Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Mac and Cheese
I was stuck with a pound of Fusilli without knowing it. I was going to get some good old Swiss Miss from the pantry to fix a coupe cups of cocoa when I found the bag crammed in one of the corners of our rather overweight pantry. After cursing at myself for forgetting this colorful salad pasta for almost a year, I then decided to use it tonight for Noche Buena. I wasn't "feeling" a pasta salad, so I made mac and cheese! Or more appropriately, fusilli and cheese. Haha
Our mac and cheese adventure is quite colorful as well...just like the pasta. Actually, Allan is not a big fan of homemade mac and cheese because those blasted things in the box just taste a lot better. So one time, I told myself I'll make a mac and cheese that will rival that wretched nuclear orange variety found in the box. When I finalized my recipe, Allan said that "it's super! Not like wannabe carbonara anymore. More like cheesy doritos mac and cheese." HA! The final recipe is:
1 block of cheddar cheese, grated
1 block mozzarella cheese, grated (patience with grating. but you can slice if you want)
250 grams grana padano, grated
1 cup milk, grated (kidding)
1 tetrapack cream
250 grams bacon, cubed
Water, depends on how gooey you want the cheese sauce to be. Can use pasta water
Pepper (no salt, since the bacon and cheese are salty. But if you're a salt fiend, pile away!)
1 teaspoon secret ingredient (more on this later)
500g pasta, cooked
First, render the fat from the bacon. I like mine crispy, so I let it cook longer than the usual. Once it's rendered to your liking, lower the heat and add the milk. This will also deglaze the pan. After deglazing it, add the cheddar cheese and grana padano (adding the mozzarella now will only make this messy to handle) and stir until it partially melts. Add the cream to thin out the mix. Add the pepper and secret ingredient. Add mozarella and stir, stir, stir. Like polenta or any old porridge-like glob of liquid, it can pop and cause minor burns, so make sure you're properly clad.
You'll end up with something like this:
Good for nachos! But...
Cook your pasta and when you drain it, leave some of the water in. Add the cheese mixture and toss until the pasta is covered. Allan and I love it this way, but you can also go further and top this is EVEN MORE cheese and bake or if you're snazzy, torch the top. You're kids will love this, swear!
Ready for the secret ingredient? Drum rolls...
FAJITA SEASONING! It's a healthy mix of spices like cumin and red pepper and really livens the dish. It makes a rather flat tasting cheese dish into a yummy and malinamnam treat. McCormick has a fajita seasoning and that's quite great, but you can make your own fajita seasoning. Here's my recipe:
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 red pepper/chili (not flakes)
1/4 black pepper
1/8 garlic powder (Aji-sho is ok)
1/8 onion powder (Aji-sho, again, is ok)
You can tweak it around to your liking, but this combo is the BOMB! You can sprinkle it over fried rice for an added flavor dimension, or as marinade for steaks or fish. You can add it to mayo for a veggie dip or as seasoning for vegetables your kids don't like eating. Cheers!