Monday, February 2, 2009

Three Little Words

With thoughts of love floating through chilly February days, I've decided this month is just the time to send valentine notes to feel good, favorite eats.

To kick it off I have three words (fit to print on a pastel conversation heart?): macaroni, cheese and...bacon.

With a sweet tooth the size of an elephant tusk, it only illustrates the power of this crispy, smoked treat that I would consider forgoing the traditional seasonal box of chocolates for a few strips of bacon to call my own (though more than a few would be preferable).

You may find it an additional surprise that I've put mac and cheese above a plethora of sticky, sugary, doughy delights...given my past aversion to cheese itself. But again, in the spirit of love, and having chosen food as my crush, I couldn't help it. Especially after finding an incredibly creamy, crunchy on top, rich and comforting recipe in a past issue of Gourmet magazine. Adding bacon and a touch of chopped chives, it was one of those recipes you can hardly stand to put time into making because all you can think about is fixing yourself a heaping hot serving to eat right then.

On Sunday night, over the phone I could hear Russ lift out of his seat when told he was coming home to mac and cheese. Stirring the thick sauce on the stovetop I got to thinking; who wouldn't sit a little taller on the ride to hot homemade macaroni? What is it about good ol' mac that makes us feel so great?

I have my suspicions. Rich cheese mixed up with curly little wheat noodles...and we are allowed to feel small again. You can take care of someone by putting a dish into the oven. You can be taken care of with a steamy bowl in your hands. Salty, smoky, soft and well, isn't that crunchy topping reason enough in itself?

I share recipes with you every week. I always hope they tickle and feed you well. But this one my friends, I know it will. I'm feeling bold, and I believe in the power of this simple little meal. It has big flavor. It feels good going down. It has just the right amount of bite and warmth to make you fall in love (perhaps again) with this classic favorite that loves you right back.

Swept up in the glow I tossed a handful of kale into the frying pan still coated in bacon fat, cooking it just until soft and bright green. Love makes you do crazy things. Crazy, delicious, wonderful things.

So make yourself some macaroni and make it cheesy. Sizzle up some bacon. Catch the love bug in the air and toss in some greens for good measure. And if that little candy heart asks the question, "be mine,"...say yes. And turn with a fork to your bowl of mac and cheese.

Whole Wheat Macaroni and Cheese...and Bacon
adapted from Gourmet magazine

For topping
1/4 stick butter
1 C unseasoned bread crumbs
3/4 C extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
1/4 C Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

For sauce
1 stick unsalted butter
4 T flour
2 1/2 C milk (any % will do!)
3 C extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
1/4 C Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
2 t salt
1/2 t pepper

8 oz whole wheat macaroni pasta
8 strips bacon
1 1/2 T chopped chives
1 C milk

1. To make the topping: melt butter and stir in bread crumbs and cheese until combined. Reserve.
2. Boil macaroni until al dente, drain. Reserve.
3. Cook bacon until slightly crispy. Chop into rough pieces. Reserve.
4. To make the sauce: melt butter in a medium saucepot. Whisk in flour and over medium heat continually whisk for 3 minutes. Stream in 2 1/2 C milk. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Return to a simmer and cook for 3 more minutes (still whisking often). Stir in cheese, salt and pepper, and mix until smooth.
5. In a large bowl combine cooked macaroni, sauce, bacon and chives.
6. In a buttered casserole dish, pour macaroni and sauce.
7. Cover the dish with reserved crumb topping.
8. Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the edges of the pan are bubbling.

10 servings

1 comment:

cia007girl said...

Nice! Kale and whole wheat noodles must really balance all that cheese and bacon :)