My 2014 New Year’s Resolution was to begin writing again – I decided that a nearly 25-year hiatus from using that journalism degree was enough. And honestly, this is the only resolution in recent memory that I’ve actually kept. (Previous efforts to get more organized, lose a few pounds, and generally be a better person have all failed to various degrees). I can’t tell you all how much fun I’ve had writing this blog – and connecting with all you wonderful people who have taken to time to read Bourbon and Brown Sugar. The thing is, the more I write, the more I want to write. I have dozens of ideas for posts swirling around in my brain. Lucky you, readers…
And thankfully, the weather is cooperating with this yearning to pound on a keyboard all day long. We have our second snow day in DC today (if you can envision Snoopy dancing on a piano for a moment, that would capture how I’m feeling about this news.) No worries, though, I’m actually parked on the couch, cup of strong coffee in hand – no actual dancing. My dancing isn’t pretty, trust me.
Yesterday, after the barbecued rib post, my friend Denise requested the recipes for mac and cheese and coleslaw as well. We’ll begin with the mac and cheese, as it is probably my favorite food on the planet, and an excellent dish for a snowy day. I love the stuff. Even the terrible Kraft Mac and Cheese from a box with the scary orange powder (what can I say? I’m not a complete food snob – I crave cherry Pop-Tarts too.) Luke went through a phase (that went on for years), when he ate a box every day after school… and (while I’m not proud of this) I would systematically skim off a bit for myself. I have upped my game recently though, and my take has to do with a certain visit to Spain.
A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to go to Madrid for a day and a half. I had a few meetings to attend, then was asked “where would you like to visit for an hour?” I suspect my hosts expected me to want to see the Prado, or visit a Palace… but really, all I wanted to do was visit the Mercado de San Miguel – a stunning food hall located within walking distance of the Plaza Mayor.
Most normal people come home with photos of friends or monuments when they travel… I am not one of those people. My camera is always full of shots of food.
I wandered around the Market, wishing I could stuff all this amazing food into my bag to take home. Perhaps the customs officers would overlook my stash? Unlikely.
I couldn’t bear to have culinary treasures confiscated, so I started to plot of ways to use Spanish food in my cooking…
Especially the cheese…
I’ve had Manchego on the brain ever since that visit to San Miguel, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The official Manchego is made from the milk of Manchega sheep from the “La Mancha” region of Spain. To me, it is salty, tangy, earthy, and a bit nutty… I love the stuff.
(As an aside to my notes on cheese, after the visit to the market, we headed to Botin, the world’s oldest restaurant, for lunch, While the roast suckling pig at was a fantastic once-in-a-lifetime meal, I have no desire to roast a three-week old piglet in my own oven… All I kept thinking was: What would Winnie the Pooh say if he could see poor Piglet like this?)
Manchego has now become my go-to cheese for cheese platters (it’s especially nice with fig jam) … and I absolutely love it in Macaroni and Cheese. Once again, I have to admit I have taken one of Ina’s recipes and tweaked it to suit my tastes. This version is a little taste of San Miguel in a yummy, creamy casserole. Enjoy on this snowy day…
MB’s Macaroni and Cheese
Adapted from Ina Garten’s Mac and Cheese recipe
- 1 pound elbow macaroni or campanelle (campanelle looks like little tiny lasagna noodles, and works very well in this dish)
- 4 cups milk
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 cups grated Manchego cheese
- 2 cups extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni or campanelle and cook according to the package directions. Drain well.
Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Add the Manchego, Cheddar, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.