Getting My Mac On

52 macs in 52 weeks

February 2, 2021
MaryAnne

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Week 48: Sour Cream & Onion Mac

11 months ago today, I started this blog – I can’t believe it’s in the final weeks! (Although I have enough “make-up” posts to do, that it’s kind of like there’s a couple of months!)

Sour cream and onion is one of my most favorite flavor combinations. In fact, this was almost a part of the “Mac Bar” post featuring many of my favorite snacks as toppings. But I used a cheddar-based mac for that, and I thought this would work better with white cheeses along with a couple of other tweaks, so I decided to wait.

But then every time I bought a bag of Ruffles, I’d eat them before I got around to making the mac, or the green onions would dry out, or I’d use the sour cream & chive topping on something else. Finally, the planets have aligned and I have all the right ingredients on hand to give this a try!

Sour cream & onion mac

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 ounces penne pasta
  • 6 Tbsp. butter
  • 4 Tbsp. flour
  • 1½ cups whole milk
  • ½ cup sour cream with chives (see notes)
  • 1½ cups shredded mozzarella
  • ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese (see notes)
  • ½ – 1 tsp. onion salt (see notes)
  • 1 cup sour cream & onion Ruffles (see notes)
  • Green onions, chopped (just the green parts)

DIRECTIONS

  • Bring a pan of water to a boil, add ½ teaspoon of salt, then add pasta and cook 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  • Melt the butter over medium heat, then stir in flour and cook 2-3 minutes, whisking constantly.
  • Slowly add the milk and whisk until sauce is smooth and slightly thickened; then remove from heat and add sour cream. Stir to combine.
  • Add cheeses and stir until completely melted.
  • Add onion salt to taste.
  • Combine pasta and cheese sauce and stir until thoroughly coated.
  • Top with chopped onions or chives and serve!

RESULTS

Very good! It’s pretty mild, but very creamy. I hadn’t initially planned to use onion salt in the sauce, but it really made a difference. I had added a small amount of kosher salt as usual, but after tasting it, I thought it still needed a little something.  Adding the onion salt at the last minute gave it just the flavor boost I was looking for.

NOTES

  • Did anybody else’s family use CHIVO? It was made by the same company as IMO, which was a sour cream substitute, but CHIVO was soooo much better! So of course, they discontinued it. Kroger/Fred Meyer has a version that is fine (it’s what I used here, I’ve never seen anything similar anywhere else) but it’s really not the same. Bring back the CHIVO!
  • Go for a block of Parmesan here, rather than the pre-grated stuff in a jar.
  • I mean, I guess you COULD use pretty much any brand of sour cream and onion potato chips, even the non-ridged type, but why would you settle for less than the best?
  • If you don’t keep onion salt on hand and wouldn’t use it for anything else, I don’t know that I’d recommend going out and buying it JUST for this recipe (unless you plan to make it FREQUENTLY) but I tend to use garlic salt and onion salt instead of regular salt (not for baking of course), so It’s something that’s always in my pantry.  I actually don’t have any “regular” (i.e. table salt) right now – I’ve shifted to kosher salt for almost everything.

Posted February 1, 2021

January 27, 2021
MaryAnne

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Weeks 41-42*: Waffle Mac & Breaded Waffle Mac

*There’s no definable logic to the numbering pattern anymore. Just know that it makes sense in my head.

Killing two birds with one stone – or perhaps it’s two macs with one waffle iron. Except I used two waffle irons. And actually only one mac. This metaphor is falling apart quickly.

ANNNYWAYYY … I still had a good-sized bowl of last week’s smoked cheddar mac in the fridge, so rather than make a new one, I decided to see what I could do with the leftovers. I’ve been toying with a few ideas for some time, including giving waffling a try, and having a well-chilled bowl of already-prepared pasta seemed like a sign.

