Fried Macaroni & Cheese

fried mac n' cheese
One Sunday a few mornings ago, Eugene asked me to make him pancakes. So I did. Sort of.

We'd had a kind of macaroni and cheese dish the previous night. A somewhat virtuous recipe I made on the fly by mixing a variety of fancy cheeses and sauteed bits of prosciutto into a creamy bechamel. This I poured over whole wheat rigatoni and baked for 20 or so minutes until it bubbled and crisped at the edges. It was rich and satisfying and left us both a bit woozy. So much so, that the rest of the evening was lazying about on the sofa with little more than the occasional contented sigh passing between us.

That next morning, (that aforementioned Sunday) I walked into the kitchen and practically automatically pulled out the now-chilled dish of leftover pasta. With barely a thought, I pulled down a bag of my new favorite whole wheat panko breadcrumbs and an egg. I set up my bowls (one for flour, one for egg, and one for Panko) and a plate on the counter. Then, using my hands, I carefully scooped up little handfuls of pasta and squooshed (yes, squooshed!) them into patty shapes. Once they'd all been dredged and egged and breaded, I fried them in a cast-iron skillet with about an inch of hot oil until they came out crunchy and golden.

Not exactly pancakes, but no complaints either. Would you complain about crispy breadcrumbs on the outside and creamy cheese goodness on the inside? Eugene ate four. I ate one. OK. And a half...

I probably won't be making these again any time soon (because , uh, it's deep-fried cheesy pasta), but if you have some leftover "mac n' cheese" (or heck! even leftover Alfredo) I definitely urge you to give it a try. I didn't take the time to write a recipe for this, but Paula Deen sure did! Here's her version (with my adaptations).

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Fried Macaroni & Cheese
Adapted from a recipe by Paula Deen

Ingredients
Coconut or canola oil, for frying
Leftover macaroni & cheese (or other creamy cheese-based pasta), chilled in the refrigerator overnight
Flour, for dredging
salt & black pepper, to taste
1 egg, lightly beaten
Whole Wheat Panko breadcrumbs, for dredging

To make:

Heat about 2 inches of oil in a medium cast iron skillet over medium heat until it reaches 350 degrees.

While the oil heats, use a spoon and your hands to scoop out 1/4 cup sized spoonfuls of the macaroni and cheese. Use your hands to mold into round patties and set on a wax paper-lined plate. Repeat with all the leftover pasta.

Pour about a cup of flour into a shallow pan. (Note that this amount will be determined by how much leftover pasta you will be using). Season with salt and black pepper. Pour panko into a second shallow pan and the egg into a third.

Take each patty and gently dredge in the flour mixture. Dip in the egg until fully coated. Let the excess drip off before dredging in the panko breadcrumbs making sure to full coat the patty. Set aside and repeat with the remaining patties.

Once your oil has reached 350 degrees, fry the patties 2-3 at a time for about 1-2 minutes each side until they are golden and crisp. Remove to a paper towel-lined tray and let drain for a few minutes before serving.

Serve immediately. (Leftovers can be frozen and then reheated in a 400 degree oven for 5 minutes.)
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Plum Perfect


I'm just back from vacation and have lists and lists of things I'd like to share. Unfortunately, it seems my words are taking a few extra days to arrive (or perhaps it's jet-lag?). For now I'll leave you with this photo, which is one of my favorites from the past week.

And I'll be back with more in a day or so... (I promise.)

Potage Parmentier (Potato & Leek Soup)

potage parmentierIt was cold and rainy in New York last night. And though the sun popped back out this morning, it's pretty clear that the scant spoonful of summer we were served this year has already been washed and dried and placed back in the drawer with the rest of the silver. Despite this, I hope you won't mind if I confess my excitement?

Because I AM excited. It's a vestigial rush of emotion leftover from my Catholic school years, when Fall meant new books and skirts and rekindled crushes. If I think about it long enough, I can even feel the smoothness of that first page in a fresh five-subject notebook. There's just something lovely about blank ruled pages, isn't there?

Fall also means a return the cool-weather cooking that we've avoided these past few months. Words like simmer and stir and (oh yes!) bake sound so good on chilly mornings. Honestly, on days like this, few things can pull me out of bed like the promise and comfort of a warm kitchen.

