Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mac n Cheese Confessional

Every once in a while, Renée and I cook without measuring or weighing or writing things down.  And we love it.  We glance at each other as we toss in a handfull of that, stick our fingers in and add another shake or two, and giggle.  Are we going to try to guess after the fact just how much my two pinches plus her three make in teaspoons?  Can we count by how many times the kids asked is it ready yet how long we baked that for?  Or is this just going to be the total freedom of no reporting, a kind of secret meal?  And if it turns out to taste really totally amazing, we get to either lament our lacadasicality or appreciate the ephemeral quality of culinary perfection.  But really, what we do on our own, off the computers and in the kitchen, is to re-approximate accidental wonders, and find again exactly what was so perfect not because we get the amounts and times exact, but because we capture again the combination of good sense, good luck, and good taste that make all freestyle cooking work.  It can only be passed on as suggestions.

Suggestions for Mac n Cheese

Renée bought the spaghetti squash to make spaghetti squash and meatballs, but then found it unappealing.  She passed it on to me.  I thought it would be great, but my son did not.  It sat on my counter for a few more weeks.  We were going to make mac n cheese.   If it works in spaghetti and meatballs, why not in mac n cheese?  Cut, seeded, and roasted for about an hour, it blended in easily and added a wonderful rich nutty quality.  Here's what it was blended into:
boiled pasta and a roux (melted butter, flour, and milk) with every kind of leftover grated cheese we had (gouda, cheddar, pepper jack, blue, brie, meunster, and a few others whose labels were missing) mixed in till it was the consistency of fondue, plus a few dashes of Tapatío (Mexican hot pepper sauce).  Then we layered the pasta mixture in a pan with two more layers of grated cheese: pasta mix, grated smoked gouda, pasta mix, grated aged cheddar.  And we baked it for about a half hour.