You know I don't really cook from a recipe right? I scan the list of ingredients, say "hmph" a few times when things aren't to my liking and then read the directions through and go with it. This is not because I am some incredible master chef, Oh no. This is because I am lazy. And tonight, it meant that when I was casually adding the cayenne pepper, I added a titch too much. You know, just enough so that sitting here 10 minutes after sampling a taste of what was supposed to be a nice, warm, soothing comfort-food dinner my lips are still burning. Honestly, my intentions were good. I was going to give my lazy version of this incredible butternut squash mac and cheese recipe that girlymae introduced me to. I'm sure her original is heaven itself, because up until today my lazygal's twist was pretty gosh darn delicious. But I've never made her original. Why? Because I am lazy. Also, very tired. So you know what? You're going to have to do the work tonight. I'll give you an updated recipe from girlymae and tell you my shortcuts, and then you're on your own, got it?
GIRLYMAE'S BUTTERNUT SQUASH MAC AND CHEESE
as made by your lazy, lazy blogger
1 butternut squash LAZY ALERT: I use frozen winter squash (about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 packages, and defrost in the microwave
1 pound elbow macaroni
4 Tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon dry mustard LAZY ALERT: I have no dry mustard, I use jar mustard
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg plus more for sprinkling
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper LAZY ALERT: Do NOT over cayenne your dish, no matter how tired and lazy you are.
1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 4 cups)
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock LAZY ALERT: I've never added the stock, maybe because the cooked winter squash has more liquid naturally than a real squash? I dunno.
1 slice of bread LAZY ALERT: I use bread crumbs from a can. About a half cup.
SKIP THIS IF YOU'RE LAZY!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Slice squash in half and discard seeds . Peel one of the squash halves and cut into 1-inch cubes. Spray the half and the chunks with cooking oil and sprinkle with a little nutmeg. Place the squash half, cut side down, on a baking sheet and scatter the squash chunks next to it in a single layer. Roast for 45 minutes until very tender.
While squash is cooking, make breadcrumbs by putting 1 slice of bread in the food processor and pulsing until it creates fine breadcrumbs. Set aside.
After removing squash from the oven, reduce the heat to 350.
When squash has cooled, set aside the chunks of squash. Peel skin off the squash half and discard. Puree squash half in food processor until it has a smooth consistency. Set aside.
START HERE IF YOU'RE LAZY, ALSO PREHEAT YOUR OVEN TO 350 SINCE YOU SKIPPED IT.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt generously. Boil pasta to al dente - about 6 minutes. Drain pasta and set aside.
Melt 3 Tablespoons butter (set aside 1 Tablespoon) and slowly stir in the 1/3 cup of flour to form a paste.
Off heat, SLOWLY whisk in 1 1/2 cups of milk. Return to medium low heat until sauce fully blends and thickens.
Add pureed squash to the thickened sauce.
Add mustard, salt, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper. Stir in 3 1/2 cups of cheese (set aside 1/2 cup for the topping) and 1 cup of stock, alternating cheese and stock by cupfuls. Taste sauce, adjust seasonings if needed.
Combine pasta, squash chunks, and cheese sauce in a large casserole dish, toss to coat evenly.
Melt the remaining Tablespoon of butter and blend with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese and the breadcrumbs to form topping. Sprinkle mixture over the macaroni.
Place macaroni uncovered in a 350 degree oven until cheese sauce is bubbling and breadcrumb topping is lightly browned, about 20 minutes.
(Serves 8, leftovers freeze well if you're so inclined)