Monday, October 5, 2009

Mac & Butter

I had a very ambitious plan for Saturday. I decided to cook like mad. It's been a while since I've spent the day in the kitchen, so I was craving that experience. I intended to achieve the following:
1. Spring Roll Salad with accompanying sauces
2. Pumpkin Curry
3. Homemade butter
4. Ricotta

I woke up at 9 a.m. (a virtuous early hour for me) and headed to the Farmer's Market. As a CSA member, I hadn't gone to the FM this summer. Besides, I didn't have a very high opinion of the FM based on previous experiences there. Though it is somewhat obvious what is locally produced, I found some of the vendors a little shady when I'd ask them about their products. I have reason to distrust them when I see the packaged celery that I could just as easily buy at Kroger or the apples with produce code stickers still attached.

I'd heard that things were different this year and that is absolutely true. It was so nice to see that they now separate the local vendors from the others. There are also vendors selling meat, bread, and dairy. I was very excited about the local dairy and picked up a half-gallon of milk and a quart of cream.

I knew what would become of that lovely cream:

Butter is incredibly easy to make, kids. You just pour the cream in your food processor, crank it to it's highest speed and let it go for 11 minutes. It will change consistency a couple of times, but when it turns into a big lump, well that's butter. Dump it into a fine mesh colander and let it drain for a bit. That's it.

So easy it's ridiculous almost and the resulting butter is so heavenly that when I stuck my pinkie in for a taste, my first inclination was to eat a bowl of it like ice cream. You'll be glad to know that I had just enough self-control not to do that; so I did the next best thing with it...I made Ina's mac and cheese. I had just seen her make it on her show that morning when I came in for a lunch break in my ingredient-gathering mission.

Ina's Mac & Cheese


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Good olive oil
  • 1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps sliced 1/2-inch
  • 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, stems removed and caps sliced 1/2-inch
  • 3 tablespoons cream sherry
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound pasta, such as cavatappi
  • 3 ounces white truffle butter (recommended: D'Artagnan) (I used my homemade butter instead)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 quart whole milk, scalded
  • 12 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (4 cups)
  • 8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (2 1/2 to 3 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (I used some of Mark's homemade bread)


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat the butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch) saute pan, add the mushrooms, and cook over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, until they are tender. Add the sherry and continue to saute for a few more minutes, until the sherry is absorbed. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Add the pasta and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until al dente. Drain well.

Meanwhile, melt the truffle butter in a large (4-quart) saucepan and whisk in the flour. Cook for 2 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. Slowly whisk in the hot milk and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the white sauce is thickened and creamy. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1 1/2 tablespoons salt, the pepper, and nutmeg.

Combine the pasta, sauce, and mushrooms in a large bowl and pour them into a 10 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish.

Place the garlic and parsley in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until they're minced. Add the bread crumbs and pulse to combine. Sprinkle the crumbs over the pasta and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the crumbs are golden brown. Serve hot.

There is something that comes over me when I decide to make an Ina recipe. I go a little overboard and buy the pricey stuff. I stood in Kroger staring at the cheese for a freakishly long amount of time trying to decide whether I should spend $20 to get the amount of Gruyere Ina had requested of me. I nearly got a headache and finally decided that one $9 brick of cheese would just have to do. I had a ton of cheddar from Sam's (Cabot brand) and I figured I'd make up the difference with that.

Ina certainly is the direct opposite of Sandra Lee. I loathe that woman almost as much as Anthony Bourdain does, but I have to say Ina could tone it down a little with the expensive ingredients.

Anyway, I made the mac and it was divine:

If you're in the greater Nashville area, please come to my house and take some of it off my hands. It's too much really.

The pumpkin curry and the ricotta didn't happen yet...but they will.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

Could we consider DC to be in the greater Nashville area? I'm thinking you could ship it...