I’ve only had a waffle iron for a couple of years, maybe three, and I’ve never actually made traditional waffles on it. (I’m a French toast gal.) Up to now, it’s only been used to turn frozen tater tots into hash browns. (They’re so good that way, and soooo much faster than peeling and boiling and grating and frying a bunch of potatoes.) Then last year, I succumbed to the “chaffle” craze on social media and bought a mini-Dash iron. It’s so cute and fun to use!

Initially my plan was just to drop some mac and cheese onto the hot iron and see what happened, but then I remembered a cookbook I have called “Will It Waffle?” Let me clear up the mystery of that title – it’s all about what kinds of foods can be cooked on the waffle iron. (Spoiler alert – more than you’d think. I also have the companion “Will It Skillet?” I have a little bit of a cookbook addiction.) The version there recommended breading it to make sure it holds together, so since I was already hauling both appliances out of the cupboard, I went for the comparison approach.

Waffle Mac & Breaded Waffle Mac

INGREDIENTS

Waffle Mac: leftover mac and cheese, well-chilled in a relatively deep container (see notes)

Breaded Waffle Mac: same as above; plus 1 egg (see notes), ½ cup flour, ½ cup breadcrumbs, and ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese.

DIRECTIONS

Waffle Mac

  • Cut the macaroni and cheese into ½” thick slices.
  • Spray your waffle iron with non-stick spray and preheat on medium setting.
  • Place one of the mac “steaks” in the iron and press firmly to distribute.
  • Cook 3-4 minutes until brown and crispy on the outside and warm and gooey on the inside.

Breaded Waffle Mac

  • Cut some more mac slices.
  • Beat the egg and pour it into a shallow tray or bowl.
  • Mix the breadcrumbs and cheese and place in a second shallow container.
  • Put the flour in a third container.
  • Dredge a slice in flour, then coat with egg followed by the breadcrumb mixture.
  • Spray iron with more nonstick coating and repeat the cooking process.

I did one of each type in each appliance.

RESULTS

I didn’t notice any difference in taste between the coated and uncoated pieces, but the coated ones may have been slightly easier to get off the iron. Slightly. Not necessarily “worth the extra work and messiness and having to wash three additional trays” easier. Especially since it may have been because I did the coated ones second in both, so each waffle iron was a little hotter, creating a crispier macaroni waffle (would that be a maffle?). Also, the mac patties fell apart more the more I handled them, so they need to be really cold for the coating process.  

The last one I cooked was the best one – again, this may because I got to taste it fresh off the iron, so it was hot and crispy and melty and gooey. I took the leftovers in my lunch the next day – they still taste good reheated in a microwave, but they do not retain the crispiness. I prefer the texture when they’re fresh off the griddle, so to speak, so I don’t recommend making a bunch as part of any meal prep. Overall, tasty, and if you go the low-effort route with no coating, not too time-intensive.

NOTES

  • I had, fortunately, put the leftovers in a tall, sort of square bowl. The “Will It Waffle?” cookbook recommended a loaf pan, which would definitely help with uniformity of the slices.
  • Two eggs would have been better, the coating was kind of skimpy. But I only had one on hand since I had spaced on picking up dog food over the weekend and had to make scrambled eggs for Murphy for dinner Sunday night AND breakfast Monday morning.
Unbreaded on the left, breaded on the right.
Can’t tell the difference

Posted January 26, 2021

January 20, 2021
MaryAnne

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Week 46: Daryl’s Smoked Cheddar Mac

Yes, there are several weeks missing. Yes, I plan to make up for them. Turns out getting COVID 10 days before Christmas puts a big crimp in a person’s motivation to cook, or to get caught up with blog posts after the fact.

With only six weeks to go until the end of this project (!!!) I decided picking up where I should be might be more of an incentive to get back on track than constantly working from behind. I do still plan to insert some catch-up posts along the way, so that the end result will still be 52 types of mac & cheese, even if the schedule got kind of hosed.

