Sunday, September 11, 2011

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

This is modified from an Alton Brown recipe. I think there's also a video on the Food Network website in which Alton prepares it with his son. This recipe seems to have an unusually large amount of mustard powder, but it still wasn't quite flavorful enough so I added a pinch of cayenne. He also used panko bread crumbs, which I didn't have, so I used a handful of ciabatta croutons that I'd made the day before and made up the rest with sourdough bread crumbs. It was visually appealing and quite tasty.



1/2 pound pasta, cooked (I used bow ties)
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
3 cups milk (I used 2% and skim)
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 large egg
12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
1 teaspoon kosher salt
black pepper


3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup bread crumbs, toasted if desired


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the butter in a small pot (large enough to make the cheese sauce) on the stove. When the bubbling stops, whisk in flour and cook for five minutes.

Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, mustard, cayenne and paprika. Simmer for about ten minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove the bay leaf.

Add the egg (temper it first to prevent scrambled eggs). Stir in 3/4 of the cheese and season with salt and pepper.

Combine cheese sauce and pasta in casserole dish (I used a 9 x 13" pan). Top with remaining cheese.

Melt the remaining 3 TBS

For topping, mix melted 3 TBS of butter with bread crumbs. Spread evenly over the macaroni and cheese.

Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Serves 6

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Jamie Oliver's Roasted Tomato Soup with Croutons

Each month, sometimes twice a month, Williams Sonoma offers a cookbook class. You receive a cookbook, usually a recent one, and enjoy a meal prepared for you from recipes in the book. This month the featured cookbook was Meals in Minutes by Jamie Oliver which won't be released until October. The cookbook itself is rather interesting and quite novel. Instead of individual recipes, each page is a plan for a full meal to be prepared in 30 minutes. It gives you a list of all the ingredients for each recipe and then tells you how to prepare everything at once. It's great if you're preparing the entire menu, but somewhat challenging if you only want to prepare a component part since individual cooking times are often not listed. Nonetheless, there are a bunch of interesting dishes that seem worth the time, including this one for roasted tomato soup.

My auntie loved this recipe, although I wasn't too enthused. The balsamic vinegar certainly gave it an interesting tang. Possibly if the tomatoes were sweeter or if I had caramelized the onions, I might have liked it better, but it was just too strong as it--basil and balsamic vinegar were the most prominent flavors. Alternatively, if I made it again, I might thin it out with some chicken stock.


2.25 lbs cherry tomatoes
4 large tomatoes
4 cloves garlic
1 ciabatta loaf
2 small red onions, chopped
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
2 TBS tomato paste (my addition)
1/2 c - 1 c fresh basil
4 tbs of creme fraiche or to taste
salt, pepper, olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Chop large tomatoes in half or in quarters. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Peel and crush (lightly) garlic cloves and toss together with tomatoes. Roast for 15 minutes on the top rack.

Chop or tear ciabatta into crouton-sized bites, drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Bake until golden brown 8-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, saute onions in olive oil over medium until tender. Sprinkle with salt. (You may want to caramelize them for additional sweetness to your soup. If doing so, cook on medium-low or low for 20-30+ minutes.). Stir in balsamic vinegar and let it reduce down (another 5 minutes or so).

Combine tomatoes and onions. Puree mixture in batches in a blender with basil. Return to saucepan.

Over medium, stir in tomato paste and adjust seasonings accordingly.

For serving, top with creme fraiche and additional basil for garnish, if desired. Serve with croutons.

Serves 4 (unless having as main course, then 2).