Friday, January 16, 2009

FOOD FRIDAY!


MAC 'N' CHEESE ONE DISH DINNER

I posted this one very early on, nearly a year ago, only to lose it last summer when I was trying to pre-post several repeat pieces for my vacation break and ended up deleting them instead. It's so good it deserves a repeat, especially since several of you are new visitors since I first started. (I've gotten a little better at food photography since I took this!)

The inspiration for this dish came from the fact that macaroni and cheese is Steve's favorite meal. It wasn't something I made much before I met him. I didn't dislike it; the traditional recipe was just very filling and replete with high-fat ingredients I always tried to stay away from. I decided if I was going to work it into our regular routine, it had to be thinned down considerably and that it also needed some meat and veggies to make it a convenient one-dish meal. Precooked smoked sausages were just coming on the market at the time I started experimenting. Smoked sausage and cheese are natural buddies, so I knew there was some potential.

I use the low-fat or non-fat versions of all ingredients except for the butter in the cream sauce. Real butter adds a smoothness that can't be duplicated with anything else. Of course, you can feel free to add or subtract calories any way you wish. A full-fat version would be delicious as an occasional guilty pleasure, but this de-fatted take is just as good on its own way.

1 lb. low-fat precooked smoked sausage or kielbasa, sliced on diagonal into ¼-inch discs
1 large green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 large yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 10-oz. package 2%-fat extra sharp cheddar cheese
¼ cup (half a stick) unsalted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 ½ cups skim milk, heated
1 tsp. salt
black pepper to taste
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 heavy tsp. yellow mustard

10 oz. dried pasta of your choice

¼ cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350º F

Fill a pot with water for pasta, add salt to taste and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions.

Grate all the cheese into a large bowl and set aside.

Spray large non-stick skillet with cooking oil and add sausage, peppers and onions. Sauté over high heat until all ingredients are well browned, almost charred. Remove pan with meat and vegetables from heat and set aside.

Place butter in large saucepan over low heat and melt, taking care not to let the butter brown. When bubbling subsides, sprinkle flour over melted butter and whisk to combine thoroughly. Add warmed skim milk in a stream, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Increase heat and continue whisking until sauce comes to a boil and thickens. Add salt and pepper, Worcestershire and mustard, switch to a large spoon and stir to combine. Add half the grated cheese and stir until cheese is melted and thoroughly incorporated into sauce. Stir in sautéed sausage and vegetables, turn off heat, cover and set aside.

Drain pasta and return to cooking pot. Stir meat-cheese sauce into pasta and combine thoroughly. Pour all into standard rectangular casserole. Cover with remaining grated cheese and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Remove from heat. Increase temperature to broil and move oven rack to the broil position. Place casserole under broiler for 2-3 minutes or until well-browned. Remove from oven and let stand on a cooling rack 10 minutes. Serve.

9 comments:

Mim said...

Ralph,
Your mac and cheese looks really good. I will try it.. my family will love it I'm sure.
But homemade pizza tonight, now that would be even better than the turkey dinner we're making.
What kind of pizza are you making?
Are you taking pictures so it can be a food Friday?
In this cold weather is Steve going full steam ahead with his painting this wknd?
We got all of our doors in and painted this past two wks..big job all done.
Eager to hear about your pizza making. I did it years ago but haven't for a long time.
Mim

Ralph said...

Mim, the pizza thing is something I rarely do because it's very labor-intensive, but it's delicious because I can concoct my own combinations. Each time I make it I wonder why I don't more often. I start with a crust I heard about i the newspaper, a standard pizza dough but with crumbled popcorn all through it. (It makes a big batch, so I freeze a few balls of it and use them when the spirit moves The popcorn gives the crust a wonderful, nutty flavor. Then instead of tomato sauce I might use muffaletta--an olive paste that I can get in jars here. I've got some weird wild mushrooms, a red onion, a red bell pepper, a tomato and fresh Italian sausage sliced into small discs. Mexican enchilada cheese and some Asiago. The pizzas come out smallish, so I'll make two, putting some of those things on one and some on another. Yes, I'll take some pics and post them. That's a good idea, thanks!

Yep, painting painting and more painting, that's all we're living for these days. He wants to do a quick refinish on the stairs, too. I've emptied the basement bookshelves of all the books in preparation for painting them. And there's wallpaper down there that has to come down, too....

Jeff said...

I've got to admit something - I've never had mac 'n cheese. Maybe it's because I just couldn't get past the fluorescent orange color of the dish my kids used to eat made from the box. We made sloppy joe's from scratch last week. My daughter didn't like it - she wanted the stuff from the can. I swear they're not my children.

And doors. Put up a new front door and an insulated door in the back of the kitchen. Never painted 'em. Only color is that huge brown rust spot the dogs made scratching at the primer.

I should never have been a homeowner.... :) - J.

Ralph said...

Jeff, I guess I'm lucky my mother always made her own. Me, I've never seen the flourescent variety. Just the creamy off-white. (Which sounds like that would almost describe the color of your doors.) As long as good food comes out of the kitchen, I don't care about the color of the door....

Zoey and Me said...

I like the idea of using a differing pasta. Will try this week, it looks delicious.

Ralph said...

Guaranteed, Z&M. An easy winner for anybody who likes mac 'n' cheese.

Jeff said...

Ralph - we had the Brooklyn yiddish type of mac n' cheese when I was growing up - pot cheese and broad egg noodles. What my mother used to refer to as having "dairy" for dinner. Usually on a Saturday night for dinner.
Then afterwards to the ol' b/w Philco for the wrestling matches on channel 5.... :)

Ralph said...

Jeff: LOL! And I just realized that if you keep kosher you can't mix dairy and meat, so this dish would be irrelevant to you anyway. Like the cheeseburger. Oh well.

Jeff said...

Nah - we weren't strict kosher. Although my mother fed me packaged beef fry when I was kid and convinced me it was bacon. Some things just weren't allowed in the house - although conning the kid was ok...like the legend of the Chanukah bush to feed my Christmas tree fantasies...

I have been known to enjoy a vanilla egg cream with my hamburger now and then...:)