Goth Panda

February 3, 2014

Macaroni and Cheese with Buttery Crumbs

Mac and Cheese Done

This is one of the first recipes I made, many years ago when I was first trying to learn how to cook, and it has stuck with me because it is delicious. How can you turn away a recipe that requires one and a half pounds of cheese, and in addition announces the presence of “buttery crumbs” in the title?

I have made this many times, but usually for special occasions because it does take a while to make. You have to start it between 1-1/2 to 2 hours before you want to eat it, although the recipe does have a make ahead option, below. But it makes a lot, usually around 8 servings for us, so there are plenty of leftovers for the rest of the week. I like mine with hot sauce.

Mac and Cheese Before Baking

Before going in the oven

Macaroni and Cheese with Buttery Crumbs

Adapted from Food and Wine

5 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 1/2 c half-and-half or whole milk
1 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 pound Colby cheese, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
1 pound rotini
3/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs (I usually use seasoned)

Preheat the oven to 350°. Generously spray or butter a shallow 2-quart baking dish.

Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large saucepan. Add the flour and cook over moderate heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the half-and-half and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly until thickened, about 3 minutes. Add one-half of the Cheddar and Colby cheeses and cook over low heat, stirring, until melted. Stir in the mustard, nutmeg and cayenne; season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain very well. Return the pasta to the pot. Add the cheese sauce and the remaining cheese and stir until combined. Spread the pasta in the prepared baking dish.

In a small glass bowl, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the microwave. Add the bread crumbs and stir until evenly moistened. Sprinkle the buttered crumbs over the macaroni and bake for 45 minutes, or until bubbling and golden on top. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

The assembled dish can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature and bake.

March 22, 2011

Cast-Iron Pizza

Pizza

I first tried making pizza on cast iron last fall, when it got too cold to use the outdoor grill. Cast iron holds a lot more heat than even a baking stone, so if you preheat the oven with the cast iron inside for a while, you can get higher temperatures for baking pizza. And high temperatures are the best thing for pizza, for the most part much higher than home ovens can ever achieve.

I started by baking smaller pizzas in my cast iron skillet, but after I was converted to the technique, I bought this:

Cast Iron Pizza Pan

Not only does it allow for larger size pizzas, but the flat design makes it easier to slide the pizzas on top without making a mess. I also always press my pizza dough out and bake it on parchment paper in order to avoid the collapse of a beautifully decorated pizza into a pile of toppings, sauce, and dough. I don’t trust that I will be able to make them slide off the peel with just cornmeal to assist.

I use the same dough that I used to make grilled pizza last summer.

Mixing Pizza Dough

Stretched

I turn on the oven to start preheating the cast iron pan about 45-60 minutes before I want to start baking the dough. I press the dough into circles on the parchment and prick them with a fork to discourage bubbles. Then I parbake them for six minutes.

Parbaked Dough

At that point, I take the dough out and top it. One of these is plain sauce and cheese and one has also sundried tomatoes. I also sprinkle some Pizza Seasoning on top. Then I put them back in the oven for 10-12 minutes.

Ready to Bake

Pizza

I am glad I have my baking stone because I still think it is the best for baking bread on. But I think the cast iron technique gives you a better pizza crust, especially in the winter when grilling is out of the question. I can’t wait for warmer weather to start grilling my pizzas again, though.

March 2, 2011

Black Bean Enchiladas with Easy Mole Sauce

Black Bean Enchiladas with Easy Mole Sauce

Mole is a savory chocolate-flavored chili sauce. Although I like both regular tomato-based enchilada sauce and mole sauce (which properly speaking makes “enmoladas” instead of “enchiladas”), Mike’s favorite is mole. Real mole sauce is apparently a multi-day extravaganza to make, and I don’t think you can buy it ready made like you can enchilada sauce (although making your own enchilada sauce is pretty easy). So I like this recipe because the excellent chocolate and chili flavors are there and it doesn’t take nearly as long to make.

