Tuesday, February 9, 2010

An Evening with Friends (RECIPE: Mac'n Cheese Stuffed Mushroom Caps)

Michael is home for good from his deployment...which means celebration eating.  This translates to liberal use of bacon, butter, cheese, and elastic banded pants.  I've included all in the following recipe.  We had our close friends Anthony and Nicole over for some cocktails, scallops and this crazy concoction outlined below.  My inspiration is drawn from a similar dish I had at Patrick M's house.  I've tweaked it here and there but the concept, I must admit is his.  Macaroni and cheese...in a portabella mushroom cap.  We were fortunate enough to have Tonic's star bartender Anthony Rivera as a dinner guest, serving up his Tamarind Rickey.  You can use any old mac n 'cheese recipe, but here's one I've developed over the years:

Macaroni and Cheese Stuffed Mushroom Caps 
Serves 6 with leftovers

Box of macaroni pasta
1/2 medium onion, finely grated
Couple of glugs of white truffle oil (optional)
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of flour
2-3 slices of bacon
2 cups of milk
Dash of white pepper
1 1/2 cup of shredded Gruyere cheese
1 cup of shredded sharp cheddar
Handful of chopped chives for garnish

Mushroom caps
6 portabella mushroom caps
Olive oil or spray

The Shrooms

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Wipe any dirt on the mushroom caps...you don't know where they've been, and you don't want to know where they grow.  Once they are nice and clean remove the stems and scoop out the "gills" with a spoon.  Rub them in olive oil or spray them down with some olive oil spray and place stem side down on a baking sheet.  Bake for about 10 minutes.  Keep the oven on.

The Magic

Boil water for the pasta.
Cook the bacon until done in a medium sauce pan.  Remove the bacon, resist the urge to eat a slice, chop and set aside for garnish.  Pour out the bacon fat except maybe a half tablespoon, reserve the rest to drink with your morning coffee.  In the same pan, add grated onion and cook until soft at medium heat.  The onions almost dissolve at this point.  Add butter and melt. Once the butter has completely melted, carefully whisk in the flour.  This will act as a thickening agent, as if the cheese won't be enough.  Continue to whisk the flour and butter/onion mixture for about a minute or two.  Ensure they are combined well.  If you don't cook this roux long enough, your sauce will have a floury taste.  Stirring for about 2 minutes at a medium heat should ensure that the flour is cooked through.  

Slowly whisk in the milk.  Bring mixture to a boil.  (Speaking of boil, add the pasta to your water and cook according directions.  Remove pasta right before it is al dente.).  Lower medium low and slowly whisk in the Gruyere until well combined and creamy.   Add more milk if the mixture seems a little too thick.  If your sauce is too thin, add a buerre man (see note fancy pants). Salt and white pepper to taste.

To the strained pasta, stir in a glug of white truffle oil.  It keeps the pasta from sticking as well as adding a ton of flavor.  And fat.  

Combine the glorious cheesy sauce with the carbohydrate and mix. 

Spoon pasta mixture on to caps.  Cover with the shredded cheese.  Bake until the cheese has melted.  Carefully remove caps from the baking sheet and sprinkle with chives and bacon.  Serve with a side salad (pictured: baby spinach salad with craisins,  walnuts and a sweet dijon vinagrette).  There should be some pasta left over if you only stuffed 6 caps.


Promise yourself you will do some strength training in the morning.  Maybe even some cardio.  

Note: a buerre manié is a paste made from flour and butter to thicken sauces.  Just take equal parts flour and some room temp butter and mash it with a fork until well combined.  Add to sauce.  This method ensures that there aren't chunks of flour in your sauce.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Something to think about: Sustainability

I can't stop hearing/reading about it so I decided to do a little research. It seems to be the hip thing to do (and I'll actually buy into this rather than skinny jeans, Vampire Weekend, and Wayfarers).  Since I'm not much of a writer, here's something I completely ripped off of the Local Harvest website:

" Over the last 20 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of "shares" to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a "membership" or a "subscription") and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season." 

After doing some research in my area on costs of shares, I came across some reasonable prices: $300 for 16 weeks (Potomac Vegetable Farms) or $710 for 20 weeks, eggs and veggies at Virginia Green Grocer, Certified Organic  for a half share.  The seasons usually start in the spring and go into the fall.  Something to think about.