Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My version of Mac-n-Cheese

Unless otherwise noted, all materials on this blog are (c) 2009 by Madeleine Vedel

Here's an odd recipe, which is getting raves in my house from my somewhat American boys. It is my, no doubt, overly healthful variation on macaroni and cheese. My kids have tasted that boxed stuff in homes in the US, and liked it. So, my challenge was to mimic the color (bright orange) and to a certain degree the flavor. I'm also working with as much a happy memory as true sensory sensitivity. I wouldn't put this dish beside the original, but with a bit of distance and nostalgia, it goes over surprisingly well.

I start with a béchamel, add puréed cooked squash, tomato paste, lots of grated gruyère cheese, a touch of salt, and I pour it over the pasta. The art comes in blending just the right amount of squash and tomato paste -- these add both color and sweetness.


a tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups grated swiss cheese
1/3 cup fluid tomato sauce/paste (somewhat between the two, or more of the former and less of the latter)
1/2 cup dense pureed squash or 1 cup less dense (depends on the variety and the intensity of its flavor. Add in batches and taste.
a pinch of salt as necessary

a batch of cooked macaroni.

To make the béchamel base, melt the butter in a sauce pan over a medium flame, add the flour and whisk to make a paste, slowly add the milk, just a 1/2 cup to start with, whisking to even out the lumps. When it begins to thicken, add more milk. Add in the cheese and whisk gently. Let come to a simmer. Add the tomato sauce and the squash, blend together with the whisk, seeking a unified texture. Occasionally, if it doesn't come together, I sprinkle on a bit more flour to bind. Taste and salt as necessary. Add in the cooked pasta, stir, and then transfer to a baking dish, sprinkle a bit more grated cheese on top, place in the oven briefly to grill the top, and serve -- a large green salad on the side helps cut the very rich dish that this is.

I use organic but full-fat versions of all my ingredients. At this time my boys are very active, very slender, and eating so few packaged products both at school and at home that their fat/sodium/sugar intake is pretty low. Thus, the periodic rich dish such as this or my lasagna are to my mind, good nourishment for them, though this one in particular can stimulate a bit of sniffles in those who are sensitive to milk products. Currently the case for myself. As such, the dairy intake could be limited above by using olive oil in the place of the butter, soy milk in the place of the milk.. but I hesitate in replacing the cheese with a fake product, that just doesn't feel right. It would be easy for non-glutens to switch to rice flour to thicken and rice/corn pasta instead of wheat.


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