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A Side Dish for the Kids (and Adults Too) – Alton Brown’s Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Let me preface this post by saying I do not like macaroni and cheese. I don’t eat pasta, I don’t eat cheese, so this dish really does nothing for me personally. That being said, it’s always a great idea to have something on the table that you know little ones are going to eat up, and macaroni and cheese always seems to be one of those dishes no matter what the occasion. Why not give the kids something special and offer this one up for them? Also, most adults I know love the stuff as well, so the big batch that this recipe makes might actually be just the answer you need for everyone and you may not even have that much left. According to Alton Brown, this is the most downloaded recipe of all-time at Food Network, so we had to give it a try to see what it was all about.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

8 ounces elbow macaroni

1 tablespoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon powdered mustard

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 cup finely diced onion

1 bay leaf

3 cups whole milk

1 egg

12 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded, divided

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Pepper

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

3 tablespoons butter, melted

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. For the pasta, In a 4-quart pot, cover the macaroni and salt with 1 inch of cold water. Bring the water to a boil over medium heat. When the pasta comes to a boil, begin testing it for doneness. Cook the pasta until it is al dente. Drain the pasta in a colander and rinse it with cold water to stop the cooking.

For the cheese sauce, while the pasta is cooking, melt the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Once the butter stops bubbling, whisk in the flour and cook until the mixture is pale blonde, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Add the mustard, paprika, onion and bay leaf and whisk to combine. Add the milk, whisking continually for 7 to 8 minutes or until the mixture is slightly thickened. Remove the saucepan from the heat and discard the bay leaf.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg. Add a few ounces of the milk mixture to the egg and whisk it to combine. Add another few ounces of the milk mixture to the egg and thoroughly combine. Then add the egg mixture back to the milk mixture and whisk vigorously. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese and season well with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour it into a 4-quart casserole dish. Top the macaroni with the remaining cheese. Toss the breadcrumbs with the melted to butter to coat the crumbs. Sprinkle the macaroni with the breadcrumb mixture in an even layer.

Bake the macaroni and cheese for 30 minutes. Remove it from the oven and allow it to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

As I said, I don’t like it, so I didn’t try it. That task was left to my macaroni and cheese experts, Michelle and Sean, who both adore the meal. They both liked the added texture you got from the breadcrumbs and both really enjoyed the cheese sauce. Their only critique is that they felt the onion was a little too overpowering in the dish. I think for the next go round on this one, we’ll be leaving the onion out of the equation all together. If you like the flavor yourself, and I am sure many people do, by all means leave it in. I think it’s a great idea to have this on your Thanksgiving menu so it gives something a little different to eat for everyone and maybe appeals to the finicky kids who may not eat anything else. It’s certainly worth a try.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for some more recipes. I do have one more stuffing recipe to share and then some ideas for leftovers, including a turkey pot pie and some turkey soup. I already made about 12 cups of stock from the turkeys I have used over the past week or so, so there are plenty of soup options. Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on November 26, 2013 in Cooking, Dinner, Holidays, One Pot Meals, Pasta, Vegetarian

 

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How About An Elegant Thanksgiving Side? Winter Squash Bowls

While I did not make this side dish with the turkey I made recently, it is one that would go well with your Thanksgiving meal and look really nice on the table. Any type of winter squash would work well for Thanksgiving or any Fall or winter meal, and doing one like this can make a Sunday dinner look nice or your holiday table. I got this recipe from Bon Appetit and you really have your choice of what type of winter squash you want to use, so use what you like best and what is most available in your area.

Winter Squash Bowl

1 medium butternut squash ( about 1 1/2 pounds)

5 small winter squash (about 1 pound each; such as acorn squash, carnival, delicata or sugar pumpkins), divided

4 1/2 teaspoons olive oil, divided

3 teaspoons pure maple syrup, divided

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon butter, room temperature

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut the butternut squash in half crosswise. Set the top half of the butternut squash aside. Remove the seeds and strings from the bottom half of the butternut squash and discard them. Place the bottom half of the butternut squash on 1 baking sheet. Remove the caps from 3 of the small squash by cutting a circle 1 inch around the stems with a small serrated knife (just like you were carving a pumpkin). Slice off and discard the strings from the bottom sides of the caps. Scoop out the seeds and strings from the centers of the squash and discard.

Cut a thin slice off the bottom of the 3 hollowed-out small squash so the squash will sit evenly on a flat surface; place (with the caps on) the squash on a baking sheet along with the bottom of the butternut squash. Drizzle the insides of the squash with 1/4 teaspoon of olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon of maple syrup. Season the cavities with salt and pepper. Bake the squash until a paring knife inserted into the squash meets no resistance, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, remove the stems from the remaining 2 small squash and cut the squash in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and strings from the small squash and the top half of the butternut squash and discard. Peel and chop the squash into 1/4-inch pieces and place them in a large bowl. Add the remaining 4 1/4 teaspoons of olive oil and toss to coat them well. Season the squash pieces with salt and pepper. Spread the squash pieces in a single layer on the remaining baking sheet and bake, stirring once, until the squash is tender, about 30 minutes. Transfer the baked squash to a large bowl and toss it with the remaining 2 3/4 teaspoons of maple syrup, the butter and the thyme leaves. Divide the baked squash among the hollowed-out butternut and small squash and serve warm or at room temperature.

I did change this recipe up just slightly. Since I was making this for less people, I did not need to use all this squash. What I actually did since I had a very large butternut squash is cut it into 3 sections, hollow out part of it, and used 2 sections of the butternut squash and one acorn squash to fill with the remaining squash. I have to say the squash I had was pretty solid and did have a lot of seeds, so I had to do some hollowing out on my own, which took a little work, but it was worth it. The squash was wonderfully roasted and tender and had great flavor from the maple syrup. It also looked very nice in the squash bowls itself. I think you could easily do this with just one squash of any size if you wanted something smaller and elegant for a weeknight meal.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for some more recipes. I have a pork chop casserole recipe I just tried, some homemade french bread, a great turkey pot pie for your turkey leftovers, another turkey recipe, chicken and waffles and much more to come so stay tuned. Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on November 19, 2013 in Cooking, Dinner, Holidays, Vegetables, Vegetarian

 

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