Sunday, December 6, 2009

Football Sunday

Football Sunday is a weekly holiday at our house during the fall and early winter. The ideal day shapes up as a mix of outdoor time (Normanskill walk anyone?), cooking and television time watching a game. Or two. Once in a while, 3. On the entertainment menu for today - 2 or 3 games followed by a trek downtown to see the fireworks. The all-important dining menu will be a cozy combination of baked mac, ham and cheese, turkey noodle soup and turkey pot pie. The theme for the week is "cleaning out the refrigerator," perhaps my greatest talent. The mac n cheese is something I've been making for years, yet it never is exactly the same twice. This might be because I always seem to have different bits of cheese in the drawer and the purpose of this dish, aside from providing creamy comfort, is to clean out the cheese drawer. Today's combination will include parmesan, mozzarella, sharp cheddar and gruyere. A recipe (or general outline for how I put it together follows.)

1 lb al dente cooked pasta of your choice
3-4 c. of milk (we use 2%)
2-3 c coarsely shredded assorted cheese
4 T butter
3 T flour

options: cubed ham, lightly steamed broccoli or cauliflower florets, bread crumbs, smoked paprika

Set up a double boiler (a pot with 3 or 4 inches of water with a smaller pot or bowl inside) and melt 3 T of butter. Whisk in flour and continually stir for about 2 minutes. Begin adding milk to the flour and butter roux, stirring constantly. As sauce thickens add more milk. After you have added ~3 c of milk, beginning incorporating cheese, allowing each addition to melt. Season with salt and pepper to taste. At this point, taste your sauce and decide if you'd like to add more milk to adjust the cheese flavor. Your mac n cheese - your call. In large bowl or pot, mix sauce and pasta, and any optional additional ingredients. Using reserved T of butter, grease a baking pan (I use a rectangular glass pan.) and pour in mac n cheese. Top with a layer of bread crumbs, if desired and dot with any remaining butter. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. If you'd like to "crunch up" the top, broil for the last minute or so of baking. Yummy!

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