Lent is supposed to be a time of austerity. I'm usually pretty big on doing without. Over the years, I've given up caffeine, diet drinks, shopping, sweets in all forms; really any number of bad vices, fun pastimes or delicious indulgences. This year I'm giving up sloth (no not this kind of sloth, the kind where you're really lazy and never exercise) which means I've sort of hit the double negative of going without. If I do without doing nothing, I must be doing something, right?
And a lucky thing that is too, because this macaroni and cheese has to be the most decadent meatless dish I've ever served up on a Lenten Friday. It is so creamy and cheesy and rich and delicious, but it also uses up all the little bits of leftover cheese lurking in your cheese drawer. And come on, how slothful can you be if you're efficient enough that use each morsel of food in you fridge, letting none go to waste?
Right. It's a really good thing I'll be getting plenty of exercise.
DELICIOUS MIXED UP MACARONI AND CHEESE
Evidently Sara Moulton reads my mind, because I ended up watching this episode the day I planned this dinner. Kismet I say.
1 lb pasta, I used elbows, but little shells are cute too
6 T butter
1 1/2 C milk
4 T flour
1 T Worcestershire sauce
4-5 drops hot sauce
1 T dijon mustard
plenty of cheese - I used monterey jack, cheddar and blue cheese (incidentally, this would be a great way to hide blue cheese if you have some but your family is not into it). Sara suggested an 8-12 oz guideline. I totally eyeballed it.
For optional topping: 1 T butter, 1/4 C panko breadcrumbs, olive oil, about 8 cherry tomatoes per person
Put the water for the pasta on to boil, when ready cook according to the directions on the package. While the pasta is cooking, get the sauce ready. In a large pot, melt the butter on medium heat. Mix in the flour to make a roux, cook for 3-4 minutes while stirring until the butter and flour are all mixed together. Remove from heat and add the milk and whisk well to incorporate. Add the Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce and mustard. Return to the heat (now on low) and slowly add the cheese. Hard cheese should be shredded, things like blue cheese or goat cheese you can crumble in. Stir as you go. You want the cheese to slowly melt into the the milk. When it's all melted and the pasta is cooked and drained you can mix the sauce and the pasta. At this point taste it and decide if it needs salt and pepper. Mine didn't need salt because of the cheeses I used.
The slow cooked cherry tomatoes are heaven and provide a sharp and sweet balance to the richness of the cheese. I put them on a foil covered tray, tossed them in a bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and stuck them in a 300 F oven for about 40 minutes. Delicious.
The panko breadcrumbs give a nice crunch. Heat up the tablespoon of butter in a pan, toss in the breadcrumbs until golden and sprinkle over the top.