Thanksgiving: Mac & Cheese
On Thanksgiving Eve, Caitlin and I decided that if we were really going to make this incredible edible feast, we’d better get a move on. So we checked the inventory to see what we could make ahead that would reheat the best. We determined that mac and cheese (recipe specially selected for left-over quality) and corn pudding (time-tested reheatability) were the best choices – we were also planning to make cookies, but if you’ve been following along, you’ll know that we never got around to it. Surprise surprise…
We got home from the store at about 4:30, exhilarated and ready to go. So we sat around and had a few beers with Calin before we got started, and before we knew it it was 6:00 and we hadn’t started. So then, of course, we had to eat something. Mom came over and brought some extra ham (how can it be extra if you haven’t made the main course with it yet?) and some incredible rolls she’s picked up, so we sat around eating those for a while, and then it was 7:00 and we still hadn’t started… Are you beginning to see why the cookies didn’t happen? At that point we realized that we really had to buckle down and cook already, or we’d end up with no feast at all, so we dove right in.
I made sure we had lots of cheese choices. We didn’t end up using all of these, but I wanted you to see what you should pick up at the store if you’re looking for truly gourmet cheese. First of all, you have to go to Whole Foods or something equally exotic and high-brow to get the best cheeses. Anything less and you’re just fooling yourself. Second, Seaside Cheddar is one of the all time greatest cheese. (That’s it right in the middle of the second picture, there. Yeah, the big one.) Caitlin stole a little bit to taste and said it was actually tingling on her tongue. That is some seriously good cheese. You can tasted the aged cheese crystals – and in this case, crystals are really cool, not something that woo-woo lady down the street chants with.
All good mac and cheese is based in a phenomenal cheese sauce. This one had whole milk, cream, butter, Parmesan, and ricotta (because I had some, and who can really resist?).
Then I added pumpkin. Because I promised the world “pumpkin mac and cheese”, which I had just made up. We decided one cup was appropriate. It turned the cream sauce a bit orange. Pretty cool, actually.
Have I mentioned the amazing cheese? This is the Seaside Cheddar just before it tingled Caitlin’s tongue. So delicious.
I also added chicken-apple sausage. That definitely wasn’t in the recipe either, but I figured if we weren’t having a bird, we had to get our non-dairy protein somewhere. And it seemed to me that apple and pumpkin would go nicely together, and were both seasonally appropriate. So in it went. Caitlin decided it needed three sausages out of the four-sausage package.
At this point, we’d put everything together and tossed it dramatically around in the pan to mix it up, and then sprinkled the butter and Parmesan, and it looked incredible. Just look at that Parmesan. Good stuff. So I stuck it in the oven, set the timer, and turned around to do some dishes before we got started on the corn pudding.
It was then that I noticed the bowl of grated onion, sitting abandoned next to the sink where it had been quarantined to avoid excessive eye-watering. Poor onion. An essential ingredient left out in the cold! So I hauled the beautiful mac and cheese back out of the oven, poured on the onion, and tossed it back together again. I tried to sprinkle it with more Parmesan to make up for it, but needless to say it was not nearly as attractive on its second entry into the oven. Which might have had something to do with the way it eventually cooled.
Gosh it looked pretty when it first came out of the oven. Mmmm. And it was unbelievably good. So good, in fact, that a large corner of it went missing an hour later, when I turned my back on it to take care of the corn pudding. And actually, it was just as good the next day, when it got reheated and wasn’t quite so pretty. And the next day, when it got reheated again on plates and got gobbled all up. And the next day, when the final few bites were demolished in a secret second breakfast (again when I wasn’t looking).
Yes, there were only three people at my Thanksgiving and we still managed to eat an entire lasagna pan of mac and cheese in three days.
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Pumpkin Mac & Cheese with Chicken-Apple Sausage
Betty Crocker, doubled, with several modifications
- 4 c. macaroni
- 4 T. grated onion
- 2 t. salt
- 1/2 t. pepper
- 6 c. shredded cheese
- 4 c. medium white sauce (original recipe calls for thin white sauce; that might have worked better)
- 2 T. butter
- Heat oven to 375F.
- Cook macaroni as directed on box, slightly al dente.
- Strain pasta and pour into ungreased lasagna pan.
- Sprinkle on onions, spices, and cheese. Toss carefully until evenly distributed.
- Pour white sauce over pasta and toss carefully to cover evenly.
- Dot with butter; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if available.
- Cover; bake 30 minutes.
- Uncover; bake 15 minutes longer.
Medium White Sauce
Betty Crocker, 4x recipe with several modifications
- 2 c. heavy cream
- 3/4 c. 1% milk
- 3/4 c. ricotta cheese
- 1 c. pumpkin
- 8 T. butter
- 8 T. flour
- 1 T. salt
- 1/2 T. pepper
- Melt butter in saucepan over low heat.
- Blend in flour, salt and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture is smooth and bubbly.
- Remove from heat.
- Stir in cream, milk, ricotta and pumpkin.
- Heat to boiling, stirring constantly.
- Boil and stir 1 minute.