Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Food Desert Project - Easiest Mac or Godey's Ladies meet Lady Ga-Ga

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No, I'm not going to leap out of the internet wearing slices of cheese held together with spaghetti (I know you're breathing a sigh of relief.)  I've combined a vintage recipe with electronics and half quixotic tricks to make a hypnotic dish!

I first laid eyes on this "receipt" or recipe on Simply Recipes (please go there and try that version!) Elise Bauer, the author, is a terrific cook and writer...and she started with a recipe from an 1865 issue of Godey's Lady's Book.  The technique fascinated me...any cook worth her salt knows the magic thickening properties of pasta water...but to start with pasta in milk, thus cooking and thickening at the same time?  Genius!  Our founding fathers were smart!

I immediately began to play with this recipe to find ways to make it even easier.  First and foremost, I wanted to master something at which, up to now, I've failed miserably: cook pasta in the microwave - after all, I might be stranded in a remote forest one day with just canned milk, cheese, pasta and a microwave.  And a casserole dish.  And an electrical outlet, maybe. Or, more likely - all that in a really desolate cubicle.

It could happen.

The result? A one-bowl macaroni and cheese recipe that's easy to scale up or down, and can be made in the microwave (or stove, see the link above) in the time it takes to cook the pasta!  No, really - it comes out terrific, it's just a matter of applying the correct techniques.  I used evaporated milk and deyhdrated onions to ensure a smooth, flavorful sauce.  One caveat: make sure you have a deep enough casserole that it won't boil over...I warned you: don't call me to ask me to clean your microwave if you don't keep an eye on it.

Ingredients:

001 1 12-oz can of evaporated milk (whole or 2%)
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon minced dried onions
1 1/2 cups small pasta (elbow macaroni, tiny shells, etc.)
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (I like sharp cheddar - 6 ounces if you want to shred it yourself)
Cooking spray
Salt and pepper to taste
Cheese and paprika to garnish (I use parmesan and cheddar)

For the record, if you don't count the seasonings, the ratio is 1:1:1:1.  Scale away!  (I'd add about a half-tablespoon of onions per cup, but their flavor isn't overwhelming so you can feel free to estimate.)  This makes 4 servings.

In a deep microwave-safe casserole or souffle dish, pour the milk, water and minced dried onions and a dash of salt.  Spray the top with a light coating of cooking spray (this will help prevent boilovers - but watch it like a hawk anyway...'cause I'm not cleaning your microwave: I warned you.) and bring to a boil in your microwave (took me about 2.5 minutes, YMMV.)

004Add the pasta and spray it again. Return to the microwave - nuke on half-power (50%) for 6 minutes, watching carefully to make sure it doesn't boil over.  Remove and stir, then microwave, again on half-power, for another 3 minutes.  Check to see if your pasta is al dente (it will continue to cook, so while it shouldn't be crunchy, it should be firm.)

008If needed, continue to cook as directed above in one-minute increments until the pasta is the desired texture.  It will have absorbed quite a lot of your milk, but should still be partially submerged.

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Now, add the cheese - another thing I love about this recipe is that there's the same amount of cheese as pasta!  Hey, they don't call it Mac with Cheese, it's Mac and Cheese, right?  Fold the cheese gently into the pasta; don't worry, the sauce will thicken.  Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as desired.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes until the sauce becomes rich and creamy.

Nutrition information (don't say I didn't warn you - but do note that while high in fat and calories, it's also high in protein and nutrients.)


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Serve, topped with shredded cheese and paprika and then you'll want to...just dance!

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