Sunday, September 19, 2010

I Heart Cooking Clubs : Say Cheese

I'm finally back to this fun group, which cooks every six months with a different chef, just in time for the final weeks with Mark Bittman. I hadn't heard much about him before six month ago and really appreciate his way of seeing food even if I didn't join my friends too many times.
I'm about to make cottage cheese thanks to the kindness of Heather who shared the recipe with me but I was afraid not to be in time so I quickly assembled a bayleaf flavoured macaroni and cheese found in the How to cook everything site.

In Italy we would simply call it pasta al forno con la besciamella, italians not having ever even imagined you could buy such a thing as boxed mac and cheese (or canned ravioli for that matter).
I had some mozzarella on hand so I used it along with Parmigiano.
My finnicky children loved it as Andrea e Stefano (and me, of course); I loved the subtle smell of the bayleaf which we grow on the terrace with big success since when I found it in the vase of a camelia I had just bought.
Please visit the site for more Bittmaned cheese dishes


Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Makes 4 to 6 servings
Time: About 45 minutes

It's a shame to think that some people only know mac and cheese out of a box. The real thing is rich, filling, and delicious. Use nearly any pasta-tube, corkscrew, or cupshaped ones work best because they grab the sauce-just be sure to slightly undercook whatever pasta you use since it will continue to cook in the oven. Vary the type of cheese you use too: try blue cheese, goat cheese, smoked Gouda, or even mascarpone for a decadent version; see the variations.


21/2 cups milk (low-fat is fine)

2 bay leaves

1 pound elbow, shell, ziti, or other cut pasta

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

11/2 cups grated cheese, like sharp cheddar or Emmental

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup or more bread crumbs, preferably fresh

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it.

2. Cook the milk with the bay leaves in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. When small bubbles appear along the sides, about 5 minutes later, turn off the heat and let stand.

3. Cook the pasta to the point where it is almost done but you would still think it needed another minute or two to become tender. Drain it, rinse it quickly to stop the cooking, and put it in a large bowl.

4. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter; when it is foamy, add the flour and cook, stirring, until the mixture browns, about 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaves from the milk and add about 1/4 cup of the milk to the hot flour mixture, stirring with a wire whisk all the while. As soon as the mixture becomes smooth, add a little more milk and continue to do so until all the milk is used up and the mixture is thick and smooth. Add the cheddar and stir.

5. Pour the sauce over the noodles, toss in the Parmesan, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Use the remaining 1 tablespoon butter to grease a 9 x 13-inch or similar-size baking pan and turn the pasta mixture into it. Top liberally with bread crumbs and bake until bubbling and the crumbs turn brown, about 15 minutes. Serve piping hot.