"No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize." - Julia Child

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Holy mac and cheese!

Last night I made THE BEST MACARONI AND CHEESE EVER. Srsly. SO AMAZING. It was the first time I'd ever tried making it, and I think now I'll never be able to go back to that boxed crap again.

I got the recipe out of my favorite food book, Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. (Or Bitty, as I now lovingly refer to him as, after his stint on the show Spain... On the Road Again.) I used a blend of cheddar with monterey jack and something else in it rather than just plain cheddar, and I threw in a package of diced ham just to give the dish a little oomph, and damn. It was SO EFFING DELICIOUS. And honestly not that hard to make either. I think Bitty's secret ingredient is that he tosses a couple of dried bay leaves into the milk while it's heating. This gives the dish a really intense, savory flavor, rather than the sweet, goopy stuff we're used to eating when it comes to mac and cheese. I'll try and include the recipe in a future posting, when I have the energy to type it out.

I also made some perfectly cooked Brussels sprouts (again, I learned how to perfect these thanks to Bitty), and served them with just a touch of melted butter and a sprinkle of salt. They were the perfect vegetable, I think, to accompany a whomping serving of mac and cheese.

I love Brussels sprouts, and my love for them is a recent one, mostly because I, like many people, grew up eating over-cooked and thus disgusting-tasting sprouts. The trick to sprouts is to cook them just enough that they stay firm and just barely fork-tender. This keeps them from getting that disgusting sulfur smell and taste and gives them a nice resistance that is just delightful.

To make some good sprouts, fill a pot with water, throw in a pinch of salt, and set it to boil. While it's boiling, wash the sprouts, then cut off the bottom brown stump. Unless they are baby sprouts, I find that cutting them in half lengthwise helps them cook more quickly and evenly. When the water is boiling, dump them in, keep the water boiling, and give them a quick stir every now again. Watch them carefully. After a few minutes, fish one onto the spoon and try sticking a fork in. They'll be ready when you can get the fork in just easily enough that there is still some resistance. Whatever you do, keep you eye on them and don't let them boil more than 8 to 10 minutes. Drain them in a colander and serve. Delicious!

One thing that isn't delicious is Moxie soda. Best name, worst drink. Hands down. While talking to a coworker, Jeremy discovered that apparently Moxie is still a regional favorite here in New England. Neither he nor I had ever tried it, having grown up in Pennsylvania where it isn't readily available. So when Jeremy was at the supermarket buying the Brussels sprouts for me, he picked up a bottle of the original flavor and brought it home for us to try. It tastes like root beer with a bottle of cherry cough syrup poured in. It's completely disgusting.

"It might taste good with some rum mixed in," Jeremy said after I tasted some, proclaimed it disgusting, and immediately made him try it. "Maybe 50-50, Moxie and rum." He waited a moment.

"Oh my god, it just gets worse," I said. "The aftertaste is even worse."

"It really does," he agreed. "It's terrible. Okay. Maybe like 70 percent rum with 30 percent Moxie."

I gagged again.

"Or maybe just a glass of rum with a little Moxie to top it off," he said.

"How about just a glass of rum with no Moxie?" I said.

Yuck. I don't know, though... apparently some people really like the stuff. Maybe you have to have grown up drinking it, like Jeremy's coworker. Me, I'll stick to ginger ale. But still, 2 out of 3 ain't bad.

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