January 23, 2013

Comfort Food = Mac & Cheese

I love pasta. I'm sure I would have made my grandmother's family proud. Somewhere out there is a distant Italian relative who just shouted 'hurrah' across the ocean.

I have always been a macaroni and cheese kind of gal -- of course as a child, it conveniently came out of a box, and was one of the first things I probably learned to 'make'. Most of my pasta still comes out of a box, but only the pasta itself, and not the packet of orange powder.

When the Sailor isn't home, I tend to eat far too much pasta. He doesn't eat it, nor do I ever expect him to. A friend's father in England often used to say, 'If God wanted me to eat pasta, I would have been born in Italy.' 

The Sailor tends to agree with that line of reasoning. 

So the only pasta dish that gets made when he's home is the occasional lasagna, or some sort of dough stuffed with either potatoes or meat -- a pierogie, for instance. Floating noodles (like in the case of Pennsylvania Dutch Pot Pie*) are also acceptable, perhaps once if not twice a year. 

With temperatures at -19 F this morning (seriously, Old Man Winter -- isn't that a little chilly, even for you?) I was craving comfort food. 

I also wanted any excuse to use this gorgeous 2.5 quart Butterfly Gold vintage Pyrex casserole dish I found last week, at an antique store with a friend (it's the one on the bottom. The top one is a 1.5 quart I found ages ago.)

I had been lamenting not nabbing this piece months ago at the Weekend Antique event I went to, but at $20, I couldn't really justify it. Plus, I already found the refrigerator dishes I wanted that day. Sometimes you need to space out the joy.
But last week, I had just put down several pieces of Butterfly Gold that I didn't really like or want (the divided casserole... a few bowls that I already had...) and then I spied this lovely beast in a corner, for only $4. 

That's right. FOUR dollars! It had a few burn marks on it -- and it came with a clear lid, not the white patterned lid like some of the casseroles did, but I couldn't have cared less. I wanted the actual dish! 

 Turns out 2.5 quarts is just the right size for this classic mac and cheese casserole. 

I based the recipe off of this one from Annie's Eats. After I threw the casserole in the oven, and double checked the cooking time, I realized that I somehow completely skipped an entire main ingredient. 

I didn't add any colby jack cheese. 

(Not only did I not add it, but I didn't make up for it with any other cheese. How sad is that?)

I also had about half the amount of panko bread crumbs the recipe called for in my cupboard, no parsley, and no chicken broth (how is this possible? I ALWAYS have chicken broth somewhere.) Fortunately, I happen to save the turkey juice from Christmas lunch, so I used that instead, along with a little bit of veggie broth to get it up to the required amount. I was pretty chuffed with myself, since I do like to use up what I already have in most cases.

And, I used almond milk instead of regular milk, and quite possibly more garlic -- this dish definitely had some heat.
In my world, classic macaroni and cheese pairs perfectly with stewed tomatoes. But I only had a handful of cherry tomatoes that I needed to use up, so I sliced them in half and tossed them on top of the casserole. 

Regardless of my kitchen mishap with both directions and ingredient lists, the dish was delightful edible. And I have more than enough leftovers for lunch until the Sailor gets home.

I think next time though, I'll definitely try to stick with the original recipe -- with one exception. I will most certainly keep the tomatoes in there.

* For my true opinion on Pennsylvania Dutch Pot Pie, click here.

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