This simmered soup is lovely on a rainy afternoon. I make it the "lazy" way by not peeling my potatoes, which makes it even speedier. And though the original didn't call for bacon, I've added it because...well, I dont' think I need to justify that. If you are vegetarian, just skip the bacon and start the soup off with a bit of olive oil. It's a fairly quick recipe, so if your day was spent in an office or running errands, it won't be long before it's just you, a book, and a bowl of potage parmentier.

potato leek soup
And about that name...


Since the recent Gourmet shuttering, there has been a lot of discussion about "elitism" in food. In comment after comment on sites like the New York Times or Slate or even Twitter, I've read that people seem to think it came to this because the recipes in the magazine were too complicated and out of reach for the average home cook.

I admit that I had a little trouble understanding this because I never really found the recipes in Gourmet to be all that exotic. I write this not as a professionally trained cook, but as a girl who has been reading that magazine for ages. I never had any trouble finding things that were inspiring or easy to recreate at home or (for a few years) my college dorm.

So I wonder if perhaps it was all just in the name? Are there people who read the word "Gourmet" and instantly assumed it was something too difficult or out of reach for them?

Perhaps, and so just in case, let me assure you that Potage Parmentier is really just Potato & Leek soup. And there isn't anything scary about that...

Potage Parmentier with Bacon
Adapted from a recipe by Julia Child

Ingredients
2 strips bacon, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
3 cups leeks thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb potatoes, washed and roughly chopped but not peeled
8 cups chicken or vegetable broth (low sodium)
1 tablespoon Kosher salt (plus more to taste)
3 tablespoon heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons minced parsley (optional)


To make:

In a large dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, saute the bacon pieces until crisp. Remove the bacon and reserve, leaving the fat in the pot.

Add the leeks to the bacon fat and saute for about 5 minutes until they are soft. Add the garlic and potato cubes and continue to saute in the pan for another 10 minutes, keeping an eye to make sure the leeks or garlic don't burn.

Pour in the broth and salt, then raise the heat to high and bring to a boil, partially covered, for 5 minutes. Lower the heat and let simmer for another 30 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by a 1/3 and the potatoes are fork tender.

Using an immersion blender or by processing in batches in a stand-up blender, process the soup until smooth (if you like it a little chunky, only process 2/3 of the soup and then leave the other half as is).

Adjust the seasoning as desired. Just before serving, stir in the cream and butter. Serve in individual soup bowls garnished with the reserved crisped bacon and minced parsley (if desired).

Goodbye Gourmet


By now you've probably heard that Conde Nast announced they will be closing Gourmet magazine. I'm sitting here feeling physically ill that my favorite magazine will no longer be around. As much as I love Bon Appetit, Gourmet was always the magazine that I really looked forward to and danced excitedly about when it arrived in my mailbox. It's probably the only magazine that I have actually cooked from (you'll see a few adaptations of their recipes in this blog from time to time).

Right now, this whole thing feels like a terrible mistake or a horrible joke, akin to those silly pranks that went around the Internet a few months back claiming that actors like Jeff Goldblum or Matt Damon had died a sudden death by falling off a cliff. It doesn't feel real. I keep waiting to read a message somewhere on Twitter that they changed their minds. That they'll bring it back. I am, in all honesty, near tears.

You know, for years I've dreamed of one day writing for Gourmet magazine. It's crazy to think that I'll now have to adjust that dream. And it is such a shame that an elegant and quality magazine will perish when so many lesser ones continue to thrive (or at least, in this economy, exist). It’s difficult to believe that brilliant writing, gorgeous photography and art direction, innovative recipes, a talented and well-respected editor-in-chief, an audience of devoted readers, and years of history just aren't enough...

I wish the best to Ruth Reichl and her talented staff. I can only hope that this closed door will lead to something even more incredible.

I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. I'd love if, in the comments, you would share your own thoughts about the closing or your favorite memories about the magazine.

Napa Cabbage Slaw with Mustard & Apple Butter Vinaigrette


See that giant cabbage? That thing has been sitting in my refrigerator for a little less than a month.