I like this with a black bean filling, but it would probably be great with shredded chicken or pork, if you happen to be on the food chain. Whatever filling you like with your enchiladas, I highly recommend the mole sauce as an alternative to your standard enchilada sauce. It is not sweet at all, and the chocolate-chili combination gives it an almost smoky depth of flavor.

Onions and Spices

This is not that quick of a recipe because of the time it takes to make the sauce. What I do to make this a weeknight recipe is make the sauce in advance – it takes about 45 minutes – and then refrigerate it until I want to make the enchiladas. If you split the recipe up like that, you can make the enchiladas in little more than half an hour. This recipe makes great leftovers, too.

I tried a new brand of corn tortillas, and I was a little disappointed with them. They were thick and tended to tear while I was filling them, as you can see below. This was also probably because I overstuffed them, which is all too easy to do. My enchiladas never want to stay rolled up.

Rolled Enchiladas

I fit the enchiladas in by doing 8 across and then two rows of two down. I had leftover filling, so I spooned it into the corners.

Ready to Bake

Black Bean Enchiladas with Easy Mole Sauce

Heavily adapted from Vegetarian Times

Serves 4-6

Mole Sauce
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 medium-sized onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp. light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves or allspice
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
2 Tbs. cocoa powder
2 Tbs. peanut butter
1 c water or broth
1/2 tsp. salt [you may need more if you use water instead of broth]
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Enchiladas
10 oz. white cheddar cheese, shredded
12 6-inch corn tortillas
1 15-oz can black beans
1 c corn, frozen, fresh, or canned
1 bunch scallions, chopped

Sour cream, for serving

Directions

To make Mole Sauce: Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onions, and cook 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until browned. Stir in garlic, chili powder, brown sugar, cinnamon, and cloves/allspice, and cook 1 minute, or until fragrant, stirring constantly.

Add tomato sauce, cocoa, peanut butter and water/broth. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and puree until smooth in blender.

To make Enchiladas: Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 13×9-inch ovenproof baking dish with cooking spray. Ladle mole sauce into the bottom of the dish, just to cover.

Drain and rinse beans and corn in a colander. Heat a small skillet over a medium flame, and warm a corn tortilla on it for 30-60 seconds [This step is optional, but I think it helps make the tortillas more pliable and gives them a “cornier” taste.] Place a tablespoon or so of the black bean and corn mixture in the center of the tortilla. Top with cheese and scallions. Roll tortilla around filling, and set seam side down on top of mole sauce. Try not to overstuff your tortillas, but let’s face it, this is tough. Continue until the pan is full or you run out of tortillas or filling. Top with the rest of the mole sauce, and any leftover cheese and scallions. Spoon any leftover filling into the corners of the pan. Bake 20 minutes, or until sauce bubbles and cheese melts.

February 16, 2011

Cream of Tomato Soup with Rice

Cream of Tomato Soup with Rice

This is one of my all-time favorite soups. I like this soup better than most soups I have ever gotten in a restaurant. I can eat this by itself for lunch, and with a salad or a sandwich for dinner.

However, it is not exactly a quick recipe. It takes about an hour and fifteen minutes to an hour and a half start to finish, but you can make parts of it in advance in order to get it done on a weeknight in under an hour. Or you can just make it on the weekend and reheat it, because this soup is great as a leftover.

This is based off of a Cook’s Illustrated recipe, but I have changed the method around. For one thing, I use a food mill instead of a blender. If you, unlike me, are not picky about tomato seeds and skins in your soup that just get blended up anyway, the blender is the way to go. Sadly, I am that picky and so I use the food mill.

Food Mill

You need two cans of whole tomatoes packed in juice. I use Muir Glen organic, but as long they are in juice and not puree, you are good. You need to roast the tomatoes and save the juice for later. If you are going to blend it, you don’t need to bother with this step, but again, I am picky, so I strain the juice by pouring it through the food mill, which has a sieve at the bottom.

