Updated 2014-09-28 12:14:50 ID=681:0

© 2014 The Romantic Table
©2008 The Romantic Table, Susan McGourty's Table Talk, a California Central Coast Lifestyle blog. 2011-06-09 16:33:16:80
©2008 The Romantic Table

Susan McGourty's Table Talk

Early Fall Food Cravings

Finally we're getting some typical early Fall weather! Foggy and cool in the mornings (which is great for exercising!) and warm afternoons with a nice breeze. This is the kind of weather I adore and feel very frisky! I have more ambition to do constructive things -plus a little more food cravings for warmer comfort-foods. Let me tell you about my latest craving.

Did you ever have a craving for warm-cheesy multidimensional tasting Macaroni and cheese? And I don't mean Kraft dinner!

Well I did the other day -and no, I didn't have a good recipe at hand, so I just started "winging-it!" Now don't get me wrong! I did NOT want to morph it into something that would end up being a pain in the neck to make and clean up after. So I tried to keep my wits about me!

For cheese, I primarily used a domestic Parmesan made by Sartori--It's the closest domestic Parmesan that we've ever found that's most like the imported Parmesan from Italy. Albertsons carries it.

But to give it a little more "soul" and really make it soar to delight was the additions of a combination of the Gruyere and sharp cheddar cheeses that I had on hand!

Because I am one who likes to do things a little differently, (I've always been " a difficult child!X!") I chose to use a penne pasta instead of an elbow. And of course I needed a good roux so I used my basic Balsamella recipe that I learned while at a cooking school in Bologna, Italy. That really helped make it even more delicious.

The first thing I did was cook the pasta a couple minutes less than the package directions and cooled it off immediately to stop the cooking process -I knew it would continue to cook during the baking process. While the pasta was boiling, I grated the cheeses. Then I really got to work!

My next step was to make the Balsamella. I started by heating a generous three cups of milk (I used 1%) over medium heat in a saucepan on the stove's pack-burner, while I melted a quarter-cup unsalted butter over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan on the front burner. When the butter was bubbling, I GRADUALLY whisked in the flour to prevent burning. I lowered the heat to low, and kept on whisking until the butter-flour mixture was light brown and nutty-smelling.

Then I started adding -very slowly!- the hot milk to the mixture, one ladle at a time, while vigorously whisking to prevent lumps. When the sauce was the texture I liked, I added first ground nutmeg (more soul!) and then the cheeses. Finally after all the cheeses were melted and blended together, I added the salt and pepper.

Next I added the hot cheese-sauce to the large pan with the very al dente pasta. After carefully stirring well, I transferred the cheese-pasta mixture into a oven-safe dish.

©2014 The Romantic Table, Macaroni and Cheese 2014-09-20 20:41:44:361
©2014 The Romantic Table

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese is worth the effort, and really not that hard to make!
To top it off, I added the mac and cheese's crowning glory -extra grated Parmesan over the top, followed by dry bread crumbs on top of the Parmesan. I finished by dotting the top with little pieces of butter to give it a nice appetizing looking baked finish as well as a delicious-mouth-watering crunch to the bite.

I baked it at 350 for about 45 minutes, watching it on and off to make sure the top wasn't browning too quickly. (If it had, I would have put a light sheet of aluminum foil over the top to prevent the top from burning.)

You probably are wondering by now, if my cooking-whim was worth it. Yes it was! -And it made a LOT even though I only used six ounces of pasta. It still could have served several! And it was so pretty! (And SO much better than the Kraft Dinner version!)

If you have a yearning for a dish, even if you don't have a recipe, just start "winging it" and use your stomach's urges, and a little common sense to guide you. Don't be afraid, this is not "rocket-science!"

Look out for my recipe for Mac and Cheese which I'll be uploading. Try doing YOUR thing with the recipe. Improvise your way through it to your own satisfaction! Experiment with some of your own favorite kinds of cheeses. Remember! Cooking should be FUN! And you'll be so proud of yourself!

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A tip from Sue!

An easier way to pound your meats and poultry

Been frustrated by plastic wrap that won't stay as you pound your meats? Save yourself some grief by using an extra plastic bag from your grocery store's meat or produce counter. Simply place the breast of meat inside flat between the top and bottom of the plastic bag, laying flat and pound away.