Saturday, February 9, 2013

Macaroni and Cheese

Today was all about experimenting with the classic macaroni and cheese. I wanted to explore the different flavors that can be had by using different cheeses. So, starting with the classics, Monterey Jack for the creamy texture and sharp cheddar for the great taste, I decided to mix things up for four different combinations:

Blu Cheese

So, for every pound of dry macaroni, that is the number of ounces of cheese that was used. Of course, a pound of dry macaroni is going to produce a bunch of servings, so, each trial only got ¼ pound of macaroni. (divide the above by 4).

Whole wheat pasta will give it a nice nutty flavor.

Best to under cook the pasta to one minute under the shortest time on the package.  It will finish cooking when it is added to the sauce and baked.


Macaroni and cheese, to me, has to be baked, or broiled, in the oven to get a good crust on top. That is the way I like it. Also, to help to ensure that it doesn't dry out, it gets most of the cooking done on the stove top where it is easier to keep an eye on it and keep it all stirred up.
I truly prefer the whole milk, however, the low fat stuff could also work.
Also, the bechamel sauce truly helps the cheeses to melt and forms a great, creamy sauce.To make macaroni and cheese, adjust the oven rack to the lower middle position and heat broiler. Bring a gallon of water to boil in a large pot. Add one pound of elbow macaroni and one tablespoon of salt to the pot. When it comes back to a boil, cook for six minutes, stirring often, until tender and then drain the pasta.
Melt 5 tablespoons of butter in the now-empty pot over medium-high heat. Add 6 tablespoons of flour, 1-½ teaspoons dry mustard, ¼ teaspoons of cayenne pepper and 1 teaspoon of salt, whisking constantly and cook the mixture until it becomes fragrant and deepens in color, about one minute.

Gradually whisk in 5 cups of whole milk. Then, bring this to a boil while whisking constantly. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the cheeses until completely melted. Add the pasta and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is steaming and heated through, about 6 minutes.
Transfer mixture to ramekins that have been buttered. Sprinkle with Panko breadcrumbs. Broil until topping is deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Allow to cool for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the size of the ramekins, before serving.

As to which tastes best . . . I will leave that up to you!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Babette's Feast #2

Beef Glace de Viande
This past weekend was about making demiglace. Actually, I ended up making beef glace de viande. This is one of the ingredients that is needed for the sauce for the quails in Babette’s Feast.

What’s the difference between demiglace and beef glace de viande?

Demiglace is actually any rich stock or broth that is reduced by half or three-quarters to enrich it – leaving it still a relatively thin liquid. Glace de viande is made the same way, but it is reduced by a factor of 8 – 10, has a thick, syrupy or paste-like consistency and is much richer.

Here’s how I made mine. Some folks would add cooked tomatoes or tomato paste. However, my wife can’t have those due to medical reasons. So, you won’t find any in this.

5 – 6 lbs of beef bones. I was fortunate to find beef feet. Worked great.
1 lb or more of venison bones.
4 large onions (3 of which are quartered, 1 of which is chopped up for the mirepoix)
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled, cut in half and slightly crushed
6 stalks of celery, with leaves (4 stalks cut in 2 inch pieces, 2 chopped up for the mirepoix)
5 large carrots (3 cut in 2 inch pieces, 2 chopped up for the mirepoix)
1 bunch parsley
6 bay leaves
1 teaspoons of whole black peppercorns
1 bottle of red wine
½ teaspoon of thyme
4 ounces (1 stick) butter, clarified
4 tablespoons of flour

Set aside all the mirepoix ingredients for later. Divide the rest of the onions, celery and carrots in half.

Preheat the oven to 450 F. Make an herb bouquet by bundling the parsley, bay leaves, garlic and peppercorns in cheesecloth.

Spread the bones and half of the onions, celery and carrots in a single layer in a baking dish. Roast this in the oven, turning and basting several times with the accumulated fat, until nicely brown. This should take 40 to 50 minutes. At the end, it should look like this.

Transfer the bones and vegetables to the stock pot. Add the other vegetables and the herb bouquet. Drain off the fat from the baking dish and deglaze the pan with about a cup of water. Add the deglazed liquid to the stock pot. Add water to cover everything by about an inch. Bring all of this to a boil. Reduce to simmer and partially cover. The first couple of hours, skim off the scum that forms at the top. Simmer, simmer, simmer, for at least 12 – 16 hours. Want all the bone marrow to dissolve. When simmering over night, fully cover and reduce heat to as low as possible. In the morning, uncover, increase heat, bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer and partially cover until ready for the next step. When done, using tongs, remove the bones. The bones should look like this.

Strain the liquid through a colander. The veggies and bouquet should look like this.

Degrease. (note, the picture above shows some of the beef tallow (beef fat rendered) that was recovered in the degreasing process. Pour all the beef stock back into the stock pot. Add the bottle of wine, thyme, maybe some dried parsley, maybe a couple of more bay leaves to the stock pot.

Now, take the clarify butter and the flour and make a roux. To do this, blend the flour and the butter together in a sauce pan, stirring fairly continuously with a wooden spoon over moderately low heat for 10 to 15 minutes until it is a nice, even, walnut brown.

At the same time, cook the mirepoix ingredients. Do this by first heating up a frying pan, cook the lardons that have been sliced in ¼ inch thick pieces. Here’s a picture of the roux being cooked while the lardons are also being cooked.


Once the lardons have been crisped up, the fat should have come out. So, remove the lardons and cook the mirepoix ingredients in the fat until they are lightly brown. Here's a picture of the roux being cooked while the mirepoix is being cooked.
Here’s a picture of the mirepoix done and the roux just about done.

When the roux is ready, let it cool for two minutes and then add six cups of stock, slowly to it using a wire whip.

Scrape the mirepoix into the stock pot and deglaze the pan with some stock, adding the deglazed liquid to the stock pot. Add the roux to the stock pot as well.

Simmer for another 5 – 6 hours, partially covered. Then taste. Should have about 1 ½ to 2 gallons of stock. 

If you like the taste, strain out all the solids and degrease. Then pour the liquid back into the stock pot and start boiling it down. You want to end up with 2 ½ to 3 cups. Do this by bringing it to a rolling boil, uncovered, and removing any scum that forms on the surface. When it is a good, thick liquid, remove from heat.
Degrease again. Here’s a picture of the final liquid being degreased.


I then pour this into small muffin tins and freeze. Then, remove from the muffin tins and store in a ball jar in the freezer. These will keep a long time. When needed for a sauce, just take one out of the freezer.