Straining the Juice

You put the tomatoes on the baking sheet. I don’t bother with the aluminum foil, because it always ends up a mess no matter how you do it. I do spray the sheet with cooking spray so the tomatoes come off easier.

Tomatoes

Then you sprinkle brown sugar on them.

With Brown Sugar

You roast the tomatoes for 30 minutes, and then set them aside to cool. To make things go quicker, I usually start the next part about 15 minutes before the tomatoes are done. You sauté butter, shallots, tomato paste and a pinch of allspice until the shallots are soft. The whole soupmaking process here smells terrific, but the smell of just these four ingredients sautéeing is probably one of my all-time favorites.

Saute

Then you add in the flour, stock (I use Imagine’s No-Chicken Broth usually, but plain vegetable stock would work, too), the tomato juice, and the roasted tomatoes.

Before the Food Mill

After letting the ingredients mingle, it is time to food mill! You take the bowl that was holding your juice, put it back under the food mill, and use a big ladle to scoop the soup into the mill. When it gets to the bottom, you can just pour the rest of the soup in. Then rinse out the pot you were making the soup in so no seeds or skins can work their way in. Yes, I am a little paranoid.

Using the Food Mill

You crank the handle until all of the soup is pushed through the sieve, leaving the undesirables behind.

After the Food Mill

Remember to scrap the bottom of the food mill! Yummy pulp likes to hang out there.

From here, there is not much more to do. You add the cream, rewarm the soup over a low heat, add the salt, and then stir in two tablespoons of sherry off-heat before serving. Then you prepare yourself for deliciousness.

Cream of Tomato Soup with Rice

Cream of Tomato Soup with Rice

adapted from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe

Makes 4 to 6 servings

2 (28 ounce) cans whole tomatoes in juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large shallots, minced (or one small onion, but the shallots really are better)
1 tablespoon tomato paste (I use the kind that comes in a tube, so I don’t have to open a whole can)
Pinch ground allspice
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1-3/4 cups No-Chicken or vegetable stock, or chicken stock if you are on the food chain
1/2 cup heavy cream (I sometimes substitute half-and-half, but I think the soup might turn out more acidic that way, so if you are sensitive to that kind of thing, you might want to stick with cream)
2 tablespoons sherry
1 tsp salt
1 cup cooked rice

1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with spray oil. Spread tomatoes in a single layer and sprinkle evenly with brown sugar. Bake until tomatoes begin to color, about 30 minutes. While tomatoes bake, prepare your rice. Remove tomatoes from oven and let them cool.

2. Heat butter over medium heat in medium nonreactive saucepan until foaming; add shallots, tomato paste, and allspice. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are softened, 7 to 10 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds. Whisking constantly, gradually add the stock. Stir in reserved tomato juice and roasted tomatoes. Cover, increase heat to medium, and bring to boil; reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, to blend flavors, about 10 minutes.

3. Ladle soup into a food mill over a medium-sized bowl and process. Scrape the bottom of the food mill for extra pulp. Rinse out the soup pan. [Or, if using a blender, strain mixture into medium bowl; rinse out saucepan. Transfer tomatoes and solids in strainer to blender; add 1 cup strained liquid and puree until smooth. Add remaining reserved liquid.]

4. Return the pureed mixture to the saucepan, add cream and cooked rice, and heat over low heat until hot, about 3 minutes. Off heat, stir in sherry, add salt, and serve immediately.

To Make Ahead
I usually roast the tomatoes and make the rice ahead of time, if I want to make this on a weeknight. Then I just keep them in the refrigerator until needed to add to the soup.

CI also says this soup can be prepared through step 3, cooled, covered, and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. Reheat over low heat before proceeding with step 4.

