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Tripe Soup, by Jennifer Brizzi
Monday, January 9, 2006
Starch 'n cheese
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: Cooking
I will never be too snobby to appreciate macaroni and cheese, in most any form.

In my book that combo of pasta and cheese baked together and topped with crispy crumbs surpasses most treats. I have had creamy versions at southern buffets, sweet macaroni pies in Jamaica and Barbados, had floury bland versions in cafeteria lines, and tasted plenty of the Kraft crap I give my kids sometimes (my own bowl sprinkled heavily with freshly ground black pepper), and ain't none of it bad.

Tonight at the risk of Rolando's wrath (he is lactose intolerant and usually I never make it unless he's not around) I had an urge to bake a little casserole-full to accompany a meal that would have been perfectly fine without it: oven-roasted natural local pork chops with lemon and Penzeys Bavarian seasoning, butter-roasted turnip slices, and (full disclosure) salad-in-a-bag.

My version of macaroni and cheese is like what I ate as a kid but with a couple of tweaks. As a kid I would sit at the table long after every one else had gone, digging into fourths and fifths of my mother's macaroni and cheese. I was a wisp of a skinny thing then, but insatiable when it came to that stuff.

For tonight's version, which the kids wouldn't touch, preferring Kraft as they do, I boiled a bit more than half a box of Barilla pipette until not quite done and tossed it with grated Cheddar and Cheshire (Vermont's Cabot hunters' extra sharp and pink crumbly English export, respectively), a dusting of Locatelli Romano, half a finely chopped onion and a little garlic that I had softened in butter in a hot little cast iron pan, hearty sprinklings of dry mustard and cayenne, and salt and pepper. I buttered my tiniest blue Le Creuset, threw it all in and filled not quite to cover with 2% milk. Then with the grater still handy I grated some really old Italian bread over the top, dotted it with butter like I might an apple pie and cooked it at 350-375 until it was golden on top. As sweet as the turnips were, as perfect as the local pork, had I been alone I might have eschewed them both and eaten the whole lot of that macaroni and cheese.

Sort of my mother's version, sort of mine, all comfort food and all good. Low carb and New Year's resolutionary diets be damned.

Posted by Jennifer Brizzi at 12:01 AM EST
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