Archive for December, 2011
For the perfect holiday comfort food, try James Beard award-winning chef Alex Young’s recipe for homemade mac ‘n cheese. While you might not have cheddar cheese on hand from Grafton Village Cheese Company like they do at Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where Young serves guests this rich pasta dish, but for something special you might want to look around for a locally produced cheddar cheese.
Here’s a few more ideas to add some pizzazz to your mac ‘n cheese: add bits of crisped bacon on top before serving and/or pour the mac ‘n cheese into a casserole dish, sprinkle with another 1 cup of shredded cheese and bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes or until the cheese on top is browned.
Prep + cook time: 25-35 minutes
1 lb. macaroni
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup diced onion
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 lb. grated raw milk cheddar cheese (Zingerman’s uses two-year-old raw milk cheddar from Grafton Village)
2 tsp. olive oil
Coarse sea salt
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons salt and the pasta and stir well. Cook for about 13 minutes (if using Martelli) or until the pasta is done. Drain it and set it aside.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter for the sauce in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat (be careful not to scorch the butter). Add the onion and bay leaf and saute until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.
- Remove the bay leaf. Add the flour and cook for a minute or so, stirring constantly.
- Slowly add the milk, a little at a time, stirring constantly to avoid lumping. When the flour and milk have been completely combined, stir in the cream. Keep the mixture at a gentle simmer (not at a high boil) until it thickens, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium. Stir in the mustard, cheddar cheese and salt. Simmer for 5 minutes and set aside.
- In a heavy bottom skillet, over medium-high heat, get the pan very hot. Add olive oil and, when it begins to smoke, add the cheese sauce and drained cooked noodles. Toss thoroughly and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until you have approximately 15% of the mixture golden brown.
- Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Remove from heat.
Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan, isn’t your typical burger joint. Take the menu—if you look at it online, you can click through ingredients to see exactly where they come from. The chili and cheese fries might be an iconic menu item, but here you’ll find that the cheese is 2-year-old raw milk made at the Grafton Village Cheese Company in Vermont. And the beef? It’s from Dexter. With an eye towards the best, freshest ingredients possible, Alex Young, a James Beard award-winning chef, has brought all-American food to a new level at this Ann Arbor restaurant.
Here Chef Young answers a few questions about his favorite ingredients and cooking experiences. I’ll be posting his recipe for mac ‘n cheese tomorrow.
What three ingredients do you always keep stocked in your pantry?
Bread, potatoes, and onions
Your favorite meal to make or serve?
The first meal I learned to make is still my favorite, spaghetti bolognese.
We all have a favorite indulgence, for a chef like you it must be something spectacular?
Milk & cookies in the middle of the night is my worst and a roasted leg of lamb for my birthday is my favorite.
What’s one of your worst cooking mistakes?
Setting light to my 18-foot barbecue pit (with the meat on it) 20 minutes before a huge barbecue dinner at the roadhouse.
There are so many great Michigan-made food products, what is your pick?
Peaches, apples, asparagus, morel mushrooms…but it’s our homegrown beef for me.
What do you suggest for first-timers to Zingerman’s Roadhouse? What menu item should they make sure to try?
Mac & cheese, the burgers, bbq ribs, fried chicken…
Nutella makes anything it touches creamier. And I’m still convincing myself that it’s somehow better for you than your average chocolate spread, what with all the ground hazelnuts in there. So when I was throwing together a homemade hot fudge sauce to dress up brownies I was serving to guests I figured mixing in a little hazelnut might make the sauce even better. Granted, it’s hard to mess up a hot fudge sauce, but the Nutella did exactly what I’d hoped–upped the richness of the flavor and texture of the hot fudge.
The best part? Well, besides having to do a little quality testing yourself on the sauce, that is. You can pour the melted sauce into containers to give to friends as gifts. As with the berry sauce (homemade gift idea #1), you might want to attach a couple recipes with the sauce, like the best brownies ever or even brownie waffles.
Nutella hot fudge
Prep time: 5 minutes
Servings: 1 cup (easy to double, triple)
1/2 cup dark chocolate (I use semi-sweet Ghirardelli)
1/2 cup half and half
2 tablespoons Nutella
- Place the chocolate and the half and half in a glass measuring cup.
- Heat at medium-high in the microwave for 90 seconds. Stir vigorously.
- Keep heating the sauce at 20 second intervals until the chocolate begins to melt.
- After stirring the chocolate until smooth, add in the Nutella and continue stirring.
- Cool slightly before pouring on brownies.
- The sauce can be kept in the fridge for up to a week (if it lasts that long!) and should be heated before serving.
BONUS: Nutella is offering a giveaway until 12/31. You can enter here.
Over the holidays, my mom would often give away jars of homemade raspberry jam. Now I fully admit I didn’t inherit my mom’s gift for gardening or canning (I’m working on both though, mom, promise!). Thankfully, though, I did pay attention when she was giving me cooking lessons.
So instead of raspberry jam, I came up with this berry sauce that you could pour into pretty glass jars (I’ve found cool ones at World Market) or tupperware and pass along to friends. You can even send along recipe ideas to go with the sauce. This week, I’ve topped yeasted waffles and brownies with this rich, tangy berry concoction and my kids have been raving: I couldn’t even see my 10 y-o’s waffle it was so covered in sauce!
(Based on Mark Bittman’s Fruit Sauce Method 2 from How to Cook Everything)
Prep time: 20 minutes
Servings: 3 cups
3 cups whole frozen strawberries (thawed or fresh)
2 cups frozen blueberries (thawed or fresh)
3 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
lemon or orange (optional)
balsamic or red vinegar (optional)
- Place the water, sugar, and butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat and cook until the mixture thickens and just barely become syrupy (about 4 minutes on my power burner).
- Pour the berries into the hot mixture and simmer until the berries start to break apart.
- Use a handheld immersion blender to liquify the berries. Alternatively, you can pour the sauce into a blender.
- Adjust the seasonings: I like my sauce tart so I added 1 teaspoon lemon zest and 1/2 teaspoon red raspberry vinegar. You might like adding orange zest or a bit of juice along with white balsamic (not regular) vinegar. Just make sure to add the juice and vinegar a little bit at a time, it’s just to add a hint of sourness and interest to the sauce.
- Cool to room temperature before serving. The sauce will thicken as it cools.
*Store the sauce in the refrigerator. Lasts a week or you can freeze extras!
Coming up Thursday: Homemade gift idea #2: Nutella hot fudge
Monday is virtual cookie swap day so check in for come tasty ideas!