May 2, 2009

Roasted Veggie Quiche

This is another recipe that I technically made up, but is based on a basic quiche recipe that I have successfully used in the past. I have been making a rich cheese quiche from Mark Bittman’s book “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.” I love that recipe, but I had two problems with it: it always made too much custard to fit my pie pan, and I thought I should add some vegetables to maybe make it a little healthier. I solved the pie pan problem by buying a deep-dish quiche pan. And then I thought about a baked penne pasta dish I make with roasted vegetables, and realized at least some of those vegetables would be good in a quiche too.

Veggies

I chopped these up…

Broccoli

Red Peppers

Onions

…and added olive oil.

Added Olive Oil

Then I spread them out on a sheet pan to roast.

Spread Out to Roast

This was after thirty minutes:

Not Ready Yet

I put them back in for another fifteen minutes:

Roasted Veggies

At this point I put them in the refrigerator because I was doing this ahead of time.

The next day I made the pie crust. Now, I have made pie crust several times, but I was a little nervous about it this time. I kept reading about making pie crust and how it freaks everyone out, and how it’s really not so bad, except you have to keep everything super cold, work super fast, don’t touch the dough that much, don’t add too much water, don’t add too much flour, oh and work super fast again. So I think reading more about making pie crust just increased my anxiety. I was convinced that I had added too much water to my past pie crusts and I didn’t want to do that again. Also, it was hot in my kitchen when I was making it (this was last Sunday), and that made me anxious, too.

I was using the same recipe I always use from Epicurious. It is half shortening, half butter. I got some crazy vegan no-trans-fat shortening that you have to keep in the freezer:

Shortening Cubes

My butter was frozen, too:

Butter Cubes

I put them back in the freezer while I weighed out the flour into my Cuisinart bowl:

Flour

Cubes of Butter and Shortening

Then I blitzed it up in the Cuisinart.

Now these next steps, I don’t have any photos for because of my water anxiety. I put it the flour into a bowl and gradually added ice water. The recipe says to start with a quarter cup, but I always had to add at least a half a cup. By the time I added that much, I thought I must be adding too much. But my dough was still for the most part dry. Although some of it was sticking together, it was in no way cohesive. And I was hot and frustrated. So I thought, I will just stick this in the refrigerator and see what happens. I covered my bowl with its plastic lid and threw it in the refrigerator.

I was not expecting anything good. In fact, I thought I might have to try again the next day.

But when the next day came, I opened up my bowl to find this:

Dough

All the water had been absorbed and it wasn’t dry anymore. It looked like a real, usable pie dough. So I set out to use it. I was still afraid that it would crack when I tried to roll it, so I set out some ice water to sprinkle on it if that happened, but it didn’t. I had no problems.

The official King Arthur Flour pastry mat, for KAF junkies like me:

Pastry Mat

Dough

I rolled it out. I think you can see where I had to patch it in a few places.

Rolled Out

Then I cut the edges with my pizza cutter so it looked nice. This was actually way too big a circle to fit my deep dish pan, so I had to trim it once I put it in.

Trimmed

Pie Crust

The other good thing about this pan is the fluted edges mean I don’t have to do anything fancy to the crust to make it look nice. I suck at that, too.

Finally it was time to make the quiche innards. Here is 8 oz. of colby jack cheese shredded by my Cuisinart, mixed with six eggs and some salt and pepper.

Eggs and Cheese

I chopped up my roasted veggies a little, and I ended up with 3 cups. I added it all because I wasn’t sure how much my pan would hold, and all of it fit. But the quiche ended up with too many veggies and not enough egg to hold it together. Next time I would probably cut the veggies in half, and add another egg.

Chopped Veggies

Lesson: Just because it can fit in the quiche doesn’t mean it should fit in the quiche.

Uncooked Quiche

I had to bake it for about an hour and fifteen minutes to get the center to set. By the end, Mike and I were hovering over it with our forks ready. I don’t even think we let it cool.

Quiche

I also forgot my pan has a removable bottom. D’oh!

Quiche

See, too many veggies, not enough egg. It still tasted good, though.

Crust

And despite all my fears, the crust was yummy. Maybe I need to do it that way from now on.

Quiche