Friday, October 17, 2008

Recipes from the Twit Army Mess Hall - Mac & Cheese with crunchy topping & mix ins

This is my own take on the classic James Beard recipe for Mac & Cheese

Finished Macaroni & Cheese with browned crust

8 oz. (usually 1/2 a box) of a curly type pasta like rotini or fuselli
1 lb of sharp cheddar (sharper the better) corsely grated
2 c. milk
1/4 c. flour
6 tbl. butter
1/2 c heavy cream (not half & half or lite cream) (Yes, this is a cholesterol festival)
Lousiana style hot sauce to taste (not Mexican style)
Pepper to taste
2 c. panko (you can use toasted bread crumbs but it won't be as crunchy)
Mix ins - listed at the end since they are optional


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the pasta al dente, remember it will cook more in the oven. Drain & set aside.

Melt 1/2 (4 tbls) of the butter and mix with the panko, set aside to cool to room temperature.

Warm the milk in a sauce pan. In another pan melt the rest of the butter and add the flour, stir until the butter foams & the roux is a light brown (otherwise the sauce will taste chalky). Add the milk and stir until the lumps are gone and the sauce is smooth. Add 3/4 lb of the cheese and stir until melted. Add hot sauce & pepper to taste, don't worry the sauce won't make it spicy but will prevent the cheese sauce from becoming bland. Simmer for about 5 - 10 minutes to blend, add the cream and set aside off the heat.

Mix the buttered panko with the rest of the grated cheese.

Put the pasta in an oven safe pan, I use a 9 x 13 and add any mix ins. Pour over the cheese sauce & stir well to blend. Cover the mixture with the panko crumbs and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the dish is bubbling and the panko is browned and crunchy with melted cheese.

Mix in options. You can use any or all of these, just adjust the pan size accordingly.

1 - 1.5 cups of any cooked meat such as tuna or chicken
1 - 1.5 cups of raw shrimp (not cooked or the additional time in the oven will turn them rubbery)

1 - 1.5 cups of any vegis (I'll use broccoli, pearl onions, snow peas or sugar snaps, you could try peas but I don't like 'little bits' in my mac & cheese. Frozen is fine but let them thaw & drain off the excess moisture. High moisture vegis like bell peppers just seem to go to pieces in a dish like this)
Asparagus spears - They get mushy if cooked in so I put them on top of the panko crust and sprinkle on a little extra cheese to lightly cover. That way they stay firm

Serves 4 -6 depending on the amount of mix ins you add. If you want to make this for a pot luck, get it ready to the point of adding the panko and they keep it cold. One hr before serving, take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Put on the panko & bake (If you add the panko ahead of time it will get soggy and you won't have the crunchy crust)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Recipes from the Twit Army Mess Hall - Shepherd's Pie

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1.5 c. pearl onions, peeled, if you can't find them use 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 c. baby carrots cut into about thirds or use large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 pound lamb trimmed of fat and cut into pieces about the size of a pencil eraser (or substitute ground lamb if you're 'lazy' but I don't think it tastes as good)
1 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon chopped fresh or 1 tbl. dry rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
1 cup frozen peas
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup milk (any fat content)
Kosher salt to taste

Preheat oven to 375°F.
In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat the oil, then add the onion, carrot, and meat. Cook until browned, 8 to 10 minutes.
Drain the fat and add the broth, tomato paste, and herbs. Simmer until the juices thicken, about 10 minutes, then add the peas.
Pour the mixture into a 1 1/2-quart baking dish; set aside. You can also just cook the meat & vegis in an oven safe pan and save yourself the cleanup of a second pan.
Bring the potatoes to a boil in salted water. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes; drain.
Mash the potatoes with the butter, milk, and salt. Don't make them too smooth but you don't want large lumps.
Spread them over the meat mixture, then crosshatch the top with a fork.
Bake until golden, 30 to 35 minutes. If it's not browned at this point run it under a heated broiler for about 3 minutes to finish browning.

Serves 4.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Recipes from the Twit Army Mess Hall - Chicken Stuffed with Almonds & Olives

4 boneless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup whole almonds with skins
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Pat chicken , Stuff the cavity where the bone was with 1 1/2 teaspoons olives, then season with salt and pepper and reroll the thigh (secure with toothpicks if necessary but I normally don't.
Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides, then toast almonds, stirring often, until a few shades darker, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a cutting board to cool (do not clean skillet).
Increase heat to moderately high, then add chicken to butter remaining in skillet and sprinkle with remaining olives. Sauté chicken browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Turn chicken breasts over and cook, covered, over moderate heat until just cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes more, then transfer with tongs to plates.
While chicken is cooking, chop almonds.
Add remaining tablespoon butter and 3 tablespoons water to skillet and heat, stirring, until butter is melted. Stir in almonds, parsley, and pepper to taste. Spoon sauce over chicken.

Serves 4