Friday, October 10, 2008

Baked Macaroni and Cheese (p. 326), White Sauce I (p. 550), Buttered Breadcrumbs (p. 960), and Corn Bread, Muffins, or Sticks (p.632)

When dinner rolled around, I figured I would knock out another TJOC recipe. I know I'm doing horribly on several sections (fruits, for example) so I decided I would make Baked Macaroni and Cheese (p. 326), which is in the highly underused (by me) "pasta, noodles, and dumplings" chapter.

The first stage of the recipe is to make a double recipe of White Sauce I (p. 550). And the first part of THIS recipe (it's like a Choose your own Adventure novel!) is to melt some butter in a saucepan and then add a couple tablespoons of flour. Don't let it burn! The picture is blurry because it's difficult to to take a picture while whisking.

A cup of milk is then whisked in.

The milk is whisked (constantly to prevent lumps) until it starts to thicken. I am proud to say that my white sauce was entirely lump-free!

I figured this was the point when the M&C recipe started. And at this point, onion, a bay leaf, and some paprika are mixed in and the sauce is simmered until it super-thickens.

It goes from this (thicker than the last picture but not very thick):

To this (although the cheese IS mixed in for this pic):

At this point, you need to have the sauce ready, have cooked up some pasta (I used elbow macaroni), and have grated cheese prepared (unless you buy it pre-grated--but I tend not to). Two thirds of 2.25 cups of the cheese are supposed to be mixed into the sauce. I'm no math major and that's a bizarre amount. Whisk whisk whisk, and the sauce is combined with the drained pasta:

Half is then poured into a buttered dish and sprinkled with half of the remaining third of the 2.25 cups of cheese (got that?).

At this point, I had to make Buttered Breadcrumbs (p. 960). Easy enough--melt some butter, add some breadcrumbs, a little bit of salt, and brown the breadcrumbs.

I don't know if I browned them enough but this M&C recipe was getting complicated and I thought it was good enough:

The remaining cheese is sprinkled on the mixture and then the breadcrumbs are added to the top and the whole concoction is stuck in the oven for about a half hour.

When it was was finished, it looked pretty tasty....

So what did it taste like?

(You can see Duchie, lusting for some mac and cheese!) It was great! I had low expectations but it was creamy and delicious. It also heated up wonderfully. I really liked the breadcrumbs on top because they gave it a terrific "crunch". Would I make it again? I don't know. There were a LOT of steps and although it was difficult, it was complex, and required a lot of kitchen-time. Plus, *hangs my head* I kind of like the taste of powdered cheese!

While the mac and cheese was baking, I figured that I would whip up some cornbread. I LOVE cornbread but I don't have a lot of luck in making it. TJOC has a number of cornbread recipes, but I settled on Corn Bread, Muffins, or Sticks (p.632) and decided that muffins would be delicious!

The cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt are mixed together. Anywhere from 1 T to 4 T of sugar can be added and I like my cornbread rather sweet--so I added 3 T. I lessoned the baking powder to 2 teaspoons from 2.5 t because of the altitude (it's always guesswork).

The recipe specifically says that all the ingredients should be at room temperature. I used a little trick I picked up somewhere (likely somewhere in TJOC) and placed the (straight out of the refrigerator) eggs in water for five minutes.

The beaten eggs, melted butter, and a cup of milk were added to the dry ingredients.

The recipe makes it very clear that the batter should be combined in only a few strokes. But it did look mixed enough! So I have a bad feeling I overbeat it. Do any of you have experience in cornbread?

The buttered pan is supposed to be put in the oven until it's sizzling.

I don't think that is a great idea because it seemed to burn the butter...I added some more, non burned butter to the hot cupcake pan. I then ladled the batter in the pan...

I only left them in for 15 minutes but I may have overcooked them:

So how were they? Eh, the flavor was good but they were too dense. I will say, they were attractive, so they managed to rise correctly (that must mean that I used the correct amount of baking powder) but they were tough. Maybe they were overcooked? Frustrating but I have many many more cornmeal recipes to try.

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  1. *hangs head* I really like my Jiffy cornbread mix! (and damn cheap too).
    But I do know for muffins like this it shouldn't look all mixed, like you should see clumps of flour/corn meal. Also, I always let the batter rest/ferment/whatever for a few minutes in the pan before going in the oven. Get's a higher rise (possibly helps be less dense?).
    And ooooh the eggs in water trick alone was worth the price of admission! ;)

  2. I was going to say the same thing Jennifer said about Jiffy cornbread!

    That macaroni recipe sounds great, though. And perfect for this time of year.

  3. That macaroni & cheese looks wonderful. I'm feeling miserable right now and could really go for some old-fashioned comfort food like that (especially since I don't like the taste of powdered cheese.

    Sounds like you overmixed the muffins. Next time, instead of muffins, throw in a batch of baked apples. Or apple crisp.

    'Cause, you know, I'd like some. :)

    Blather From Brooklyn

  4. This Baked Macaroni and Cheese from JOY 75th Anniversary is actually my Holy Grail of all mac and cheese recipes. Whenever I get a new cookbook (and I have a lot), one of the first things I always try is the mac and cheese recipe. I'm always on a mission to find the BEST one. I don't really count the "fancy" mac and cheese recipes--like the ones that add blue cheese and fontina. That stuff is still great, but I'm talking about cheddary, gooey-ooey, cheesy mac and cheese. I've made a lot of recipes in the last several years trying to see (out of the ones I've consumed so far in my life) which one ranked first. I knew this was it the first time I tried this one. This was by far the gooeist, ooeist, creamy/cruncy, dreamy, perfect mac and cheese I've ever eaten. Something about the little cooked onions inside and the creamy white sauce mixed with the melty cheddar, and that buttery crunch on top--it's just the perfect combination. I made it a second time for some of my neighbors, and I actually watched their faces when they took their first bites. My neighbor Becky actually closed her eyes and let out this grunt from her chest when she took her first bite--a grunt as in "Dear God, this is insanely delicious." It was seriously an experience. I don't know if any other mac and cheese recipe could ever top this one in my eyes. This is pure perfection on a plate here!


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