January 12, 2009

Baked Macaroni and Chile Cornbread

I know, I know, I know! I managed zero posts in December. December was a busy month for me. Between travel and work and full weekends, I had no time for cooking something fancy. But, dear readers, I will make it up to you. I had planned on stopping the blog after one year, finishing with a bunch of meals in December. That was a bit optimistic. These winter months instill lethargy and a weekly requirement turns a fun task into a chore. I don't want to dread cooking, but when it's an obligation - a self-imposed one even - well...

Anyway, on the 4th of this month, I cooked dinner for Marcella and her mother. I picked two easily baked dishes that were good soul food: baked macaroni and cheese and smoky, chile cornbread. I don't normally try to prepare multiple dishes at a time. My slightly-broken range doesn't accommodate that many pots and skillets and my slightly-unskilled knowledge doesn't accommodate them either. But these two could be pipelined. Start preparing the first, bake it while preparing the second, then bake that when the first is done!

So let's get to work. I started with the baked macaroni and cheese. In a medium pot, I boiled normal elbow macaroni to al dente. Then, in a larger pot, I melted three tablespoons of butter. Add in flour and powdered mustard (see quantities below) and stir these all together. The mustard doesn't come out strong in the taste, but gives a nice color. After five minutes, stir in milk, diced onion, paprika, and a bay leaf (or leave out the bay leaf if you don't want to bother). Simmer these all together for ten minutes (then remove the bay leaf if you added one). Add in an egg (the recipe calls for "tempering" but I have no idea what that is) and nine ounces of shredded sharp cheddar cheese (figure out how much nine ounces is by portioning out a package). Season this with salt and pepper and "fold in" (what?) the macaroni. Once this is all combined, pour it into a two quart casserole dish. Add the other three ounces of cheddar on top. This next part I didn't really quite get right. You're supposed to melt another three tablespoons of butter in a small sauce pan and toss a cup of bread crumbs. Sprinkle these crumbs over the macaroni and cheese in the casserole dish. I don't know if I did it wrong or what, but the top came out un-attached and a little too crunchy. Thoughts? Anyway, bake this in a 350 degree oven for half an hour. The macaroni and cheese was good (but not baked enough?), though I couldn't quite get over the crunchy crumbs...

OK, that was a large paragraph. It's really not too difficult though, I swear. And the cornbread's even easier. Just start cooking this fifteen minutes before the baked macaroni needs to leave the oven. In a 10-inch cast iron pan, starting cooking four strips of large, thick-cut bacon chopped into small bits. Yeah, it's already awesome, isn't it? Before the bacon gets crunchy, remove it to a paper-towel lined plate. In a larger bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a smaller bowl, beat four free range, local eggs (alright, alright, just four large eggs). Whisk in two cups of milk. Add this to the larger bowl. "Fold" in the bacon bits (folding again?), a seeded and minced chipotle chile (just one), and chives, if you like. Pour this batter into your cast iron skillet. Don't even worry about draining the bacon grease. OMG GOOD. Bake at 375 for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out dry. Long post is long.

Please note that the cornbread shown above is merely the portion of cornbread that represents Pac-Man.

Ingredients for Baked Macaroni and Cheese:
  • half a pound of elbow macaroni
  • three tablespoons of butter
  • three tablespoons of flour
  • a tablespoon of powdered mustard
  • three cups of milk
  • half a cup of a yellow onion, diced as best you can
  • a bay leaf (optional)
  • half a teaspoon of paprika
  • one large egg
  • 12 total ounces of sharp cheddar, shredded
  • another three tablespoons of butter (for the crumbs)
  • a cup of bread crumbs (the crumbs)
Ingredients for Smoky Chile Cornbread:
  • four strips of thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • two cups of cornmeal, white or yellow (I chose yellow)
  • one cup of flour
  • two tablespoons of sugar
  • two teaspoons of baking powder
  • two teaspoons of baking soda
  • two teaspoons of salt
  • four large, free range eggs
  • two cups of milk
  • a chipotle chile, drained, stemmed, seeded, and minced
  • two tablespoons of finely chopped chives (if you want)

No comments: