Tag Archives: recipes

Blue Ribbon Macaroni and Cheese

28 Feb

 

Did you think Lollipop Tuesdays had died?

They haven’t.  If you’re confused about why Lollipop Tuesdays aren’t every Tuesday anymore (or for that matter, why I don’t post every day), or you don’t even know what a Lollipop Tuesday is, you should probably check out the handy dandy “What’s Lollipop Tuesday?” header at the top of this page.  Now relax and strap in.  Because this week I entered a recipe contest.

As a homegrown mountain gal from Central Pennsyltucky, I felt like even though I’d never entered a cooking contest before, I could at least avoid embarrassing myself.  After all, when you’re raised in the roots cooking is just one part of a three-part formula for the perfect wife that some crazy hermit made up decades ago and is still being widely circulated in small towns with forks in roads: cooking, cleaning, baby-raisin’.  Hunting is optional.  I only ever really took to the cooking.

It also just so happened that the recipe contest was for Macaroni and Cheese, which was convenient since I just had my own Jackie Blog hunt for the Best Macaroni and Cheese in the Universe in December.  So I threw together my favorite parts of my favorite recipes and came up with a Jackie Blog concoction of cheesy awesomey goodness.

I wasn’t really sure what the rules were.  I went online and registered but I didn’t really get anything saying it was received and no one ever sent me criteria.  I didn’t even know what the prizes were.  I just knew that I had to cook up a vat of smokin’ hot mac and smack and take it to the venue by 1pm.  So I designated Dave my Transportation Manager, who threw me and my casserole in the car at 12:40pm and dropped us off while he parked.  With only 5 minutes until the entry deadline, I willed the elevator down with my mind, scurried into the judging room and plopped my casserole down: Entry #11.   It was precisely 1:00pm.

We then proceeded to wait ten full minutes for any late arrivals.    My tale of down-to-the-wire shenanigans weren’t quite as epic as I’d hoped.

Finally, it was time to begin.  We met the judges: 2 owners of 2 prominent food businesses in the city and 1 genuine lover of pasta smothered in cheese.  We also heard the judging criteria: appearance, taste, and-I-have-no-idea-what-else-because-I-was-stuck-on-appearance.

Appearance.

How could I have watched Iron Chef so many times and not have anticipated this as a determining factor?  I should have had a custom-built shelf above my dish that had three beautifully-prepared plates with perfect Macaroni and Cheese portions specifically for the judges.  They should have had firecrackers shooting out of them and have some sort of beautiful font displaying the name of my creation.

But I didn’t.  In fact, I didn’t even remember to bring a serving spoon.   And as my eyes stretched down the rows of the competitors, I saw beautiful thermal Pampered Chef totes, shiny and new casserole dishes that had fancy lids, and classic foil holders with wired burners beneath them.

I had my mother’s hand-me-down casserole dish that she let me borrow once when I was in college and I never returned.

At first I was nervous.  I didn’t consider appearance at all.  And what were the judges supposed to do without a serving spoon: paw it out of the cheesy vat with their bare mits?  Yes.  I decided yes they would.  In fact, I decided that casseroles should only be served in secondhand stolen dishes and reminded myself that I was there to write a blog post, not to impress judges.

Still, I was nervous.  I know this because when the first judge approached my dish and began to fish out a taste of the pasta with her pathetic plastic spoon, I winced as she lost the battle to the broiled parmesan and bread crumb finish, which was settled happily on the top of my concoction.  I grabbed Dave’s arm and clenched it hard as a huge piece of parmesan hung on her spoon and she had to contort her tongue to lap it into her hungry mouth.  I analyzed every nod, every dart of the eyes, every stroke of the pencil on paper.

I had lost.  I surely had  lost.

Dave laughed as my sanity slowly unraveled before him and tried to distract me with Bejeweled on his iPad.  I was sure to pause the game each time a judge approached my dish.   When the judges were finished testing, the audience was allowed to serve themselves buffet style.  I watched to see who took bites of mine and was disappointed when I saw much of my dish remained by the time I reached it.  I returned to my seat and saw a flyer that had been placed in my absence: it was an advertisement for a catering company.

…I was competing against catering companies?

I had talked myself into a deep, dark loss when one fellow jumped up and B-lined to my dish to get himself a hefty helping of seconds.  I was so happy I almost squealed like a freshly born piglet.  I had my victory: someone wanted seconds.  I told myself perhaps I would jest for third place.  That’s when the judges returned and announced there was a tie for first and second and they needed to retaste the top dishes to determine the tie-breaker.   The host of the event promptly walked over and grabbed my mother’s hand-me-down dish.

I freaked.

I freaked so hard that I had little tiny tears in my eyes.  I tried to hold back the excitement from my body but I only bottled it up and shot it out of my eyes like laser beams at poor supportive Dave, who feared me a serial killer and tried to coax the crazy out of my pupils.  It was me versus the Pampered Chef Super Awesome Casserole Tote.  I was so thrilled to have third place locked up.

After what felt like hours of the judges lobbing around more cheesy goodness in their mouths, a winner had finally been determined.

It was me.

I was so surprised to be announced first place that I let out a sort of strange yip in front of everyone and tried to tone it down for a casual walk up to the front to claim my winnings: a gift card and a certificate, deeming my recipe officially award-winning.  The judges looked pleased with the cheesiness I bestowed upon them and the audience all got in line to finish up what was left of casserole #11.

I waited for everyone to get their fill, truly amazed that I had just shown up for a Lollipop Tuesday and taken the top prize from a room full of hopefuls.  I felt like an imposter.  If only they knew it was all for a post.

On the way out of the venue, I called my mom to thank her for raising me right and Dave got a hot dog at the stand outside.  The fella inside asked who won and I said I did.   He asked me what the story was behind it and I explained Lollipop Tuesdays to him and that I run a blog but it’s nowhere close to a food blog.  He seemed pleasantly surprised and for indulging me and acting like he would tune in to read, I tipped him a dollar on the hot dog.

Sometimes you have to pay for publicity.

That night I sat around basking in the phrase “Award Winning”.   I referred to myself as an award-winning cook and my macaroni and cheese as a first-place dish.  And just then I remembered telling my coworkers I was entering a recipe contest that weekend and being laughed at by someone.  They made a joke about Kraft mac and cheese and said I was too young to cook well. I told her she didn’t know the power of being raised in the sticks.

And just then, I took out  my phone to send a proper foot-in-mouth-inducing text.

“Boo yah.”

Signed, First Place Chef. 

Before you ask, here’s the recipe.  Thanks to thesinglecell, who provided most of the recipe for thejackieblog recipe contest:
 
1/2 lb pasta of your choice, cooked and drained
2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons dry mustard
5 oz. sharp cheddar, shredded
3 oz. Raclette, cubed
1/4c. Parmesan, grated (plus some for sprinkling)
1 3/4c. heavy cream
3/4c. milk
Paprika for sprinkling
Cinnamon for sprinkling
1 cup white bread crumbs cut into 1/2 in. squares
 
Preheat oven to 375. Spray a 9×9″ pan (preferably a hand-me-down) with cooking spray. Pour al dente, drained pasta into 9×9″ pan. Melt 1tbs butter and pour over bread crumbs.  Set aside.  Blend flour, mustard and salt together in a small bowl. In a saucepan over medium-low heat, melt 1tbs butter. Add flour, salt and mustard and stir until blended. Add milk and cream, stirring or whisking until dry ingredients are dissolved and liquid is hot, but not boiling. Add Raclette, stirring/whisking occasionally until cheese melts. Repeat for cheddar and Parmesan, stirring/whisking often so the cheese doesn’t stick to the bottom and burn.  Sprinkle in cinnamon.
 
Pour cheese sauce over pasta; add bread crumbs and sprinkle with Parmesan and paprika and bake at 375 for 25 minutes. Then broil until top is golden.
 
Eat with bare hands.

The Great Macaroni and Cheese Adventure

9 Oct

Okay listen.  I need your help.

I am trying desperately to find the most fantastic recipe for macaroni and cheese possible.

Possible.  Do you understand?

I keep trying recipe after recipe and each casserole dish is a big batch of sorrow.  I’m starting to doubt my ability as a homemaker and as an American.  After all, vats of bubbling cheese and white, nutritionless pasta is what we rock.  And we rock it hard.   So where has my patriotism gone?

How can I make this happen?  I keep scouring the Internet for recipes and trying them.  I take them from sites with really fantastic food porn.

You know what I’m talking about – food porn.  Blown up images of things melting or bubbling or flaking just perfectly.   It’s sexy.  It’s almost raunchy.  And you’re huddled in a quiet corner as you fantasize about the possibilities that a cinnamon the size of your head could bring to your life.  Or if stuffing a cookie with your favorite candy bar really does make it taste twice as good.

Mmmm Food Porn.

Why should you help me find the most amazing macaroni and cheese recipe ever? You should do it because a truly good macaroni and cheese is a kind of delicious that everyone should share.  You should do it because I’ll blog about the one that truly rocks my world and I’ll take fantastic food porn pictures of it and link to your site or your cause or a picture of your dog – whatever you have that may make use of linking.

You should do it because I’ll give you a $25 Visa Gift Card.

No really – I will.  That’s how badly I want a good mac and cheese recipe.  And you know I’m good for my word.  Remember my grand TheJackieBlog t-shirt raffle?  Those folks got their shirts.  Here’s proof.   Doesn’t the idea of $25 American dollars make you want to scour the Internet and your recipe books for the best of the best? 

So give me everything you’ve got – macaroni tips, macaroni recipes, macaroni sites – I’ll take it all.  And I’ll labor over every word and ingredient until I am a Macaroni and Cheese Master.  I’ll cook it all  up like a mad scientist and when I’m done I’ll share with everyone the best recipe of all and I’ll give a $25 Visa Gift Card to the one who submitted the winning recipe.  Tell your friends. 

But only the ones who can cook. 

Excuse Me Sir, Do You Have Any Bangers?

11 Jan

Hey guess what? It’s Lollipop Tuesday! In case you missed the first installment of the Lollipop Tuesday series, you can catch up on the deal here.

So today’s new adventure?  Bangers ‘n’ Mash.  That’s right: Bangers ‘n’ Mash – a classy dish for a classy dame.  With pictures!

Last night, trapped indoors by an incredibly inconvenient bacterial infection monster (let’s call him Gary), I resorted to my two brand spankin’ new cookbooks I got for Christmas.  I handed them over to Dave and told him to pick something ridiculous.  For some reason, he kept picking things that had “Big Beef” in the title.  Like I said… he’s a man’s man.

  After repeating the recipe for “Big Beef Balls” with Something-or-Other and giggling, he finally pointed out the winner: Rachael Ray’s recipe for “Fancypants Bangers ‘n’ Mash” from her “365: No Repeats” book (I couldn’t help myself). It just so happens that yesterday at noon, the teaser was released for the short film I directed this summer, Code Monkey.  Given that it features a song called “Fancypants,” I couldn’t help but make the big sausage and potato mess in celebration.  (Check out the teaser here if you just can’t live with the curiosity).

I sent Dave to the store for the necessitites and prepped the kitchen.   In the duration of his absence, he managed to call me 3 separate times with very specific questions regarding my needs.  Turns out “bangers” isn’t really an American term.  Apparently it’s not the kind of thing you can just walk into a grocery store and ask for.  Not even the butcher knew what the hell he was talking about.

I googled it and found that “bangers” is a term for “British bangers” and is just a type of white sausage. 

Mmm... Bubbling Pork Butt

After telling Dave I had no idea and just get something that had pig butt in it, he came home to find that Rachael Ray had made a note in the side comments that any sort of sausage would do.

Let it be known: there are times in this world when reading a book is actually more efficient than googling something.

And so Dave returned with the goods I began my journey into the sloppy world of onions, mashed potatoes, and pig butt.  Delicious.

Gary, the bacterial infection monster, kept me lightheaded the entire time and zapped my sense of taste and smell.  I had to enlist two hungry boys for their expert opinions and actually got some pretty rave reviews.

Final Analysis:  Fancypants Bangers ‘n’ Mash: a stupid name for a recipe that tastes far better than it looks.

 

Thanks to this cool cat taking the time to lay it out on her recipesfromkari blog,  you can check out Rachael Ray’s Bangers ‘n’ Mash here and give it a go yourself.   I recommend playing with the pig butt before cooking it.  It’s mushy and mysterious and will occupy at least three solid minutes of your time.
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