ANYHOODLE – every Christmas my dad makes smoked cheddar and beef jerky and wraps them up for our stockings. Last week I brought both packages to work with me – I had just tossed them in my lunch bag and my co-workers were a little confused as to why I was unwrapping presents to make my lunch that day! 😂

And because of this mac & cheese project, I scored a couple extra blocks of cheese and I’m finally putting them to use!

Daryl’s Smoked Cheddar Mac

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 5-6 ounces of my dad’s smoked cheddar cheese, shredded (see notes 1 & 2)
  • Salt

DIRECTIONS

  • Bring a pan of water to a boil, add salt, then add the pasta and cook for 9 minutes. Drain and rinse, set aside.
  • Warm the milk over low heat until just on the edge of bubbling, but do not bring to a boil. Remove from heat.
  • Melt butter over medium-low heat, then stir in flour and whisk continually for 2-3 minutes.
  • Slowly add the warmed milk, stirring constantly; cook for 3-4 minutes until it thickens slightly.
  • Stir in ½-1 teaspoon of salt.
  • Remove 1 cup of the white sauce and reserve for future use. (see note 3)
  • Add the cheese and stir until fully melted.
  • Combine the cheese sauce with the cooked pasta and stir until fully coated.

RESULTS

Yum! Since I haven’t made mac and cheese the last several weeks, I haven’t eaten mac and cheese the last several weeks – this is a great way to remind my taste buds what they’ve been missing. I thought about adding a few drops of Liquid Smoke to really ramp up the smoky flavor, but it wasn’t necessary.

NOTES

  1. OK, this may be hard to obtain for people who are not my siblings, so 5-6 ounces of someone’s smoked cheddar, just know it’s way better when done in small batches at home than buying some mass-produced version.
  2. Typically, about 4 ounces of shredded cheese equals two cups, but I wanted to be sure that it would be really cheesy, so I used a little extra. Plus I shredded it with my superfine microplane, which creates more volume, so again I wanted to make sure I was getting a full 2 cups’ worth.
  3. I forget to scoop out some of the white sauce about half the time, which results in a much less cheesy flavor as well as being way too much sauce for the amount of cooked pasta. It’s useful when re-heating (instead of adding milk) to keep the mac creamier, but I do suggest also adding in more cheese. You can’t go wrong with more cheese! (Unless you’re lactose intolerant, but if that’s the case, I don’t think this blog is for you.)

Posted January 19, 2021

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Week 40: Dutch Mac

No sooner did I get caught up than I fell behind again. Story of my life. I told my mom I felt like I had the cooking version of writer’s block, nothing was inspiring me.

Then this past weekend, I read Michael J. Fox’s latest memoir. This is a guy who has been dealing with Parkinson’s Disease for nearly 30 years, started a foundation that has funded over a billion dollars in research in the past 20 years, and dealt with both a spinal tumor (unrelated to the PD) that could have left him paralyzed AND a fall that shattered his arm, in the same year … talk about inspiring! I realized I needed to quit my mental whining about not knowing what kind of mac & cheese to make and, as Nike says, Just Do It.

I got this Dutch Bike cheese at Costco recently and it was on top in the cheese drawer, so it was first up. It looks like Swiss cheese and has a similar taste, although somewhat milder. You know that little tingle on the tongue that you get from Swiss? This has that, but not as strong. I haven’t had Gouda as often, so I didn’t notice the “hints” of that as much, but I’m sure they’re there!

Dutch Mac

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 ounces bow tie pasta (see notes)
  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • 4 Tbsp. flour
  • 2 cups whole milk (see notes)
  • 1 cup heavy cream (see notes)
  • 2 cups (approx. 8 ounces) shredded Dutch Bike cheese
  • 1 cup (approx. 4 ounces) shredded Parmesan
  • Kosher salt

DIRECTIONS

  • Bring a pan of water to a boil, then add a teaspoon or so of kosher salt. Cook the pasta until tender, about 12 minutes; then drain and rinse with cold water.
  • Meanwhile, combine the milk and cream in a small pan and heat on low until just warmed but not bubbling.
  • Melt the butter over medium-low heat, then stir in the flour and whisk continually for 3-4 minutes.
  • Slowly add the warmed milk & cream mixture and cook over medium heat for 5-6 minutes, whisking frequently, until the mixture thickens.
Supervised by Santa Chef
  • Add the cheeses and stir until fully melted.
  • Add salt to taste – I use about ½-1 tsp. of kosher salt.
  • Combine with cooked pasta.

