Friday, September 19, 2008

Mood Food #1 - Girls Night Out Mac 'N' Cheese

back in the day, my best girlfriend Jenn and i would meet up for drinks, dancing, and late-night food. we were each other's wingmen, not so much to pick up on guys, but more to look out for each other. if she wore a dress or skirt, then i would wear pants and vice versa, and we would always wear black, our makeup was always smoky eyes and red lipstick, and we would never smile; we were tough cookies, and we meant business when it was dance night. we would take turns buying drinks, talk about guys or our boyfriends, and just have fun.

when it was time to leave, it was most likely because we were hungry. eating before drinking and dancing was never a good idea, so we starved ourselves like good society girls until we needed to eat something to "soak up all that damned alcohol". we'd end up at the 24 hour diner, jewish deli, taco truck, or late-night brazilian restaurant. thinking back to all those nights, we always ordered something cheesy, greasy and meaty. we rationalized that we needed to eat something heavy to combat the alcohol and to ward off hangovers. i'm not sure if it worked, because i always slept through the hangover the next day, but i suppose it was just one of those perfectly convenient justifications for eating like pigs. some of the things we always ate were:


macaroni and cheese
chili cheese fries
NY steak mid-rare and over medium eggs with hash browns and plenty of tabasco
seafood pizza with clams, shrimp, lobster and pink sauce
matzo ball soup with lemon wedges on the side
chopped liver, onion, bacon and cheese sandwich, grilled with pickles on the side
danger dogs with everything
pink's spicy polish dog with chili, cheese, onions, mustard, bacon and tomatoes
toxic hell soft taco supremes with hot sauce
tommy's chili burgers
in-n-out double double meal #1 with raw onions, animal style burger AND fries
open faced hot turkey sandwich with extra gravy and mashed potatoes
mid-rare 1 lb burger with bacon, blue cheese, avocado, red onions and A-1 sauce
poutain
double-thick chocolate or espresso malts
anything breakfast, especially waffles with condensed milk and ice cream on top


yeah, we ate like pigs, and probably looked like pigs, all sweaty, bloated and gross from drinking and dancing, our once smoky eyes and red lips now reminiscent of Fellini-esque whores; classy, REAL classy.

that was many years ago, and we've grown up since. we recently had a girl's night out, and had dinner at my restaurant. I wore black slacks, black silk blouse, black crocodile d'orsay pumps, and Jenn wore a black pencil skirt, tight black sweater, and black pointy toe heels; smoky eyes and red lips in tow. we talked about work, our men, our frustrations, and how we should see each other more as we dined on some of the best fine dining seafood in the city. it was no where near the kind of girl's night out we'd had in the past; no weirdo european dudes trying to grind with us, no one asking if we wanted to be whipped, and no college guys trying to buy us drinks or even worse, talk to us. this was girl's night out, but all grown up.

so, in honor of girl's night out, i give my recipe for mac 'n' cheese. the beauty of this dish is that it can be made ahead of time, that way when you and your girlfriends get home you can just heat it up (or not) and eat.


GIRLS NIGHT OUT MAC 'N' CHEESE

1 16 oz package dry pasta (macaroni, penne, elbows, whatever)
4 - 6 oz each of grated sharp cheddar, pepper jack, gruyere, parmesan and blue cheese
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste
1.5 cups creme fraiche or sour cream
butter (to oil the pan)
1 qt of bechamel sauce
bread crumbs
chopped parsley


preheat oven to 350 F.

take the pasta and boil in salted water until half cooked. drain, drizzle with olive oil and set aside on a cookie sheet to ensure even cooling.

to make bechamel, take 1/2 cup each of butter and flour in a large sauce pan and cook together to make a roux (light golden paste). in another pot, simmer half a gallon of milk with onion and cloves to scalding. using a wisk, slowly pour the milk mixture into the large saucepan with the roux to incorporate everything. add half a raw onion with some cloves stuck into it, half a teaspoon of fresh grated nutmeg and let simmer on low heat to a nappe consistency (it should coat the back of a spoon and you should be able to draw a line through it). remember to wisk to get rid of lumps and prevent scorching on the bottom of pan. once finished, take off heat, but keep warm. if you have a chinois, pass it through to remove any smaller lumps.

take the pasta, cheeses (reserves some for sprinkling on top. depending if you like a thick gratin, this means to reserve more), creme fraiche/sour cream, cayenne, paprika, salt and pepper and mix together in large bowl. taste it and see if you need more salt or pepper. i like mine a little spicy, so you could even add some chili flakes.

take a casserole or baking dish (large enough to hold the pasta with room for bechamel and cheese on top) and butter the sides and bottom. take some of the breadcrumbs and sprinkle on the bottom. next, pour the pasta cheese mixture into the dish, then take the bechamel and pour over to cover the pasta. you'll want to give the dish a good smack on the countertop to make sure the bechamel has filled in any air pockets. take the remaining cheese and bread crumbs and sprinkle over the top.

you'll want to cook this for about 30 mins. afterwards, turn the oven to broil and keep an eye on it from this point out, as the cheese can burn quickly. you'll want a nice golden color from the cheese and breadcrumbs. it's okay if it gets a little burned in spots, just as long as the whole thing isn't burned.

take out of the oven and let it stand for at least ten minutes (this is so it stays together, otherwise, you should have just made fettucine alfredo). if you're stubborn, you'll end up burning your fingers and tongue tasting it right out of the oven. when ready to serve, sprinkle with parsley and scoop out portions with a large serving spoon. it's also good cold, broken off in chunks with your bare hands for breakfast.

enjoy,

-I

p.s. I MISS YOU, JENN!!!





2 comments:

Jenn Lim said...

Memorieeeeeesss!! Such fond ones... though I don't remember the chopped liver, unless it was pate. How I miss those mac daddy and cheese balls nights! We'll have to do the Dragonfly or something, and relive our mid-to-late-20s.

That recipe looks delectable. I'll have to make it soon. Or make Jon make it for me. :)

I MISS YOU TOO!!!!

Jenn Lim said...

Memorieeeeeesss!! Such fond ones... though I don't remember the chopped liver, unless it was pate. How I miss those mac daddy and cheese balls nights! We'll have to do the Dragonfly or something, and relive our mid-to-late-20s.

That recipe looks delectable. I'll have to make it soon. Or make Jon make it for me. :)

I MISS YOU TOO!!!!