Archived entries for casserole

Valentine’s day massacre: Four cheese macaroni

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If you heard a large clanging noise this past Sunday night, it was probably the sound of my arteries slamming shut. I took a page from Maggie’s book and decided to make mac and cheese as a post-Valentine’s Day-Valentine meal; I knew full well that it was going to be a cholesterol nightmare, but I threw caution to the wind and went for it anyway. If you are looking for a lighter or lower fat mac and cheese, this is not the recipe for you. Consider yourself warned.

So! What made this macaroni so crazy? Well, let’s start with a solid pound of grated cheese (four kinds). And then move on to the quarter pound of prosciutto. And from there, to the caramelized shallots and two heads of roasted garlic.

Hungry yet?

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Just devising this recipe made me drool like some prehistoric beast; I certainly growled like one once or twice as I assembled it–I lost some quality acreage on my knuckles while grating the cheese. I based the recipe on one that I found in Bon Appetit last month; I was intrigued by their tip to use eggs instead of bechamel for the custard. Though it took some care to achieve (you have to be very careful when mixing the eggs and the cheese sauce if you want to avoid scrambled eggs), it was worth it–the casserole was cheesy, gooey, creamy deliciousness from top to tail, without the trauma of whisking hot milk into flour (though the addition of some tangy buttermilk to the cheesy custard certainly didn’t hurt the cause, either).

The topping might have been my favorite part, though–breadcrumbs with parmesan, garlic, and a hint of nutmeg, just to keep things interesting. It’s a flavor that most will find hard to place, but it adds a lovely complexity.

Basically, this is a panful of cardiac arrest–and worth every single bite. Make it for someone you love (especially if that someone is yourself) today.

Death mac: Four cheese mac and cheese

1/4 stick butter
6-8 medium sized shallots, sliced thinly
1/4c all purpose flour
1 1/2 c buttermilk
2 c milk
1 lb shredded cheese (a good mix: parmesan, gruyere, manchego, cheddar)
1 tbsp dijon mustard
6 oz pancetta or prosciutto, diced
2 large eggs
2 heads roasted garlic, pureed

1 lb shell pasta (I used whole wheat in an attempt to be…um. Healthy. Yeah.)

Topping
1/2 c breadcrumbs
1/2 c parmesan cheese, grated
2 tbsp onion powder
2 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg
salt

  1. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and saute until caramelized.
  2. Add prosciutto/pancetta; saute for 3-4 minutes more
  3. Add flour, cook for 2 more minutes
  4. Add milk; bring to a simmer
  5. Add cheese, mustard, and garlic puree. Continue to simmer until cheese is melted. Season to taste with salt
  6. Whisk eggs into medium bowl; gradually whisk in 1 c cheese sauce. GRADUALLY is key–you don’t want the eggs to curdle
  7. Add egg mixture back into cheese sauce
  8. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 and cook the pasta in salted water according to package directions.
  9. Prepare topping: breadcrumbs, parmesan, onion and garlic powders, salt.
  10. Add cooked pasta to sauce; turn out into buttered casserole dish.
  11. Top with breadcrumb topping.
  12. Bake 25 min or so, until everything is bubbly and brown and irresistible.

Marc Meyer’s Five Points Mac and Cheese


I am one of those people who gets dish envy at restaurants. And orderer’s remorse. Hopefully, if we go to a restaurant together, you know me pretty well, so you won’t be shocked if I ask for a taste of whatever you have that looks so good. And if I ultimately steal your plate and finish every last morsel.

Recently, we went to Five Points restaurant with a large group for brunch. Almost everyone ordered something different, and soon the plates were passed around for tastes. My friend Lindsay had brought along her younger sister, whom I’d never met. But of course I found myself scarfing down the remains of her macaroni and cheese. It was just. So. Good. Crazy-creamy with a strong cheese bite, a rich-but-not greasy or gluey sauce that kept each noodle moist. Divine. I tried to memorize each flavor, which clearly required more than one delicate spoonful. For the good of mankind, right?

So far, Marc Meyer’s brunch book had not steered me wrong. His frittata method is great, and the lemon-ricotta pancake recipe has allowed me to faithfully duplicate the Five Points dish to a tee. Why would this be any different?