I bought it because I wanted to try my hand at making homemade egg rolls. It was one of those weeks when we were just too busy to go to the grocery store, so I put an order in through Fresh Direct instead. I love Fresh Direct; I love being able to select and "do my groceries" at my desk while eating lunch and knowing that they'll show up the next day within my desired window. Actually, I love grocery delivery services in general. When I lived in DC I used to order from Peapod constantly, and would occasionally--just for fun--spend an evening ticking off an imaginary shopping list and adding it to my virtual cart. Think of it as my Fantasy Football.

The quality of food from these services is generally pretty fantastic, but there is one tiny problem to ordering groceries online; it's difficult to properly gauge sizes. Without fail, each time the groceries arrive and Eugene and I go into the kitchen to unpack and put things away, I'll find myself pulling out a ridiculously tiny bottle of honey or olive oil that on the page had seemed like a good bargain but which in reality is actually just...small.

This time, though, it was totally the opposite. Among the bags of tomatoes and cucumbers I'd ordered, I found a head of cabbage the size of a watermelon.


"What the heck?!" I cried as I hefted the baby-sized object out of the box. Eugene looked at it and noted, "that's a lot of cabbage." I checked the tag; seven pounds! The irony of it all being that I'd ordered this particular type because the price had been very low (less than a dollar a pound). I'd assumed I'd be spending perhaps 3 or 3.50 for the cabbage. Certainly not $7!

Storage also posed another problem as it did not fit into the crisper. I finally wedged it onto the top shelf among the milk and yogurt, where it remained until this weekend, when I realized it was time to do something about it.

I'd long since lost the energy or enthusiasm that homemade egg rolls required, so instead I hunted around the Internet for "easy cabbage recipes." I was lucky to stumble onto this recipe for Jeremy Fox's Savoy cabbage slaw via The Wednesday Chef and used that as a basis for my own version. What appealed to me was the fact that unlike the slaws of my youth--those overly-sweet diner variety slathered in mayonnaise and inexplicably served with just about everything you order--this one was actually quite elegant and exciting on the palate.

Napa Cabbage Slaw with Mustard & Apple Butter Vinaigrette
The dressing itself is a mustard-based vinaigrette that marries beautifully with the toasted pecans (the original recipes called for walnuts, but it's what I had on hand). It's warm and cozy and tastes of autumn. I served it with some slices of baked ham that I simmered in a bouillon of chicken stock, apple butter, and herbs, for a perfect marriage of sweet, salty, and tangy.

Eugene, who has an ironic distaste for vinegar (despite his love of all things pickled), was hesitant at first, but quickly could not stop commenting on the way the pecans, ham, and slaw all went perfectly together. And just look at how he cleaned his plate! If you make this, please don't skip the nuts (unless you're allergic, of course).




Napa Cabbage Slaw with Mustard & Apple Butter Vinaigrette
adapted from a recipe by Jeremy Fox, via The Wednesday Chef
Serves 6

For the Vinaigrette:

2 rounded tablespoons creamy or grainy Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup apple butter
1/3 cup olive oil

For the slaw:

4 cups Napa cabbage, shredded thinly
1 Granny Smith apple
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and cooled
Salt and black pepper to taste

1.
Make the vinaigrette: In a bowl, mix together mustard, salt, vinegar, apple butter and honey. Slowly whisk in olive oil a little at a time until the dressing emulsifies into a creamy golden hue. Taste and adjust for seasoning, then set aside.

2. Make the salad: Put the cabbage in a large bowl.

3. Core , but don't peel, the apple and shred in the food processor or with box grater. Put the shredded apple into a bowl filled with lemon juice and 2 cups water, to prevent apple from browning. Strain and then add to the cabbage.

4. Toss the slaw with the vinaigrette and serve topped with the toasted pecans.


Alejandra & Always Order Dessert featured in the Times of London

We had a giddy day here in the Always Order Dessert kitchen yesterday!

The Times of London published an interview they did with me where I talk about my favorite cookbook, my love of soups that start and end with bacon, and reveal my local pick for a cozy dinner. If you haven't read it yet, pop on over and give it a look.

I'll be back later with more recipes for you.

xoxo

Alejandra

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