Main Dishes, Sides

fifteen

Baked Mac & Cheese w/ Tomatoes and Chorizo

Looking over recent posts, I realized that basically all I’ve been making lately seems to be dessert. While this is not at allll a bad thing, I feel like I should change it up a bit. And what better way to inch over from sweets to real food than mac and cheese? No better way! Exactly!

So here’s the scoop on this dish: obviously it has been around since pasta and cheese were served together. Macaroni (“Maccheroni” in Italian for anyone who cares) was mentioned in medieval Italian sources, and pasta/cheese casserole dishes have been recorded in cookbooks like the 14th-Century Liber de Coquina (The Book of Cooking/Cookery). That link leads to the original Latin text! Hooray culture! And now for the retro connection: although Kraft introduced their packaged mix in 1937, homemade mac and cheese casseroles made with Velveeta were a popular dinner in the 50s and 60s because it was a dish that pleased parents AND kids! The 1953 Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook included one of the most popular recipes for the casserole at the time! Quick warning to everyone ever- just do me a favor and never eat Velveeta. This is the ingredient list on the regular cheddar I made my recipe with: milk, salt, enzymes. And this is ingredient list on a block of Velveeta: milk, water, milk fat, whey, whey protein concentrate, milk protein concentrate, enzymes, aginate, sodium citrate, sodium phosphate, annatto, and apocarotenal. What. Yeah. Now on to the recipe!

Mac & Cheese

– Kosher salt

– Olive oil

– 1 lb elbow macaroni or cavatappi

– 1 qt 1% milk

– 8 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided

– 1/2 + cup all purpose flour

– 8 oz sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

– 8 oz Gruyere cheese, grated

– 4 oz Pepper Jack cheese, grated

– 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

– 1/2 large fresh tomato

– 1/4-1/3 cup diced pre-cooked hard chorizo sausage

– 1 cup breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Drizzle a little oil and salt into a big pot of water and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions (about 6-8 minutes). Drain.

Heat the milk in a small saucepan, but do not boil. Melt 6 tbsp of the butter in a 4 qt pot and add the flour.  Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, constantly stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the milk and cook for a minute more, until thicker and smooth. Add the cheeses, 1 tsp salt, and pepper. Add the pasta and stir well.

(If you’re seriously hungry, at this point you can nix the baking, add the tomatoes and sausage and be on your way BUT if you realllly want the best mac and cheese, please keep reading)

Pour cheesy pasta mixture into a 3-qt baking dish. Place the tomato slices and chorizo pieces on top, then melt remaining 2 tbsp of butter and mix into breadcrumbs. Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top and bake for 30 minutes. Do NOT consume immediately, as it is super hot. Trust me, I burnt the crap out of my tongue. It was a bummer.  Enjoy!

Left to right layering skills: chorizo, chorizo and tomato, tomato, plain.
Everyone gets the top they want!


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