screen for hours and hours, I would rather look at a woman than a man. So, I’m buying some hot clothes for my hot cyber golfer when Chad asks me, just as Nancy appears around the corner, “Can you turn her around on the screen so we can see her a%$?” Bad timing, hahaha, we laughed our a$% off as Nancy gave us a dirty look out of the corner of her eye!

Well back to the mac-n-cheese. It was quite a story. I thought I was going to double the recipe, but it didn’t quite turn out that way. Problems from the start, because I was trying to cook and hold a serious political discussion with Chad and Nancy. I doubled the butter, but nothing else in the bechamel sauce. By the time I noticed it was way too late. From there I threw caution to the wind. I ended up doubling the cheese by mistake and the resulting mac and cheese, though incredibly cheesy and awesome had a bit of a texture issue. We ate it, Jacob and I really enjoyed it, but Nancy and Chad complained about the texture.

Chad, who is like me, super-competitive and a bit of a perfectionist said “Let’s do it again and do it right this time!” DOH! “Oh what the hell,” I thought, it was about 9:30 at night, but let’s make it again. Chad started the bechemel while I tried to grate the cheese with the correct proportion this time. It worked out perfectly, and we ate the second version at 11:00pm. Everyone loved it, plain and simple. It was great mac-n-cheese. From what I can tell, the secret to this recipe is the proportions.

Perfect Mac-n-Cheese (serves 4 as a side dish)

  • 8 ounces penne pasta (half a box)
  • 2 cups Beecher’s Flagship Cheese Sauce (see below)
  • 1 ounce Cheddar, grated
  • 1 ounce Gruyere cheese, grated
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil or butter an 8-inch dish. Cook the penne 2 minutes less than the package directions. You want the noodles not quite done because they will finish cooking in the sauce in the oven. Rinse the pasta with cold water and set aside.

Combine cooked pasta and Flagship Sauce in a medium bowl and mix carefully but thoroughly. Scrape the pasta into a prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the cheeses, then the chile powder. Bake uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes, until the top has a nice golden crust. Let sit for a few minutes before serving.

If you decide to make this as a main and double the amounts, use a 9×13 inch baking pan and increase the time to 30 to 35 minutes.

Beecher’s Flagship Cheese Sauce (makes 4 cups)

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 14 ounces semi-hard cheese, grated (I used Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar)
  • 2 ounces grated semi-soft cheese (I used Gorgonzola)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Continue to whisk and cook for 2 minutes. You just made a roux, a substance used for thickening sauces!

Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Now you turned the roux into a bechamel.

Remove from the heat. Add the cheese, salt, chile powder and garlic powder. Stir until the cheese is melted and all the ingredients are incorporated, about 3 minutes. If the cheese isn’t melting completely you can put the pan on low heat.

Use immediately or refrigerate for up to three days!

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Okay things are not looking too great on the eating good side of things.  I will say though that I haven’t been eating any cereal with half and half or large bags of Peanut M&M’s.  I did sneak a piece of cardamom coffee cake today at the restaurant, but it was a small piece.

I was supposed to start working out this weekend after the trip to San Francisco, where I did in fact eat quite a bit.  I had cupcakes at Kara’s Cupcakes and at Miette. I thought Kara’s were as good as ours and I really liked their cream cheese frosting.  I think Miette’s are a bit dry and both of the times I’ve been there, I’ve been disappointed.

We had a great time on the trip and made a few discoveries in the tons of restaurants we surveyed.  I won’t bore you with all the details except to say if you are in the city and want an awesome place for brunch, you’ll have to wait for 30 to 45 minutes, check out Brenda’s French Soul Food.  The place was awesome, the food was great, staff was super friendly and their beignets are to die for!  Not just regular beignets, but these were stuffed.  One with chocolate, another with Granny Smith apples and cinnamon honey butter and another with Crawfish with cayenne, scallions and cheddar.

The first set of plans for the exterior of the new building are almost done.  I can’t share too much information, but we will have a patio outside with water and a fountain, windows that open to allow the beautiful spring and summer weather in and about 900 square feet of kitchen…10 times our current space.

We did have a scare today when I found out through a third party that the building will be in a specially zoned area because of its proximity to the Reno/Tahoe International Airport.  For about a 1/2 hour we thought we wouldn’t be able to go forward with the concept without some major changes, bad changes, but after doing some research we found out that we were okay after all.

So planning goes on…I actually spent tonight working on our new breakfast and lunch catering menu for the Winter edition.

So on to the Pastitsio.  I love Pastitso.  I often eat it at a local restaurant here in Reno called the Blue Plate.  How can you go wrong?  Meat, cheese, bechamel and pasta!

The meal took some time.  I started around 5:15 or so and I think we ate at 8:00.  This would be great for a weekend or a day you were home early from work.  The meal was excellent.

Pastitsio (makes 10 – 12 portions)

adapted from the cookbook Modern Greek

For the Pasta:

  • 1 pound ziti
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons grated kefalotiri or parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup bechamel sauce

For the Pie:

  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 5 cups meat sauce
  • 3 cups bechamel sauce
  • 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs (I used panko)
  • 3 tablespoons grated kefalotiri or parmesan cheese

This recipe is all about the order.  Make the meat sauce first.  When you have about 30 minutes left before the meat sauce is done start on the bechamel and start the pasta water.  When you are about 15 minutes from from the meat sauce being done, cook your pasta.

Pasta – Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and simmer for 10 minutes or until almost soft.  Drain in a colander and transfer to a large bowl.  Allow to cool and then add the beaten eggs, cheese and bechamel sauce. Toss the pasta until well coated with the mixture.

To Assemble – Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush the bottom and sides of a rectangular 9×13 inch baking dish with the melted butter.  Spread a third of the pasta evenly in the dish can cover with half of the meat sauce.  Add another third of the pasta and cover with the remaining meat sauce.  Add another third of the pasta and cover with the remaining meat sauce.  Spread the remaining pasta over the top and spoon on the bechamel sauce, smoothing it over the top.  Sprinkle on the breadcrumbs and cheese.  Make for 40 minutes or until the top is golden brown.  Let rest for 10 minutes before cutting and devouring!

Bechamel:

  • 4 cups milk
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice berries or ground allspice
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons grated kefalotiri or parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the milk, bay leaves and allspice in a saucepan over low heat or in the microwave in a glass bowl.  Don’t let the milk burn.  You are looking for 150 degrees or so.  Melt the butter in another saucepan or saucier, then add the flour and whisk for about 5 minutes until combined.  Slowly ladle or pour, be careful, the hot milk into the flour mixture (discarding the allspice and bay leaves) and whisk constantly until the sauce thickens.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and, when slightly cooled stir in the cheese and nutmeg.  Add salt and pepper to taste. (makes 4 cups)

Meat Sauce:

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium-sized yellow onions, peeled and diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup red wine, (drink the rest of the bottle while making this, I did)
  • 1 15 ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and saute the onions, garlic, celery, parsley, oregano and thyme for about 5 minutes until softened. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and reserve.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the saucepan and saute the ground beef, stirring often to break up the pieces, for about 10 minutes until browned.  Add the red wine, tomatoes, tomato paste, cinnamon, allspice, bay leaves, salt and pepper and saute for another 5 minutes. Return the onion, garlic and celery mixture to the saucepan, stir well and simmer the sauce for 45 to 60 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. (Makes 5 cups).

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