The ingredients are inspired. His secrets are canned evaporated milk and a block of cream cheese that melts into the sauce. Sharp cheddar and/or gruyere. Good milk and a touch of cream with quite a bit of freshly grated parmesan stirred in. If it worked, this would be my new favorite recipe for the classic dish—no whisking flour into a bechamel! I have been trying to perfect my macaroni and cheese for a long time: I’ve tried baked and broiled, cheese sauce and simple white sauce, a thousand variations. I have faith in Meyer’s ingredients.

But it didn’t work as written in the cookbook, so I’m not giving you the recipe yet. I want to play with the proportions first—as soon as we can stomach more mac and cheese. Scaling down restaurant recipes is tricky. Perhaps the sauce quantity needs to be doubled, perhaps more. The sauce looked great, but after baking as instructed, the dish was dry, lacking the creaminess of the restaurant version.

Stay tuned.

It’s a Cass Blaster Blitzkrieg*: Chicken and mushroom casserole.

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It’s hardly uncommon knowledge that I loathe the cold. What can I say? I grew up in California, and ten years in New York has done NOTHING to thicken my blood. I hate not being able to feel my fingers. I hate the fact that the MTA pretty much shuts down when the slightest flurry occurs. I hate that I cannot wear cute shoes and/or skirts out in the world between November and May.

I do, however, love cold-weather food. You know what I mean–the heavy, creamy, dreamy foods of winter, resplendent in cheese and bacon and all manner of things bad for your cardiovascular system. Comfort foods, designed to take your mind off the fact that half your band is still stranded in Las Vegas (not that I’d know about that *ahem*) and that you stopped receiving messages from your toes about three days ago: Pastas. Fondue. Casserole.

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Oh, casserole. I was so late to your party, and I’d like to apologize now. I love you even more now that I’ve determined that you don’t actually have to be a crazy cholesterol bomb to be both hearty and satisfying. I credit Heidi over at 101 Cookbooks for showing me the light–I stumbled across her recipe for mushroom casserole, and it was like a shot of adrenaline straight to the brain. Heidi’s exquisite site is all about healthy and delicious, so I knew that if SHE was exhibiting it, it had to be both amazing and extremely unlikely to strike you dead. Plus, it’s easy and versatile–it was no trouble to satisfy my inner semivore and toss in some cooked chicken (from a bird I’d roasted earlier), or to swap out the rice in favor of kamut (a variety of whole wheat) instead of rice (which I certainly recommend trying–it’s chewy and unlike anything else). I also found myself without cottage cheese or sour cream, so I substituted in some plain yogurt (my new favorite ingredient). Basically, it’s a good, basic recipe that stands up beautifully to whatever you wish to throw at it. Frankly, I suspect it would rule with a mushroom medley and a little blue cheese, or perhaps something involving bacon. I will let you know if i try this.

So! If you’re looking for something to eat this winter that is hearty and healthy, I say give this recipe a go–but feel free not to follow it too carefully!

And, my darlings, this is probably my last post before the holidays; as you can see, I did not get it together to make any cookies or find any holiday spirit, but I hope you had better luck with that than I. I also hope that wherever you are, you are warm, you are safe, and you are with the people you love.

Happy holidays, y’all.

Chicken and mushroom casserole
Adapted from the always awesome 101 cookbooks.

2 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
2 tbsp fresh thyme
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium-sized onion, diced
8-10 oz mushrooms, finely diced
2 large eggs
1c lowfat yogurt
2c prepared rice or grain of your choosing
1/2 c + 2 tbsp parmesan cheese
1/2c breadcrumbs
Optional: 1c cooked chicken, cut into small chunks

  1. Prepare your grain; set aside in a nice, big mixing bowl.
  2. In a large saute pan, heat a glug of olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Saute the mushrooms until they’re brown and juicy; then, add the onions. Once the onions start to get translucent, add the garlic and saute for a couple more minutes.
  3. Turn off the heat, add the herbs.
  4. Meanwhile, add the eggs to the yogurt, blending well.
  5. Add the egg-yogurt mix (or rather, as much of it is needed to bind the other ingredients–you don’t want this thing too wet), mushroom-onion mix, 1/2 c parmesan cheese, and chicken to the rice; mix well and then turn it out into a lightly buttered casserole dish.
  6. Preheat your oven to 350. Then, mix the breadcrumbs and the remaining parmesan cheese (and some more herbs, if you’re feeling festive) together; sprinkle this mixture liberally atop the casserole.
  7. Bake covered for 20 minutes, then uncovered for 20.

* The first person to identify that quote gets a special prize (besides my undying respect and devotion, that is)! Leave your guess in the comments.



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