Baked Manchego Mac and Cheese With Parsley, Mustard, Nutmeg, and Red Pepper Flakes… OMG!

manchego

So Yeah. You might say that I was having a hard day when I decided to make this deeeeeeelicios dish. All depends on your perspective really. It became a much better day when I realized I had some Manchego in the fridge that was just begging to be eaten. After looking around a bit I found this Manchego Mac and Cheese for a February Storm at citylifeeats.com which was inspired by Kim O Donnel’s recipe here. Since G had never had baked mac and cheese before and certainly never with Manchego cheese, I thought it was about damned time I did something about that. I mostly followed the recipe except for a few things. 1) I just HAD to add a huge handful of fresh chopped vibrant green parsley to the mix right before baking, I think it takes any pasta dish to the next “super special” bonus level. 2) I doubled her recipe… but I’ll just post what I did below, and you can see the other changes for yourself.

Ingredients ( I made about 6 servings, which in my house is more like 3)

1/2 a bag of twisty “spirali” pasta, but you can use whatever you like. I really love those little mini shells, but didn’t have any so, oh well.

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus a little extra for greasing the pyrex.

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups milk

1 1/2 cups cream (not whipping, the one you use for pasta cream sauces 15% fat for us)

2 teaspoons of a good thick french Dijon mustard (you can go heavy here, trust me)

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 cups grated Manchego cheese

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 big handful fresh chopped parsley

Method

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease the sides of a glass or ceramic baking dish with butter. Cook pasta in salted boiling water until almost cooked through, about 5 minutes. Drain pasta and transfer to buttered dish.

In a medium saucepan, add butter and allow to melt over low-medium heat. Add flour, and with a wooden spoon, stir quickly to combine and form a roux. Continue to stir, and cook for about 1 minute, making sure flour lumps disappear. Roux will be a golden yellow color.

Add milk, mustard, salt, pepper, nutmeg and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring regularly to make sure milk does not scald, until mixture is thickened. The mixture is ready when a streak on the back of your wooden spoon is prominent. Add cheese and stir or whisk constantly until mixture is smooth and free of lumps.

Pour cheese sauce over pasta to cover evenly. Place dish in oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until cheese begins to bubble. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Makes about 3-4 big or 5-6 normal sized lightly spicy superbly flavorful servings. He loved the mild heat of the dish, and ate 2 huge helpings before I reminded him that it wasn’t going anywhere. Heart attack, here we come. I’d serve it with something green on the side if you are having guilty feelings about all the dairy involved. (But really, it wasn’t terribly unhealthy and was a wonderful way to beat the stuffing out of an otherwise crankypants kind of day).

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Antidote for a stormy day: Apple Crumble Bread Pudding

applecrispbreadpudding

On this particular stormy day I was feeling like an absolute beast, and I knew the only thing that would cheer me up was some kind of hot buttery apple-y caramel-y kind of thing, so straight up apple crumble or bread pudding would have just fallen short. I had been working my way through a big bag of these little juicing apples called “pink crispy” that I wanted to use before they went off, I’m about 90% sure they were some domestic smaller version of pink lady. Whatever they were, they were sweet and crisp, so just perfect for this dish. I would not use green apples for this, or any mealy baking apples, honestly, if you wouldn’t want to eat it fresh, what makes you think you would want to eat it baked into a dessert? I don’t know why people think that if food is going off or is sub par they should bake or cook with it, your food is only as good as your ingredients. Remember this. The same goes for anything you make with chocolate, the better the brand, the better the finished result. But that’s a rant for another time. The apples make up a lot of this dish so they have to be good. Go for something tasty and you will be rewarded, I promise.

This is where I got my inspiration and quantities, but #1: margarine does not enter this house, and #2: in my opinion it’s better with the added salt, spices and crumble. Also, I reeealy need to watch my sugar intake so I skipped the sauce but for all out decadence, GO FOR IT. With butter, not margarine. Never with margarine.

Vanilla Ice Cream Optional, but really, why would you skip it?

“Antidote for a stormy day” (some people eat this for breakfast too, I’m not stopping you…)

pud

Original recipe makes 8-10 big servings

APPLE CRUMBLE BREAD PUDDING

4 cups soft or day old bread cubes (I mixed white and whole wheat for
nice texture and color variation)

1/4 cup raisins (I left these out and added more apples, original recipe only called for 2 cups)

Note: I generally have no love for raisins, but they can be fantastic in something like this, especially if you rehydrate them in some brandy or liqueur before adding them. Also, my Grandpa would probably disown me if I left them out of a bread pudding recipe, so here they are. use them or don’t, it’s up to you.

3-4 cups peeled and sliced apples (Pink lady for best flavor)

1 cup brown sugar

1 3/4 cups 3% or whole milk (or heavy cream, depends how deadly you want it)

1/4 cup butter

1 teaspoon ground Cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground Ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground Nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 eggs, beaten

CRUMBLE TOPPING

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon OPTIONAL (there’s enough in the custard mix) but go ahead if you want, I can’t EVER get enough cinnamon.

Pinch together until you have right consistency, sprinkle evenly over
the top right before baking.

