Monday, February 22, 2010

Mac 'n' Cheese for sophisticated adults

A few days ago I attended a nice pot luck luncheon with some very nice ladies. The theme was Valentine's Day (conflicting schedules called for a belated luncheon) and the tables were all decked out with pretty pink and red heart shaped paper plates and napkins on tablecloths sporting happy light red hearts while we sipped an addictive "cocktail" of ginger ale and cranberry juice.

The attendants were mostly elderly women and, knowing there would probably be health concerns and palates that wouldn't exactly appreciate bold flavors or spices, it took me almost a week to figure out what my culinary contribution would be. My first choice was spanikopita or a blend of spinach, herbs and feta cheese wrapped inside filo dough. I could eat them all day and usually love to make it, but for once, I just couldn't be bothered with the mess and hassle of dealing with filo dough. I also seriously considered this recipe for Citrus Hot Chocolate but had no way of transporting it and I had the feeling keeping it warm might be an issue. Finally, I decided on this recipe calling itself Penne Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomato Cream Sauce.

The name itself is a bit misleading as the tomatoes are boiled with the pasta for 2 minutes and the cream sauce is poured on top. However, this is a very simple and easy recipe that's a joy to throw together! The resulting sauce gives the impression you've been hovering over a hot stove for hours simmering a classic bechamel sauce rather than just a few minutes. As with any macaroni and cheese recipe I've come across, I don't get as much sauce as I would like. Of course, growing up munching on Kraft Macaroni and Cheese I love my elbow macaroni to drip and ooze velvety cheese. I don't know if that's technically wrong, but I like it and all the training in the world won't change my mind!

Anyway, this recipe needs few adjustments. I mean, it's terrific as is and the taste is fantastic but I wasn't able to find the shredded Italian-style four-cheese blend the recipe called for. I did, however, find a nice six cheese blend by Sargento involving Parmesan, Mozzarella, smoked Provolone, Asiago, Romano and Fontina cheeses. Not realizing I'd run out of dried basil I used Italian herb seasoning instead. If you like your mac 'n' cheese ooey gooey like I do, double the amount of cheese and milk but stir them in one package and can at a time to make sure everything melts and blends the way it should. Finally, I had to resist the urge to throw in some chopped Prosciutto because of the palates involved so I don't know how it would turn out but I don't imagine it would hurt the flavor especially for those of you who like little pieces of ham or bacon in your mac 'n' cheese. If you decide to try this, go a little at a time, stir and taste as too much might overwhelm and kill the dish. Oh and while I'm thinking of it while this dish doesn't need it at all, if you absolutely insist in some kind of crunchy topping on your mac 'n' cheese, try some Italian seasoned bread crumbs, or since we're trying to be sophisticated here, why not add Panko and pop it in the oven for a few minutes.

Well, that's enough of my ramblings. I finished that candle order for my friend that I mentioned a few weeks back (see pic below) and I've started working on a few new creations for Spring.

Hopefully next week I'll have pictures and prices of Orange Cream Sherbet candle and just in time for St. Patrick's Day, Irish Coffee candle! I also hope to have news of placement with a store featuring crafts and home decor here in Maine. So, stay warm and dry everyone, winter is nearly at an end. Chow for now!

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