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Friday, February 22, 2013

It's Lent. Meatless Fridays. Welsh Rarebit.

I go old-school. I'm a good Catholic boy so on Ash Wednesday I turn my thoughts and heart to a quiet and deep contemplation of what it is to be one of God's creations. That, and I have many-many fond memories of my Dad making this cheesy, savory dish for our meatless Fridays.
 A true gem among all the rubbish that is English cuisine. GOD that hurt to type. I mean really, English??? Yes really. Here's a story.
 The legend is that this dish originated among the servants of the English manor-houses during the 16th and 17th centuries. Day-old bread and dry, sharp English Cheddar were combined with beer, mustard and herbs and here we are today with this lovely plate of scrumptiousness. There is no reason or rhyme to the word "rarebit" it seems to be a dig against the Welsh servants but as to it's meaning I gather nobody knows.
 It's an open-faced grilled-cheese sandwich with a whisk of beer and mustard. I dare you to hate it. I double-dog dare you. I triple-dog....heck, never mind. Here we go.

  Chef Nick Does Welsh Rarebit. No this isn't the promised rabbit dish, that's next month


A loaf of good and crusty day-old bread. Sliced thick on the bias.
1 English beer, 12 oz. The bulk produced American crap just won't do as they are made from gnat piss. Use a micro-brewed Ale or a good English Ale like Newcastle.
1 TB dry mustard
1 1/2 cup of good sharp Cheddar, shredded (for 2 NTYC points, tell me where Cheddar gets it's color from, no google)
3 TB butter
1 TB flour
1/2 cup warm milk
1 splash of Worcestershire (I'm going to abbreviate this as WS for the rest of the day, it's too hard to spell ok?)
1 good pinch of dried ground Paprika
1 good pinch Cayenne Pepper
fresh ground Black-Pepper
1 egg yolk, fresh and lightly whisked
some chopped Parsley about a TB or so
fresh Chives, snipped. That's our garnish
snipped? yessir
and just for us Catholics maybe some smoked Salmon.
To make this more a non-Lenten dish maybe some smoked Ham.

grill pan
sauce pan
Alongside any cruciferous vegetable like Broccoli, Cauliflower, or just a cold salad of baby-greens or Watercress. Prepare anyway you like. I'm roasting mine in butter. Yes, butter.

This is old territory, we've seen this sauce sorta before. It's a lot like Bechamel but it's beer based. Isn't that wonderful? Also pay attention to the ratio for the Roux.

Melt the butter in a largish deep pot
 once all melted whisk in the flour to make a Roux

 add the spices

Whisk in the milk.

Drop down to medium heat. Add the beer.

Keep whisking and you will notice a gentle thickening. Drop your heat to lower-medium. Take up a small amount of the sauce and whisk it gently into your egg-yolk. This is called tempering. Whisk that back into the rest, this will make a nice shiny and thick base.

Add your cheese and a dash of WS. Once all the cheese is melted add the Parsley.
That's it really.

You got that bread sliced thick right?

Brush both sides with melted butter and place on a hot grill-pan. Flip over and toast the other side and set aside. For a little bit extra I added a small piece of smoked Salmon on top the bread. Eating fish on Fridays during Lent is an old tradition. If you want to hear how that came about just send me a message.

Cover the bread slices with the sauce

and garnish with a sprinkle of Chives. This is a wonderfully satisfying and savory dish wether you're celebrating Lent or not. From prep to plate the whole thing takes maybe an hour. You got that kinda time, I know you do.

cooking poor, eating rich
get your grub on

Friday, February 8, 2013

Lactose Intolerance be danged. Mac-n-cheese.

There's a pill for that anyway.

 Here's the thing. I was chattin' away with an old buddy of mine when he let slip that he still likes the instant-crappy evil blue box version of mac-n-cheese. Full of orangey (new word?) toxic death. After some mocking it occurred to me that HECK I make a pretty good mac-n-cheese. Perfect dish for this time of year. On the other hand, I am really really really lactose intolerant. That's a new thing for me, time was I could eat my weight in dairy and then I hit 40 and it all went to heck. I don't care, it hasn't stopped me. The bloating is totally worth it.

 I also got some terrific looking Brussels Sprouts from the market. That's the side for the day.

Sure, this may sound like the fussy-chef version but heck if you want the best, use the best. The cool thing about Mac-n-cheese is how easy and variable it is. You can add or subtract any number of ingredients. As long as the basic formula is met, everything else is fair game.

Today I've got some Tomatoes from the garden, some Chipotle, one Shallot and a head of Roasted Garlic. I'll be using my favorite combination of cheeses, Gruyere and aged White Cheddar. If you've got a favorite combo, then by all means.

First things first though. I trimmed up the Sprouts, tossed with oil, salted and peppered added some fresh Rosemary and garlic powder. Wrapped loosely in foil and threw them on the grill.

the only way to make Brussels Sprouts

Also, sliced the tops off the head of garlic, drizzled with a little oil,

wrapped that up and it joined the Sprouts.

 In a little bit (40 minutes or so at 400) pulled 'em off. Done.

Let the garlic head cool before squeezing out all the love. I didn't and now I've burnt my fingers. I used about 1 TB and reserved the rest for another day.

CHEF NICK'S MAC-N-CHEESE: geesh finally

 1/2 pound large pasta (I used Cellentani) Par-cooked
2 cups whole milk, heated
1/2 stick butter (yes, butter)
equal amount White Flour
1 cup of shredded cheese. Again I use Gruyere and aged White Cheddar so half-half
big pinch of Black Pepper

in addition
1 minced Shallot
1 chopped up Chipotle
some large diced fresh Tomato
1 TB roasted Garlic

For the top
1 cup bread-crumbs
some grated either Parmesan or Romano cheese
melted butter
mix those together, easy

mmmm butter

Of course we cook the noodles before-hand. I like the ones that look like piggy tails. They hold the sauce beautifully. Drain and set aside.

Here's a thing. The sauce we are about to make is classic Mornay. It's French. Remember that the next time you make fun of France. It starts as Bechamel, we add cheese. Voila

Is there anything better than melted Butter? No, not really. 
In a big deep pot, melt the butter over high heat. Drop to medium and add the minced Shallot. 
Toss for a bit and add the Flour. Stir around until it stops smelling starchy. 

That's called a ROUX. Add the milk a little at a time. If you heat the milk like say, in the micro-wave you get less lumps. Use a whisk and keep going. 


If you can drag across the back of the spoon with your finger it's good. We call that NAPE. 


Season with salt and pepper. Add the Chipotle and Garlic. Stir. 

Add the cheese. Stir again. 

Turn off the heat. Keep whisking until everything comes together into a cheesy smooth pot of goodness. Add the noodles.

 Using a spatula toss them together, next add the Tomatoes. let them get to know each other. 

Whisper sweet words into the pot. Say "I love you." and "My Momma loves you." 
 "You know who doesn't love you??? All the jack-hats who think that the crap in that blue box is edible" Sean? 
Put the cover on the pot and put into a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. 
Take out and un-cover. Top with the bread-crumb stuff and put it back in the oven to brown on top (uncovered). This took maybe another 10-15 minutes for me. Keep an eye on it. Pull it out. 
glows like the sun

YOU let the people behind the blue box tell you that their orange crap was the real deal.
I'm here to tell you that you can do better. Yes you can. Today we win. 
 Here's the thing. Macaroni and Cheese starts with maybe five ingredients. The blue box folks added 20 on top of that. I call bullshit. 

Cooking poor, eating rich
get your grub on