Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Serves 6 to 8

1/2 pound elbow macaroni (you can use most any pasta though)
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
3 cups milk
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 large egg
12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper

3 tablespoons butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cook the macaroni according to the instructions on the package, make sure you salt the water.

As the macaroni cooks, take another pan and melt the butter. Use a whisk to combine in the flour and mustard, keep stirring for about 5 minutes. Yes, we’re making a roux here. It should be lump free. Then stir the milk in, add the onion, the bay leaf, and the paprika. Simmer the mixture for 10 minutes. Remove the bar leaf at the end of this time.

Quick lesson on roux:
Roux is a base sauce in international cuisines, originally French, composed of varying ratios of flour and fat (usually butter), useful for making sauces, and for thickening soups or gravies. The benefits of using a roux include: it does not have to be cooked very long to remove a floury taste, clumps of flour are removed, and it creates unique flavors. It can be cooked to different degrees:
white roux
blonde roux
brown roux
dark/brick roux
burnt roux
depending upon the intended use, and a darker roux (one that has been cooked longer) will also be thicker and have more flavor, but will have less thickening power.

Temper in the egg. Stir in 9 ounces of the shredded cheese. Salt and pepper the mixture. Slowly add the macaroni into the mix, stirring thoroughly, then pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

If you don’t know what tempering is, here are the basics. Tempering is the process that cooks use to raise the temperature of something instead of just dumping it in. It is used for raising the temperature of such ingredients as milk, cream, eggs, etc.. To start the process, take a spoon or some other small measuring device and fill it with whatever hot liquid you are working with. Take it and stir it into your ingredient such as our milk, flour, and mustard mixture from above. Then get another spoonful and stir it in, Repeat the process until the target ingredient is brought up to temperature. In our case, until the egg is hot, but not cooked like a scrambled egg.

Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

I have been known to stir in crumbled bacon into this dish. How much? Well, until it looks like there’s enough. muah

I’ve also grown to like more cheese on top of it. Use your own judgement. Don’t add too much as it can get a bit greasy. But some extra is a good thing.

Enjoy this one, it’s a keeper.

How I do Stir Fry

Stir fry is one of my favorites.

So much so that I could probably eat it 4-5 times a week and not get tired of it.

One of the things I love about stir fry is that it’s very flexible. Got pork? Great. Steak? Use it. Chicken? More please.

So yeah, I take that same flexibility and apply it to my ingredients.

What you are about to read is more of a set of guide lines for a stir fry than a recipe. As always, experiment!

The Basics

When I am cooking stir fry, I gauge the amount of meat I use very loosely. Remember, the meat is there as an accent, not the primary flavor. That said, I use 1/2 a chicken breast for each serving, 1 boneless pork chop, or 4 ounces of beef per diner.

I like marinades. So I slice whatever meat I am cooking into 1/2 inch cubes and put them into a zip top bag. In with the meat goes garlic, some olive oil, salt, pepper, white vinegar, a few good shakes of hot sauce, and some soy sauce. I then close it while slowly squeezing the air out, and let it marinate for a few hours.

Once ready to cook, I put the meat into a few tablespoons of hot oil in my wok and fry until cooked and a little crispy. I like the feel and the flavor of meat that has been stir fried to within an inch of burning. Why? I have no idea. Remove the meat from the pan once cooked and set aside.


Next up are the vegetables:

1 medium onion, chopped.
4-6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 green/red/yellow/orange bell pepper chopped (think color)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced

Put those ingredients into a few tablespoons of hot oil in your wok and stir fry until cooked. Then add any or all of the following:

1 stalk celery, sliced
1 stalk bok choy
1 cup Chinese cabbage, chopped.
1 cup sliced water chestnuts
1 cup julienned or chopped carrots
1 cup sliced bamboo shoots
1 cup sliced white mushrooms
1 cup snow pea pods
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup cauliflower florets

Try to judge the number of ingredients and the number of people you are serving.

Although, leftovers are never a bad thing with stir fry. So yeah, use ALL the ingredients, live a little.

Put the vegetables in the wok and once they are starting to cook, consider adding in some soy sauce mixed with water to help steam the vegetables to a cooked state. I also like some hot sauce with mine, so shake it if ya got it. Cover the wok if you wish, but check the progress regularly, you don’t want them over cooked.

Once the vegetables are nearly completely cooked, mix in a slurry of cornstarch and water. 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to a half-cup of water is about right. Mix it up well before pouring the mixture of the vegetables and mixing it all together. Then mix the meat back in. As a final touch, I like to sprinkle the whole dish with a good amount of sesame seeds. This is optional but I like the extra little crunch sesame seeds provide.

Serve hot over rice, preferably rice that is sticky enough to use chopsticks on.
(Remember, cook your rice in broth for more flavor.)