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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Customized Mac n Cheese

Where do you draw the line as to what is acceptable to add into mac n cheese?
I for one, have no boundaries.  I put cauliflower, tomatoes, tuna, and parsley in mine.  Does that make me a bad person?  I hope not.
I didn't quite know where I was going with this, but it was a spur of the moment move.  It started conceptualizing as mac n cheese, which I've never made without cream.  I had a block of Cheddar I grated along with random cheese rinds like Beaumont and Gruyere.  Then I decided it needed some protein other than cheese, hence the tuna.  Then I thought, hey where are the veggies.. hence the cauliflower and tomatoes.
Off into the oven it all went, and here we are left with a fabulous baked macaroni platter.
I've never baked my macaroni before.. does that make me a bad person?  Actually, I have, but not with the sauce business.
Either way, I measured absolutely nothing, but I'll give approximate measurements for a possible future recreation of the dish.
Serves 4
about 300g (1/2 lb) cavatappi or elbow macaroni (I used both) cooked al dente
1 large handful cut cauliflower florets
2 small tomatoes, chopped
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 cup reserved pasta water
2 tsp piment d'espelette powder (or something spicy)
pinch of nutmeg
1 can tuna, drained
1 cup grated cheddar
1 cup another grated cheese you have on hand (I used Beaumont + Gruyere)
1 Tbsp cream cheese (it was just to finish it)
1 handful chopped parsley
parmesan for garnish
lots and lots of fresh cracked pepper
1.  Place the cooked pasta with the cauliflower and tomatoes in an oven safe dish.  Arrange so the pieces are evenly spread out.  Preheat the oven to 190°C (395°F)
2.  Make the sauce by melting some butter in a saucepan.
3.  Add the flour and whisk until you have a brownish thick paste.
4.  Add the milk, a little at a time, while whisking.  If the mixture thickens too much, you may want to remove from the heat.  When the milk runs out, complete with the reserved pasta water.  It should still be somewhat liquidy because of all the other stuff we're throwing into this.
5.  Add in the tuna, piment d'espelette, nutmeg, and cream cheese.  Whisk around to melt it.
6.  Stir in all the grated cheeses and the parsley along with lots and lots of fresh cracked pepper.  You should have a thick sauce now.
7.  Pour that saucy goodness into the oven dish with the pasta waiting to be enveloped.
8.  Garnish with parmesan, some more grated cheddar, and lots and lots of fresh cracked pepper.
9.  Bake for 30 minutes or until the top starts bubbling up.

Granted, this is not the lightest meal, but there's something about that cheese crust on top that makes it irresistible..
and after 2 days of eating almost nothing, it definitely hits the spot.
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