Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese

smoked-gouda-mac-and-cheese

Winter in the mountains is long and cold and requires copious amounts of comfort food. We are having spring-like weather this week, a lovely treat, but I know better than to think we won’t have another blizzard or two before it really warms up. This time of year though, I do start thinking about favorite winter comfort foods that I have not yet made this season.  This recipe for Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese is one of those. Not to say that the dish wouldn’t make a great side for 4th of July BBQ or a Thanksgiving potluck.

This recipe is inspired by the smoked gouda mac and cheese served at Crave, a now defunct tapas place here in Boone that was once our spot for family celebrations.  My version is based on one that I found in a Special Collector’s Edition of All-Time Best Recipes, published by Cook’s Illustrated.  Their suggestion that you cook the mac and cheese on the stove, then just put it under the broiler to brown the bread crumbs is right on if you want crunchy topping, tender pasta and creamy sauce.
Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese

Ingredients:
  • 1 pound Cavatappi pasta
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, divided
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups low-fat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon Cholula hot sauce
  • 8 ounces Smoked Gouda cheese, grated
  • 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • 2/3 cup Panko
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
Directions:
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil in a dutch oven over high heat.  Stir in the pasta and tablespoon of salt.  Cook according to package directions (about 8 minutes) until just past al dente so that it is a bit tender.
  2. Drain the pasta and set aside.
  3. Return the dutch oven to medium heat.  Melt the butter, then whisk in the flour.  Cook the flour for about 1 minute, making a blond roux.
  4. Slowly whisk in one cup of milk, stirring constantly until all the lumps are dissolved.
  5. Whisk in the remaining milk, dry mustard, cayenne, and hot sauce.
  6. Turn up the heat to medium high and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly and bringing to a gentle boil so it will thicken properly.
  7. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and reduces to a heavy cream.
  8. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cheeses, remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and black pepper.
  9. Add the pasta back to the pot, stirring gently to combine.
  10. Return the pot to medium low heat.  Cook, stirring frequently, until hot.
  11. Adjust the oven rack to the lower third of the oven and preheat the broiler.
  12.  Spray a 9 X 13 glass or ceramic baking dish (or 10 ramekins) with olive oil cooking spray.
  13. Mix together the Panko and olive oil.
  14. Pour the macaroni and cheese into the pan and sprinkle evenly with the bread crumbs.
  15. Broil until the topping is deep golden brown, 3-5 minutes, rotating the pan if necessary so that the bread crumbs brown evenly.
Yield: 10-12 side servings
Prep time: 40 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
 
The Smoked Gouda adds big flavor to the mac and cheese while the Monterey Jack adds a creaminess you can’t get from using the Smoked Gouda alone. I used Cavatappi pasta rather than ordinary macaroni because I wanted to make it a little fancier.  I’ve given up trying to make the dish with the Barilla-plus pasta I usually use.  It may have more protein, fiber and Omega-3s, but the texture just doesn’t work for mac and cheese. 

Bon Appétit

Pan-grilled Salmon with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Parmesan Grits

grilled salmon with roasted cherry tomatoes and parmesan grits

This time of the year, I make a lot of what I call “One-Pot Wonders”.  This is not one of those recipes.  My recipe for Pan-grilled Salmon with Roasted Chery Tomatoes and Parmesan Grits messes up some pans, but comes together pretty easily with a company-worthy presentation.  It is a lovely meal to serve when Spring is still a longs ways off, but you want to pretend.  It is also a lovely meal when Spring actually arrives and it is warm enough to grill outside.

Grilled Salmon with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Parmesan Grits

Ingredients:

For the Parmesan Grits:

  • 2 cups chicken broth (see note in directions about grits to liquid ratio)
  • 2 cups milk (I use 2%)
  • 1 cup  white stone ground grits
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Cholula hot sauce
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For the Roasted Cherry Tomatoes:

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For the Pan-grilled Salmon:

  • 4 6-ounce salmon filets, preferably with skin on
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 8 small sprig of fresh thyme

Directions:

For the Parmesan Grits:

  1. Bring the chicken broth and milk to a boil. Note: follow the grits to liquids ratio on your brand and use half milk and half chicken broth.
  2. Whisk in the grits, turn down the heat and cook the grits for the time indicated on your brand’s packaging, stirring occasionally. Cooking times can vary between 5 for quick grits and 45 minutes for stone ground grits.
  3. Stir in the butter, Parmesan cheese, Cholula, salt and pepper. Keep the grits on low heat, stirring occasionally, until you are ready to serve. Add a little chicken broth to the grits if they become to thick.
  4. Taste the grits and add salt and pepper if needed.

For the Roasted Cherry Tomatoes:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss the cherry tomatoes with the olive oil, thyme, garlic salt and pepper.
  3. Spread the tomatoes in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.
  4. Roast the tomatoes for 15-20 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. The tomatoes should be soft and beginning to caramelize.
  5. Turn the heat down to 200 degrees to keep the tomatoes warm until you are ready to serve.

For the Pan-grilled Salmon:

  1. Rub both sides of the salmon filets with the olive oil. Sprinkle the side without skin with the salt, pepper, and thyme.
  2. Heat a heavy, preferably cast-iron grill pan over medium-high heat.  Spray with olive oil cooking spray.
  3. Place the salmon, skin side down, on the grate.
  4. Cook the salmon for 5 to 7 minutes. As the salmon cooks it will turn from opaque pink.
  5. Turn the salmon over and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.  Do not overcook!