VANILLA SAUCE

(I skipped this, and made the crumble topping and had it with ice cream. Which kind of screwed that whole “keep the sugar down” plan but you know, I tried. It would be beyond awesomely decadent with everything piled on, and I would do it that way for a big holiday dessert finale. If you do make it, cook for a while until it thickens up, otherwise it will be way too watery. You are going for a kind of a caramel drizzle consistency here. Since it was just 4 of us for a weekend dinner and my guests were on the “fit” side, I knew it would be too much.) 😦  Next time my precious. Next time.

1/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 7×11 inch
baking dish (I used 2 standard loaf pans).

2) In a large bowl, combine bread, raisins, and apples. In a small
saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 cup brown sugar, 1 3/4 cups milk
or cream, and 1/4 cup butter. Cook and stir until butter is melted.
Pour over bread mixture in bowl.

3) In a small bowl, whisk together cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt, 1
teaspoon vanilla, and 3 eggs. Pour bread mixture into prepared dish
(greased and lined with baking paper), and pour egg mixture over
bread. If any bread or apples are not covered, push them down until
they get the milk and egg mixture on them, they don’t have to be
covered, but they should be wet through. Don’t worry about there not
being enough liquid, the apples will add plenty.

4) Mix crumble ingredients by pinching together until you have lots of
tiny bits, then sprinkle over the top of the pan spreading evenly.

5) Bake in preheated oven 40 to 50 minutes, or until center is set and
apples are tender. (45 minutes for me had the top already brown and
the edges of the apples crisping). You can bake in a water bath if you
want, but I didn’t find it necessary.

6) While pudding is baking, mix together white sugar, 1/4 cup brown
sugar, 1/2 cup milk, and 1/2 cup butter in a saucepan. Bring to a
boil, then turn down a bit and cook for a while (5-10min) until it thickens up.

Maybe leave the milk out for a really nice sauce… when I made it it was just too watery.

Remove from heat, and stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Serve
over bread pudding for a super sweet dessert, or leave it out and go
with just the crumble.

Dark Chocolate Covered Banana Slices With Toasted Almonds

bananas

I was having a monstrous chocolate craving yesterday and just didn’t feel like a candy bar. After looking around my kitchen I realized I had everything I needed for these babies. My sister Rivka’s Jerusalem-Elegance (on facebook) did this first for a fancy dinner, and I have really wanted to try it ever since. Believe it or not, these are better than most truffles I have tried, probably because the fresh cold creamy banana taste comes through over the sweet dark chocolate really nicely, and nothing is too overpowering or repetitive like I find so many mass produced truffles to be. Also, IMPORTANT!!! the better the chocolate you use, the better these will taste, naturally. So use Ghirardelli or some other higher end dark chocolate for really great results.

Ingredients:

  • 200g dark or semi sweet chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 2-3 Medium sized bananas, ripe, but not overripe, sliced in 1 inch slices, and frozen for 1 hour.
  • A small saucepan
  • A medium sized heat proof glass bowl (something non-porous like pyrex) that will fit on top of the saucepan without falling inside.
  • 50g chopped toasted almonds (I just buy whole shelled almonds and chop and toast myself)

Non Food Items:

  • A spatula
  • Baking paper for lining the tray
  • A cookie sheet or baking tray

Method:

1) Set up a double boiler using the saucepan with water in in, and the glass bowl on top.

2) Melt the chocolate with an added tsp. of canola oil for shininess.

3) When it’s melted, quickly* dip banana slices into chocolate using 2 forks, shake off excess, and then line them up on a baking sheet covered in baking paper.

*Quick note: If you try dipping them one by one into the chocolate (like I did) too much liquid from the bananas gets into the mix and gums up the melted chocolate. So go fast, or do it in batches of about 6 at a time. If you have ever accidentally gotten water in a melted chocolate mixture you were making you know what I am talking about. If this does happen, you can save the chocolate by scraping it out onto a sheet of baking paper, adding some toasted nuts, crushed candy canes or other candy or dried fruit you have on hand, pressing it down into a bark, and freezing it until hard. This was a yummy byproduct of this experiment, and saved me from flinging a bowl of hot (presumably unusable wasted) chocolate against the wall. I also tried it afterwards a different way, pouring the chocolate over a bunch of sliced bananas, but it was even worse, not sticking to the bananas at all. So please let me know if you come up with a better way to do this, because its fine for a quick treat to make a few, but if you want to make say, 30, for a party, I can see this getting complicated.

4) I toasted some chopped almonds for the top as well, they really added to the flavor, and tried a few with colored sprinkles because I just love them that much. The almond ones were better, but I’ll bet kids would flip over the sprinkly ones. Add toppings, then chill in the fridge until you are ready to serve them. The chocolate melts in your hand, so eat quick! My husband, G, was so sad when I told him about the last time I had them without him, so he ate almost all of them when he got home.

Update: just started watching Arrested Development, (I know, I’m WAY behind) what a fun show, and I love the whole Bluths bananas storyline. I’m going to make these again for the next time I sit down for a marathon catch up session. Enjoy!