Local Folks Foods

Excellent Kosher Food

January 11, 2015

The Mad Mac Experiment, Part 1: An Ad Lib Macaroni & Cheese

Look at the name of this blog. If any post might sum the title up, it might be this one. Looking at the title, you'll see macaroni and cheese as the subtitle. How can this subject become an adventure? Well, the main title is the subject for a year long journey into this very subject. Macaroni and cheese is a great dish (this straight from the Duh Files) but as I talk to people, I am a bit amazed how limited some people have gone with this. I call this The Mad Mac Series because my goal is to take this as far as I can. Use your imagination. Don't be limited to what you've seen and what you're "supposed to do" based on what you see others doing. You are about to witness a home cook flying by the seat of his pants. Sit tight.  I was inspired by Pinterest to do this series. I have a board named "Mad Mac" and it's exactly what the name implies (1). At last count, that particular board has 419 pins to date and I do intend on adding more. So here's where it all begins. 
This is conchiglie, boilded and placed in a plastic bowl. I would mix in some pasta water I reserved so it wouldn't get too tight or worse yet, turn into a glob. 

So I get home a couple nights ago and wanted to make some mac and cheese. Sounds simple right? Well as the moments ahead unfolded, it didn't exactly go as I had hoped. As you can see, I choose yo use conchiglie (seen above, pronounced con-KEEL-yay) as the main pasta this time around. I figured this would be a good one to use since it will hold cheese and the sauce quite well. The Italian meaning for this pasta, when translated, is seashell. The root word comes from the Greek root word Konkhe, meaning shell and the Latin Concha, meaning shellfish (2). That's what the pasta is shaped like (many Italian pastas get their names from body parts, shells or something similar). 

I will address that in this series as well. I decided not to use elbow since I wanted a pasta that would hold a sauce nicely. That's why I selected conchiglie instead. Now back to the pasta itself. I cooked it for about 10 minutes, drained and save the some of the pasta water. The water would eventually be the hero of this dish. NEVER dump your pasta water entirely. You just never know when you may need it. After I boiled, this is where the adventure begins. One of the rules I live by is never lose all of your pasta water. It has a natural starch from the pasta. It also works well to loosen pasta (should you store it like I did here) or in a sauce (which you will soon find out). After I boiled the pasta, I stored in in the bowl you see behind the water. I seasoned the pasta with salt, pepper, and a little Mexican oregano (mixed with a little pasta water).

The pasta water came in handy in more ways than one. Remember how I mentioned the adventures in this post? It's about to start now. As for making a simple roux and sauce, well, I had to ad lib a bit (hence why "ad lib" is in the title). You might even think I'm making this up. I'm not. 

 So I begin to make a roux. I broke the rule a bit (as I do so well). One part olive oil (extra virgin, of course) and on tablespoon of butter. I melted them both down and then added the flour (a tablespoon at at time, so totally about 3 1./2 tablespoons). As you can see on the left, you can see the olive oil and butter mixture come together. On the right, you can see where I began to work the flour into the oil mixture. I kept the fire steady but not too high, for fear of burning the oil or the flour (or goodness forbid, both). So I'm feeling good. I'm expecting to make something fantastic. Then I go to the fridge for the milk. The milk I had on hand was 2%, not my preferred whole or heavy cream. So I used about just under a cup and mixed it in slowly. The paste from the roux began to loosen up. I realized that I didn't have that much milk left and realize it was getting a bit too tight. I had planned on adding sour cream as well. The only problem was that it had gone bad (almost taking a life form of its own). So I added the pasta water, spoonful's at a time where it won't get too tight. It didn't. In fact, it began to loose where I wanted it. If you look below, this is what the result was. I then added one egg along with it. I was pleased how it turned out. 

I cooked the sauce a little bit. You might notice the change in color. This is where I seasoned the sauce. I added some salt and pepper to start. Then I added some Spanish paprika and cayenne. Then stirred it until it properly mixed together. I also added some Mexican oregano, onion powder as well as granulated garlic (I had none of the latter two fresh). Now do you see how this is turning into an adventure of sorts? I normally have these things on hand but for whatever reason, I did not this time around. Not to mention the canned tomatoes and peppers that had also gone bad on me (I forgot I had those on hand, the went bad in December, 2013). Even after all of that, look below and see what the result was. As I stirred, I did add a little pasta water just to loosen it up a bit more. This entire process, due to the level of heat I used, took about 15-20 minutes. 

Then I added the cheese. I had some shredded cheddar and a couple other block cheese on hand. So I cut them up and the result is below. I stirred until the cheese had fully incorporated with the sauce (about 5-10 minutes). Just before this, I decided to add about 2 tablespoons of Miracle Whip (OK, it's my guilty pleasure and I like the taste). 

Above is the just before all the cheese melted fully. As you can see below, I became to fold the conchiglie pasta in with the sauce (slowly but surely). I didn't add it all at once but only mixed in about 1/3 of the pasta at a time. 

Below is the finished product. Since I seasoned as much as I did, I really didn't need to season any further. I let it rest for about 5 minutes before I ate it. I didn't eat much of it (since I made it as late as I did) but did give it a taste. All things considered, I'm pleased how it turned out for me. 

Even with all the mess with the ingredients (or lack thereof), it still came out well. This ends the first of many in my soon to be "legendary" (or at least hope it will gain cult status at the least), "The Mac Mac Series" blog posts. I'm not sure how often I'll do this but in a perfect world, I'll do at least 2 postings on this each month. If I can do more, fine. This isn't going to be some redo of various recipes alone. My intention is to try and think outside the box some. Go where some would never consider going. I was so excited to do this, I decided to start now. I can't recall when I did two posts in one day (ever). I guess there is a first time for everything. 

A final tip of the hat to today's hero, the pasta water. Thanks to the water, I managed to keep my pasta and the sauce loose. Below is my lunch (e.g., the finished product). The mac and cheese with some chicken and greens soup. I can't wait to do the next posting. I must admit, this posting was done almost ad lib since I really didn't prepare. I look forward to showing what you can do with macaroni. This is an adventure I really look forward to taking this year. I do have several ideas. Some may be fancier than others. Hopefully, you'll enjoy reading this series as much as I like doing these posts. I look forward to showing you what I considered doing with macaroni. You will see me make dishes that are not only hot but cold. In addition, I may marry the mac and cheese with something you might least expect. The journey has only begun!!!

1. Empty Plate Adventures "Mac Mac" Pin Board

2. Definition taken from Online Etymology Dictionary,

No comments:

Post a Comment