Let’s get technical (technical).
Now that you have the hit song by Olivia Newton-John stuck in your head, let’s talk the technicalities of macaroni and cheese (for those of you who are comforted by the blue box, then you may not want to read further as this will take longer to make).
Recently, His Lordship asked for comfort food. When I asked what he was thinking he oh so eloquently and loudly stated, “MAC AND CHEESE OMG.” I was happy to oblige and decided to lighten it up a bit with broccoli and peas. I like how I used the term ‘lighten.’ I don’t mean that I used reduced fat anything. I meant that I used vegetables to cut through the heaviness of the cheese sauce. And should you not be a fan of these green veggies, feel free to substitute with something of your liking.
Don’t be afraid of making homemade mac & cheese. It’s no undertaking. Does it require you to take a few extra steps instead of just throwing Velveeta in shells? Yes. Is it worth it? Oh, yes, and I think His Lordship would attest to that.
And here’s a fun tip: Whilst cooking, I called His Lordship into the kitchen to show him the importance of seasoning and tasting your food. In culinary school we were told repeatedly to taste our food. I mean, how do you know what you’re serving if you don’t taste it? It’s a pretty easy concept. So I told him a story, which was as follows:
Once upon a time, Abbe Lew taught children how to cook (such a fun job—really, that’s not sarcasm), and she showed them what happens to the flavors of food when salt is added. She completed said task by making a cheese sauce like the one described below. The children were elated as they realized that a pinch of salt can brighten the flavors of what they were making.
I pulled the same trick on His Lordship. So taste the béchamel twice—once before you add a pinch of salt and once after. Salt’s pretty cool shit, huh?
Yeah, I think so too.
Baked Mac & Cheese with Broccoli/Spring Peas
½ pound short cut pasta, such as macaroni or orrechiette
1 large head broccoli, chopped
1 shallot, thinly sliced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup frozen peas
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1 ¼ cup milk
1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated
¼ cup fontina cheese, grated
½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
1 cup breadcrumbs
salt & pepper
1. Preheat oven to 450.
2. Bring large pot of salted water to a boil.
3. Meanwhile, make the vegetables: Heat 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium flame. Add ⅔ garlic and shallot, sweat for five minutes until lightly golden in color. Add broccoli and continue to saute for 5-7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and add peas.
4. Make mornay** sauce: In small sauce pot over low flame, add butter. Once melted, add flour and whisk to combine. While whisking, slowily incorporate milk. Raise heat—the béchamel (milk sauce) will thicken once it comes to a boil. Slowly whisk in cheeses, and season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.
5. Cook pasta to al dente. Add to broccoli mix and toss to combine. Add in mornay sauce, season if needed. Transfer to small baking dish.
6. In saute pan, add olive oil and remaining garlic and gently saute for 3-4 minutes. Add breadcrumbs. Pour breadcrumb mix and extra grated Parmigiano on top of pasta. Bake in oven for 10 minutes until top is bubbily. Let stand for 10 minutes once removed from oven. Serve and enjoy the comfort of mac and cheese.
**A béchamel is a classic French milk sauce that gets it’s thickness by a roux (binding element of starch and fat). The mornay sauce is a derivative of the béchamel with added cheese.