Saturday, January 26, 2008

Comfort Food

Yesterday was one of those days that I couldn't get warm. It was bitter cold outside and I'd had a crazy day at work, what with the opening of Rumpelstiltskin's Daughter and the 400 school kids coming to see it, and the high heels I had on all day. On top of all that I went to the gym after work, so I could eat me some comfort food with perhaps a little less guilt. Macaroni and cheese is my favorite comfort food by far!

Ages ago, when I was a 20-something, I used to have my lunch every day at this great mom and pop place called State Lunch. I took lunch really late on Fridays, which was State Lunch's day to serve baked macaroni and cheese. Those good catholics.
The trick was to get to the diner at the very moment when they were running out of mac and cheese, which was usually at approximately 3:20 p.m. This way I'd get the bottom of the pan, and when they scraped together that last serving, I'd get all those lovely browned and crispy cheese bits. It was heaven. And their lunches always came with home made bread, butter and a salad, all for about $3.95 or so. When I go back home to visit, I usually stop in for a nosh at the State Lunch, but it's got new owners and has expanded to double it's old size. Some of the same waitresses are still there, but the place just isn't the same.

Last night I used penne instead of macaroni, and I added peas, per Andy's request. Here's how I made it:
Cook about 12 ounces of penne until just very al dente. Drain and set aside.
On medium heat, melt 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan. Add 1 1/2 tablespoon of flour and whisk it until blended.
Whisk in 1 1/2 cups of milk gradually. Keep stirring this until it's thick and velvety (Andy thinks I say the word "velvety" too much). Add about 1/2 teaspoon of dry mustard, a sprinkle of nutmeg, and some ground black pepper. Take the sauce off the heat and stir in 3/4 cup of grated parmesan. In a big bowl, mix together the sauce, the penne, 8 ounces of grated extra sharp cheddar and half a cup of frozen peas. Dump this lovely mess into an 8 X 8 baking dish that has been sprayed with non stick stuff. Sprinkle the top with panko and bake it at 350 for about half an hour.

Now this next part is optional. I wanted slightly burned cheesy crispy bits, so I cranked up the heat to 475 for another 10 minutes or so. It came out perfect!


pnlkotula said...

Paul makes what we like to call $50 mac and cheese (you'll see why when you see the ingredient list). It is absolutely sinful, and you can find it on this website:

The chef's name is G. Garvin, and he's a very hip african american. Paul feels very manly when he cooks like G. If you ever catch his show, it's fun. His pasta dishes are wonderful, and we've made the spinach stuffed pork chops, too. MMMMmmm.

Janine Serresseque said...

Dang, that does look good, and he is not so bad looking, either! I must say, I am very partial to the male chefs. I think men who can cook are sexy as hell, don't you?

pnlkotula said...

He's hot - very L.L. Cool J. We had to go buy Paul a large pepper mill, so he could be like G. And heck yeah, I love my man who cooks! Although right now, he's had too many beers at bowling and is very unattractively some - lose some.

JB said...

I just licked my computer screen.

Robyn said...

Peas?! Yuck! Andy's out of 'is bloomin' 'ead, now idn't 'e? (How're ya feeling?)

Janine Serresseque said...

Thanks for asking, My Favorite Girlfriend. Better. Calm tummy, due to the miracle drug, Emetrol. But very wobbly and shakey. And low fever.

Andy says maybe I should try on the turquoise evening gown again now that I've had the purge from hell.

Yes, I know the peas gross you out. What happened here? You must have some tainted blood in your lineage to be Irish and not like peas.