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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Four Cheese Macaroni with Bacon…hang onto your girdles girls cause this is the ONE!

Mac & Cheese has always been one of my favorite comfort foods. Kraft will do in a pinch but the best mac & cheese was one I had one Sunday afternoon made by a friend’s Southern grandma but now this updated version may take the cake. WARNING: This is not low fat by any stretch of the imagination but totally worth the extra workout session, LOL.

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I have been trying to explain the American  mac & cheese experience to Stephane.  We tried Kraft when I found it in an American grocery store here in France but I told him that was not real mac & cheese. Real mac & cheese is creamy, bubbly, cheesy goodness NOT orange. So now of course he has been asking me to put my money where my mouth is and make him some. I had a recipe from my above mentioned friend’s grandmother but my cookbooks are still in storage so I was really excited by this recipe* which is an updated twist on an old favorite,  found in the January issue of INSTYLE magazine. It is not a recipe for beginners as you need to make the cheese sauce with no lumps (actually not that hard once you get the hang of it) and does dirty a lot of pots and pans but I think you will find it worth the trouble. I know I did.  * I made a few changes/additions but this is pretty much the recipe from the magazine.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter (divided)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  •  1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • A couple twirls of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 cups Panko style bread crumbs (used a mixture of store bought and my own from old baguettes that I smashed)
  • 6 cups whole milk
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 2 T apple cider vinegar
  • 5-6 slices of thin sliced  Prosciutto or similarly spiced meat such as Sopressata, Bresaola or Grisons meat. (see topping)
  • 1/2 lb. thick sliced bacon (I used lardon which is like a thick sliced smoked bacon) (see filling)
  • 1 lb. dried shell pasta (I used one box of Barilla trumpet shaped pasta)
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups grated whole milk mozzarella cheese (reserve 1/2 cup for topping)
  • 1 cup grated aged cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/4 cups grated smoked Gouda Cheese (reserve 1/4 cup for topping)
  • 1 1/4 cups grated Havarti cheese (reserve 1/4 cup for topping)

Method:

Topping:
1. In a large saucepan melt 3 tsp. butter (first1/2 of the butter) over medium heat. Add Garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook until garlic is soft and fragrant but not brown (1-2 min.) . Add bread crumbs and quickly mix to combine. Remove mixture to a bowl.

2. Place sliced Prosciutto on parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake in 350° oven until crisp.  Then crumble and mix into bowl of seasoned bread crumbs above. Topping done! Set bowl aside for later.

Filling:
1. In a large saucepan combine milk and onion over medium heat. Bring milk to a low simmer. Cook for 20 minutes stirring occasionally (you do not want burnt milk at the bottom). The 20 minutes is only a suggestion you do not want the milk to reduce too much but do want the onion to infuse flavor gently into the milk. Set aside when done (see sauce).

2. While the milk is simmering…In a large frying pan, cook bacon (or lardon) until the edges are crispy. Keep the grease in the pan but remove the bacon with a slotted spoon. Cut bacon into 1/2 inch pieces, I find kitchen scissors are the easiest to do this with and set aside.
 
3. Add apples to the hot bacon fat in the pan, sautèing until soft. Add bacon pieces back to pan; add vinegar and toss to coat. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package instructions. When pasta is done drain and set aside for assembly.

Sauce:
1. As pasta cooks, melt 1/4 cup butter (second half of butter) in a large sauce pan. Sprinkle with flour (a tablespoon at a time) over butter and whisk together to form paste. Cook over medium low heat 1-2 minutes but do not let pan get too hot or you will get lumps and scorch your milk. (This I have learned by trial and error, uggg!)

2. Slowly one ladle at a time (or approx. 1/2 cup) add your milk mixture whisking each addition until smooth. Raise heat and slowly bring to a gentle boil stirring constantly. Once it is boiling reduce the heat so that you have a gentle simmer continue to stir and add nutmeg and pepper to taste. Let sauce thicken until it coats the back of a spoon. Maybe 5 minutes (but feels like longer as you stand there stirring, LOL)

3. Slowly add (while stirring constantly) 1 cup of each of your grated  cheeses until cheese melts. Your sauce is done, turn off the heat and prepare for assembly.

Assembly:
1. Add pasta from strainer back to the large pan you used to cook the pasta, add apple/bacon mixture and mix well. Then fold your cheese sauce mixture into the pasta.

2. Pour above into a lightly greased 13” x 9” backing dish.

3. Mix your remaining cheeses with the bread crumb topping in a bowl and then sprinkle on top of your pasta in the baking dish.

4. Broil until bread crumbs are golden and cheese is bubbly (about 4-5 min).
 Serve immediately.

Yield: 6 big old serving!

ROCK ON! by Phoenix Design Jewelry

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