To plate:

  1. Spoon about 2/3s cup of grits into the center of each plate.
  2. Top each with a salmon filet and 1/4 of the tomatoes. Garnish each plate with two small thyme sprigs and serve.

Yield: 4 servings                                               Total time: 60 minutes

A word about the grits — if you can find stone ground grits, by all means use them.  If not, quick grits are an acceptable substitute.  Instant grits are not!  I usually use Charleston’s Favorite White Stone Ground Grits which are available online at various sites at outrageously inflated prices.

Bon Appétit!  Lynn

German Chocolate Cake with Coconut-Pecan Frosting

german-chocolate-cake-1

My newly seventeen year old son, Iced T (his current choice of blog persona) , arrived home today from a 10-day trip which took him from Charlotte to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin for the Club 420 Nationals then on to Michigan State in Lansing for engineering camp. By all accounts, it was a grand adventure.  He and his partner Patrick finished 5th in the regatta of 60 boats — better than any of us expected.  And he had a great time, enjoyed the independence and made a lot of friends at engineering camp.  His birthday was last Monday so a celebration is overdue.  Warren Buffet (current blog persona for my younger son) and I are planning to make my mother’s absolutely divine German Chocolate Cake with Coconut-Pecan Frosting.

Growing up in the Mississippi Delta in the 1950s, my mom was served cake every Sunday. Six days of the week, my grandmother Mimi made a pie. On Saturday, she baked a cake as well. And on Sunday, she went to church then came home to a bounteous lunch with delicious cake for dessert. Mimi baked an impressive array of cakes, all from scratch — Devil’s Food or Angel Food with 7-minute Icing, white cake with caramel icing and pecans on top, and one she called 1234 cake. She iced yellow and white cakes with fudge-like cooked chocolate icing, white cakes with coconut icing and, at Christmas time, made her special Jam Cake. But, according to my mom, she never made a German Chocolate Cake.

After her freshmwedding photo - Copyan year at the Mississippi State College for Women (now the Mississippi University for Women) — a somewhat improbable choice in my view — my mom transferred to Ole Miss where she met my dad while working on his successful campaign for 1959 editor of the student newspaper, The Daily Mississippian. At some point during her sophomore year, her sorority sister Eleanor Becker’s aunt arrived from El Dorado, Arkansas with a German Chocolate Cake with Coconut-Pecan Frosting for her niece’s birthday. In my mom’s words, she “thought that she’d died and gone to heaven”. I’m not sure my boys are familiar with that expression, but they pretty much feel the same way.

Eleanor’s aunt was happy to share the recipe. My mom used it to bake the cake for years until the frayed recipe card washed away with much of the rest of the lower floor of our family home in Hurricane Katrina. Now she uses the recipe from the inside of the Baker’s German Chocolate package.

I’ll confess that I plan on cheating a bit.  My altitude of 3500 feet makes baking cakes from scratch a losing gamble.  So my plan is to use a Betty Crocker German Chocolate Cake and doctor it up with extra eggs, some sour cream and vanilla.  If you don’t have altitude issues, give the real thing a shot!  One tip of my mom’s is that when baking cakes, always use pans that you only use for cakes.  Otherwise, the layers may stick.

German Chocolate Cake with Coconut-Pecan Frosting

Ingredients:

For the German Chocolate Cake:

  • 4 ounces Baker’s German Chocolate
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon good quality vanilla
  • 1 cup buttermilk

For the Cococut-Pecan Frosting:

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 12 ounces evaporated milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon good quality vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 7 ounces sweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Cut 3 rounds of parchment paper to fit the bottom of a 9-inch round pan.
  3. Spray the bottoms and sides of 3 9-inch round pans with cooking spray, then line the bottoms with the rounds of parchment paper.
  4. Combine the german chocolate and water in a microwaveable bowl on high, stirring every 30 seconds until the chocolate is almost melted. Remove from the microwave and stir until the chocolate is completely melted.
  5. Beat the egg whites in a bowl with the mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form and set aside.
  6. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl and set aside.
  7. Beat the butter and sugar in large bowl with mixer until light and fluffy.
  8. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each.
  9. Add the melted chocolate and vanilla and blend to combine.
  10. Add the flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, beating until well blended after each addition.
  11. Fold in the egg whites, stirring gently until well blended.
  12. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.
  13. Bake the cake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in one of the centers comes out clean. Immediately run agerman-chocolate-cake-2 small spatula around each of the layers.
  14. Cool the layers in the pans on wire racks for 15 minuntes, then remove the layers from pans and set on wire racks to cool completely.
  15. While the cake cools, make the frosting by combining the egg yolks, milk and vanilla in a large saucepan, whisking until well blended.
  16. Add the sugar and butter and cook on medium heat for about12 minutes or until thickened and golden brown, stirring constantly.
  17. Remove from heat and add the coconut and nuts. Stir well to combine.
  18. Cool slightly to desired spreading consistency.
  19. Spread the frosting between the cake layers and on top of cake.

Prep time: 40 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

Of all the wonderful cakes that my mom makes, this one is probably my family’s favorite.  The cake is beautifully moist and the perfect delivery system for the oh-so-yummy frosting.  The boys enjoy it with big glasses of white milk.  I like it with a Pinot Noir after dinner or a cup of coffee at breakfast. Good cake doesn’t last long around here!

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