Thursday, June 18, 2009

Cheesy Stress Relief, It’s Gouda Good!!!

Ok, it’s been a while since I posted and the past few months, life has been, well, life! This has led me to one thing, COMFORT FOOD!

When I think about the term comfort food, I think of a few, specific items:

Mac and Cheese with lots of gooey cheesy goodness
Biscuits and Gravy (with heart stopping greasy greasy sausage gravy)
Chicken Fried Steak with Artery Cloggin Buttermilk Gravy

So, with these three things in mind, what are (for me) the requirements of comfort food? Let’s look at the menu again shall we.

Mac N Cheese = Carbs covered in cheesy saucy goodness

Biscuits and Gravy = Carbs covered in greasy fatty gravy goodness

Chicken Fried Steak = Carb coated meat covered in greasy fatty gravy goodness

So, to be a TRUE comfort food, it must be high carbs coated in grease or cheese!!

So, life, and the need for stress relief, has brought me here, to Smoked Gouda Mac N Cheese! If it’s all gooey and cheesy and full of carbs then the mental health benefits far outweigh the “other stuff”.

I got this recipe from an “Eating Light” magazine a few years back, and had to de-lighten it. It only had 2 oz of cheese!!! How do you make a Mac N Cheese with only 2 oz of cheese?” Blasphemy, I say!!! Comfort food should not be bland, should not be light, and should NOT be good for you!!

OK, enough ranting, onto my version of the recipe. (Shane has his own version, that can be found here. You can see some minor but telling differences. His is *healthier*, mine is more *indulgent*. Also, I have increased the garlic and left out the EVIL onions, as I am alergic to onions, so they are obviously EVIL.)

1/2 cup Breadcrumbs
3 TB unsalted butter
4 Garlic cloves, minced
3 TB AP Flour
1 1/2 cup Whole Milk
1/2 cup Half and Half
3/4 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp ground White pepper
1/4 tsp dry mustard powder
8 oz cup shredded Gouda
4 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (grated)
2 1/2 cups uncooked elbow pasta

First, you need the cheese!! I have not seen pre-shredded smoked gouda, and I think even if I did, I’d still get the big wheel, so I can munch on the end pieces while I shred…)

Alright, most of you have heard me complain how hard it is to get GOOD Parmesan cheese in Yuma. Well, I found this wedge for about $15.00. Ok, ok, its Parmesan Americano, not the best best Parmigiano Reggiano out there, but it was pretty damn good, and for the price, in Yuma, it was like striking gold!! This pic shows it next to a glass of Sangria, just to show you how big it is!

I chose Sangria while cooking, cuz the Rules of Comfort Food do state that “it’s ok to have sweets/deserts first”, and when I started cooking, it was 5pm somewhere!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and drop the pasta into salted boiling water. Cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than the package tells you (it will cook more in the oven). Drain the pasta well and set aside.

Next, the cheesy part!

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.

You notice it is in my 2 1/2 quart Corningware? Have a post coming soon dedicated just to this special material. I once heard (or saw) someone say on Bakespace “I don’t have fancy baking stuff, just cheap old Corningware” and realized I have to set the record straight. Old REAL Corningware (not the modern Stoneware crap) is NOT cheap and defiantly NOTHING to be ashamed off…

Oops, I started ranting; see why Corningware will be its own post? I could go on and on and on (and on some more)

Ok, back to your butter, it should be all melty now…

When the foam subsides, add the garlic and sauté approximately 1 minute. Add flour and stir to coat the flour. Continue to stir constantly for 1 to 2 minute until sauce is a light blond.

This sauce, as is, is a Blond Roux. Oooo, we’re getting fancy here…

Slowly add milk, 1/2 and 1/2, salt, mustard powder and white pepper, whisking consistently until blend and smooth.

Bring mix up to a boil and continuously whisk, cooking until the sauce becomes thick.

This is now a Béchamel sauce! Getting even fancier!!!

Slowly add the smoked Gouda, just small clumps at a time, stirring the mix until it’s nice and smooth before adding more. You don’t want lumpy sauce!!!

Now, once all the Gouda is added you now have a Mornay Sauce!! Roux, Béchamel, and Mornay sauces!! I never new Mac-N-Cheese was so fancy schmancy!! And, until reading up on my sauces, I never knew I’d been making all these fancy sauces, just thought I was making a tasty comfort meal.

Mix sauce with cooked pasta

And mix in 2 oz of the Parmigiano Reggiano and mix until all the cheese is incorporated and melty.

Spoon mixture into a baking dish

This is my FAVORITE baking dish. It is a Vitroceramic dish by Princess House. What is Vitroceramic?? It’s the name of Pyroceramic dishes made by Corningware for Princess House!! That means this is a real (and rare) piece of old Corningware!!! Princess House still occasionally sells this material, but all they have is what was left over when Corning was Corning and when they made Pyroceram.

Ok, off on a tangent again! Damn, need to get that Corningware post done soon…

Next sprinkle the top with the remaining Parmigiano Reggiano and then with breadcrumbs.

I normally use Panko for EVERYTHING, but this day I was out (oh, the horror, the horror!). So here I used (gasp) canned breadcrumbs and it actually came out so good. Panko is great for most applications, but for cheesy comfort food like Mac-N-Cheese, there is just something to be said for larger breadcrumbs that can plump and fill with even more cheesy goodness!!

Now, you can bake this at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

“But mac and cheese isn’t a dinner, it’s a side dish, isn’t it?” you say! Well, not in my book!! But, if that is really your opinion, or the opinion of your friends, then sit back, drink a nice glass of Sangria, and relax while…

…your roommate makes the main course!

By the time she’s done with yummy pork chops, your mac-n-cheese should be done.

Plate up; add a little healthy green stuff

And enjoy!!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Maria's Ocean

Ok, when I started on this blogging journey, I said it would be about art, wine and food. So far, I have had recipes (food), and while making the food, drank plenty of wine. Alas, the art has not yet made it into the picture. So here is a little shameless promotion of my artwork!!

My roommate loves blue (as you can tell from the wall behind the painting). As she has really helped me out, and she loves abstract art (my forte), I decided to do a painting for her.

Now, I always find it hard to talk about my art, so this will be a small blog, but I will add a few close ups, Mr. DeMille.

As always, I chose to add a lot of texture with rich, deep brush strokes.

This was a fun painting to do as I always love working with new material and this was my first time to use opalescent (sparkly) paint. You really need to see it to really appreciate it.

The painting is 11 inches by 14 inches in a simple bronzed wood frame. I hope you enjoy looking at it and will post more of my art at a later date.