September 7, 2008

Comfort Food

I know, it seems a bit early in the season, to talk about comfort food. A cool September day will get me going every time. Forget the grill, even though it would be a comfortable day to stand by the intense heat of our 80,000 BTU gas number! (Finally succumbed and gave up the Weber charcoal grill, with the stipulation of high BTU's, after all I am the griller...he can't even light it.) I ramble, forgive. The point is I love to cook and now is my season of content. This may sound insane but I don't like summer all that much.
Yes, it is nice to linger on the back porch, watch all the kids in the pool and golf. It is not nice to suffer the unbearable number of humid days we have experienced this year. No southern belle here. Air conditioning...don't get me started, what is the point of summer if you have to close everything up? Not to mention the fact that I am married to a guy from Washington, D.C., now that's humidity. Problem is, he loves it...feels all energetic and stuff. Slug here, did I tell you he runs five miles everyday?
Today is Sunday, a day of rest. Everyone slept in a bit (even the runner) and we enjoyed coffee and the newspaper on the porch. I decided to make French Toast and sausage for guys. The smell was wafting up the stairs and food will always get them moving. If you have never seen two teenage boys break a fast...well, just don't get in their way, and be prepared to wait on them.
Comfort food number 1. I convinced them that doing the dishes was a good idea...since I had already unloaded the dishwasher. Of course, their method of doing the dishes and mine differ greatly. I happily followed behind and did the detail work (would it kill them to wipe and counter or wash a pan).
All departed happy and full. The rain started and the temperature dropped. Time to plan dinner. Oh, and I threw in a load of wash. Comfort food 2, Macaroni and Cheese. I am proud to say that this is based on a very good Cooking Light recipe. However, I am ashamed to say, it bears no resemblance to that recipe now, and in fact, the Cooking Light editors would have a coronary if they caught a glimpse of what I have done to it. The truth is, I never really liked homemade Mac and Cheese. It just wasn't creamy enough. Please try it if you are a fan, I promise it is the best Mac and Cheese ever. It has that Stouffer's creaminess and you can add the optional crumbs for a great brown crust. My good friend Kathleen, brought me a nice chunk of eight year old cheddar on Thursday and it was awesome in this dish. Let's just say, we are all pretty comforted. Except for dessert. Ian has requested Chocolate Chip Cookies, comfort food 3. It's been a good day!

My Favorite French Toast

1 loaf Challah bread, thickly sliced
8 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. orange juice
1/4 c. milk
1/2 t. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
pure maple syrup
confectioner's sugar

Place bread slices in a large shallow rimmed baking pan.
In medium sized bowl, blend together well, the eggs, sugar, cream, juice, milk, cinnamon, and vanilla.
Pour evenly over bread, saturating, turn slices over and make sure mixture is distributed.
Set bread aside and heat griddle to med/high, or use a large nonstick frying pan.
Butter griddle and add bread slices. Cook until golden brown on the bottom, turn and let other side brown.
Serve with butter, maple syrup and a dusting of confectioner's sugar.

Macaroni and Cheese

6 oz. velveeta cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
6-8 oz. good quality sharp cheddar (or your favorite mix), grated
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. flour
2 1/2 c. milk (I use 1%, well I try)
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/4 t. white freshly ground pepper or nutmeg
3 c. uncooked elbow macaroni
3/4 c. fresh bread crumbs
3 t. olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare and set cheeses aside. Butter a 2 qt. oval casserole.
Melt butter in medium sized saucepan.
Add flour and whisk until smooth. Heat briefly, stirring about one minute.
Slowly add milk as you whisk and stir over med/high heat until thickened and bubbly.
Add salt and pepper, if using.
Remove from heat, add cheeses reserving 1/2 c. cheddar for topping
Whisk until smooth.
Cook macaroni, al dente, drain and return to pot.
Add cheese sauce to macaroni and blend thoroughly.
Pour into casserole dish.
Mix crumbs with olive oil. Sprinkle reserved cheese on casserole. Follow with crumbs.
Bake 25 minutes or until browned and bubbly.