Wine Advisor FoodLetter In This Issue

Upgraded macaroni and cheese
Let us hear from you!
Last Week's FoodLetter and Archives
Administrivia

Upgraded macaroni and cheese

For many people, macaroni and cheese is comfort food, a dish that evokes happy memories of childhood. But not for me! We rarely had it at home, and early exposures to the version served in school cafeterias were anything but comforting: Made with Velveeta, the stuff was gloppy and bland, with scorched edges that reminded me of burnt rubber.

But adults outgrow childhood aversions, and with a few years' perspective, it didn't take me long to realize that I like pasta and I like cheese ... so what's not to like about putting them together?

Today, then, let's consider another autumnal dish, a hearty yet meatless bowl of comfort for blustery days. Call it an upgrade, or call it mac'n'cheese with a college education, this is a favorite recipe that I have evolved over the years, with flavor interest added by a mixture of good cheeses, quality pasta and discreet hints of spice.

It should take less than an hour to make this dish, with the last 30 minutes devoted to unsupervised baking time.

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

6 to 8 ounces cheese (see suggestions under PROCEDURE)
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
Salt
Pepper
Cayenne, dried red-pepper flakes or hot sauce
Nutmeg
4 ounces elbow macaroni or short pasta
1 tablespoon butter
Garlic clove

PROCEDURE:

1. First preheat your oven to 350F (175C); put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta; lightly grease a casserole or baking dish large enough to hold the macaroni and rub its inner surface with smashed garlic cloves; and measure out your cheese.

2. Let your imagination go as you choose a cheese or variety of cheeses that suits your taste. I use Cheddar or similar sharp yellow cheese as a starting point and usually have it as about three-fourths of the blend. Swiss-type cheeses such as Gruyere or Emmenthaler add a pleasant high note, and a bit of blue cheese (I included 1 ounce of Stilton in a recent mix) contributes earthiness and complexity. Grate the cheeses together using the large-hole side of a four-sided grater or equivalent.

3. Break the egg into a bowl, whip with a fork until the white and yolk are mixed, then stir in 1/2 cup of the milk, taking care to reserve about 1/4 cup for later. Add the dry mustard (it's easiest if you dissolve it in a little water first), and stir in salt, freshly grated pepper and nutmeg and cayenne or hot sauce to taste.

4. Using elbow macaroni for tradition or your choice of short pasta such as penne or conchiglie (small shells), put the pasta in the boiling salted water and cook until it's nearly al dente but still firm, remembering that it will cook more in the dish: The soggy, mushy overcooked macaroni of school days is not what we want here. Elbow macaroni should be done in 6 minutes or so. Short pastas may take a bit longer - go by experience or check instructions on the package.

5. Drain the pasta and put it back into the same pot along with the butter. Toss until the butter melts and coats the pasta. Over medium-low heat, stir in the milk, egg and spice mixture. Then add two-thirds of the cheese. (NOTE: Be sure to save about one-third for later.) Stir until the cheese has melted and the contents of the pot are bubbly. then add the remaining milk and about half of the remaining cheese, stirring until this cheese melts.

6. Turn the contents into the greased and garlicky casserole, and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes, or until it's bubbling throughout and crusty-brown on top. It's OK to like the browned bits now ... we're adults, after all!

WINE MATCH: Nothing in this dish should war with any wine, red or white, but my favorite match is a light, fruity red. Beaujolais, Argentinian Malbec, New World Merlot in the lighter style, and less "serious" Italian reds will all work well. We enjoyed it recently with an inexpensive, fruity item from the "boot heel" of Southern Italy, Cortenova 2000 Puglia Sangiovese.

Let us hear from you!

If you have suggestions or comments about The 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter, or if you would like to suggest a topic for a coming edition and recipe, please drop me a note. I really enjoy hearing from you, and I try to give a personal reply to all mail if I possibly can. The Ask A Question form at
http://www.wineloverspage.com/ask_a_question.phtml
is the easiest way to reach me, but if you prefer, you may also send E-mail to wine@wineloverspage.com.

You are also invited to join the conversations in our interactive Food Lovers' Discussion Group. To participate in this friendly online community, simply click to
http://www.wineloverspage.com/cgi-bin/sb/index.cgi?fn=2
and feel free to reply to any topic or start a new one.

Last Week's FoodLetter and Archives

Last week's Wine Advisor Foodletter: Mushroom Risorzotto (Oct. 3)
http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor/tsfl021003.phtml

Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor/foodlist.phtml

30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor/thelist.shtml

Administrivia

This is The 30 Second Wine Advisor's weekly FoodLetter. To subscribe or unsubscribe, change your E-mail address, or for any other administrative matters, click to
http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor/admin.phtml.
In all administrative communications, please be sure to include the exact E-mail address that you used when you subscribed, so we can find your record.

Thursday, Oct. 24, 2002
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

Subscribe to the 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter

FoodLetter archives

Subscribe to the 30 Second Wine Advisor