RESULTS

It doesn’t look super cheesy, since it uses two white cheeses, but it has a very nice flavor. It’s reminiscent of alfredo sauce, but with a twist.

NOTES

  • I wasn’t sure which kind of pasta would pair best with this sauce, but I had a box of bow tie and I hadn’t made anything with that noodle type yet. And then I got a mental image of a Dutch professor wearing a bow tie and riding a bike, so it became the ONLY kind I could see using. My mind is a strange place sometimes.
  • The proportions of sauce to pasta were off – I meant to scoop out a little of the white sauce before I added the cheese, and then I just forgot (it was early in the morning). There’s still about 4 ounces of pasta left in the box, so I plan to boil it up and add it in, and then it should be about right. Another option would be to reduce the milk and cream by half a cup each.

Posted December 15, 2020

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Weeks 36, 37, 38, & 39*: Mac Bar

*Otherwise known as ALL the November macs. 

It was a busy month – the nonprofit I work for holds its major annual fundraiser in November, and even though we went virtual/online this year, and even though we had a phenomenal event chair and a fantastic project manager who shouldered most of the load, there was still SO MUCH TO DO. (Although I only worked 26 extra hours this month, as opposed to the 40-ish+ I logged in November 2019.) And as good as I’m feeling recovery-wise, I guess my energy still wasn’t quite back to normal levels, because most nights I was asleep before 8:00 and on the weekends I just could not get myself in gear to deal with mac & cheese. Plus, each weekend I missed made trying to catch up the next weekend even more daunting.

So that’s why the last post was for Halloween and why I came up with this four-macs-from-one approach.

This would be a fun way to serve mac & cheese at a party – make a big vat of Classic Mac, and then line up a bunch of toppings and let people customize to their heart’s content. My theme is some of my favorite snack items – these are a few of my most frequent purchases from the cracker and chip aisle, (I’m saving my #1 favorite for its own post). But there’s no end to the things you could set out – proteins, veggies, crunchy carbs –the only limit is your imagination, time, and budget!

Mac Bar

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • 4 Tbsp. flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I prefer extra sharp)
  • Salt
  • Taco Doritos, ¼ cup crushed
  • BBQ Pringles, ¼ cup crushed
  • Cheez-It crackers, ¼ cup crushed
  • Chili Cheese Fritos, ¼ cup crushed

DIRECTIONS

  • Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, then cook the pasta for ~8 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.
  • Heat the milk on low to just the point of bubbling, then remove from heat and set aside.
  • Melt the butter over medium heat, then stir in the flour and whisk constantly for 3-4 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and slowly add the warmed milk, stirring constantly. Continue stirring until the sauce thickens and forms a silky texture. Add salt to taste.
  • Return to heat and add the shredded cheese, stirring until fully melted
  • Combine with pasta and stir until coated.
  • Top with crushed chips or crackers.

RESULTS

Cheesiest: Duh. Cheez-Its

Crunchiest: Taco Doritos

Heartiest: Chili Fritos

Lightest: BBQ Pringles

Going in, I thought I’d like the Taco Doritos version the best, and that was mostly true, although the Chili Cheese Fritos were right up there. The BBQ Pringles were a little disappointing, the flavor didn’t really shine through, but they had a nice light texture. The Cheez-Its added some nice flavor but I didn’t care for the texture as a topping that much. (But none of them were BAD.)

NOTES

  • Other topping options could be herbed croutons, French-fried onions (like what goes on green bean casseroles), these crispy garlic “chips” I occasionally find in the salad section, or pretty much any flavor of cracker or chip you like!

Posted December 2, 2020