Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Recipes: Mac and cheese---Real Simple recipe put to the test. Faux Chicken Pot Pie

Do you remember the creaminess of homemade mac and cheese? 

I have news for you. You can have it again!

I'm heading out of town for the weekend and made up some dishes for The Mike. 
I gave The Mike some options for the casseroles and he said, "I would never turn down mac and cheese".   He can pair any of these with fresh veggies, a spinach salad and some grapes.
He will also have some left over lasagna from yesterday and the faux chicken pot pie below. 

I also made a chicken pot pie--of sorts--where you use mashed potatoes on the bottom. 
Then the filling just sits in a well in that. I've had this recipe for a while too, Feb of 2009 was at the top of the printout, but no name as to who it was from, but by googling the name and glutenfree/dairy free I was able to find that it is a Rachel Ray recipe.
I took one out of the freezer to show ya.
I'm not sure I'll make it again,but will let The Mike be the judge of that. 
You don't bake the finished product.

Boil potatoes (1.25 pounds, I used four larger Yukon Gold ones)
1 cloves garlic, mashed
5T olive oil
2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 small onion
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 cups chicken broth
1 c frozen peas/carrots
1 cup broccoli florets
2 T cornstarch
1 tsp dijon

I thick wedge sliced the potatoes and left the skin on, then boiled them. Next time, I'd only use 3/4 to 1 pound of potatoes. I had plenty left over.  The store was out of "peas and carrots" so I used, peas, and carrots, and greenbeans. 

I cooked the chicken broth in a covered skillet with 1T of oil and about 1/3 cup of water. Then removed the breasts to the cutting board and added in my cheater method of the day--dried diced onion. I don't use it very often, but didn't feel like cutting up an onion yesterday.  I let them absorb some of the moisture in the pan, and then added in minced garlic and the thyme.   Let that cook for a couple of minutes. Add 1.5  cups of broth to the pan and bring to a boil. Add the veggies, stir,and cook for a couple of minutes. 
While that's going on, add the other 1/2 cup of broth to the cornstarch in a separate bowl. Let the cornstarch become dissolved, then add to the pan and stir until thickened. 
  **Next time: I actually would use more broth, like 3 cups or so, to have a good sauce at the end**
I used three separate containers for the frozen dishes for The Mike. I put some of the potatoes in each one, and smoothed them around/up the edges, creating a bit of a dip/well in the middle. Then I added in the diced chicken in each, making it even for each serving. On top of that I put a couple ladles of veggies and then went back and put some broth sauce in each one as well. I'd want more sauce if I was going to do this again, but I think the same amount of cornstarch would be okay. I let them cool, then lidded and froze the containers. 

Just out of the oven
I have had this recipe since November 2006. How do I know this?  It's from Real Simple magazine and says so on the edge.  I have made homemade mac and cheese before, from scratch and from a recipe.  However, I have no recollection of ever having made this recipe. Thus, it's a shocker I still have it in my collection! 

Funny thing, the recipe in the link is the same one from the magazine, except the one online says to bake at 400º and the recipe from the November magazine says to bake at 350º. I think the thing that would happen at 400 is that the top would get a little more done. 

The recipe originally calls for: 

1 pound elbow macaroni
5T unsalted butter (plus more for buttering your baking casserole dish)
1/2 c all purpose flour
6 c milk (whole or low fat)
1 1/2 cups (6oz) Cheddar Cheese
2 cups (8oz) Gruyere cheese
1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional). 

I used Fontina cheese, as I couldn't find Gruyere in the stores.  It has a slightly nutty flavor. I also used sharp cheddar cheese, but you could use medium or mild as well.  My flour was 1/4 c tapioca flour, plus a few tablespoons of sorghum flour. I added an additional 1T of corn starch to some cold milk and used that to help thicken as well.  I boiled the pasta for 10 minutes instead of the 15-16 that it called for. Even then, it was still just about done-done and probably could have been 9 minutes instead, knowing it was going to bake for 25 minutes as well. 

After making this dish, for an 8x8 casserole pan and for 16oz of Tinkyada pasta, I'd change the recipe to the following for 1 pound of pasta (I bolded the changed measurements) 

1 pound elbow macaroni
4T unsalted butter (plus more for buttering your baking casserole dish)
1/3 c all purpose flour
4 c milk (whole or low fat)
1 cups (6oz) Cheddar Cheese
1 3/4 cups (8oz) Gruyere cheese
1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional).

My other thought was to use 1 1/2 packages of the pasta, and use a 9x13 pan instead.  

Yes, I had a "catcher" pan in the oven from the lasagna yesterday,
and used it 'just in case' for the mac and cheese
Sorry, no other pictures while I was making it.  Running two pans and then trying to get the pasta cooked just right enough tasking for me!  

I started out with two pans, one for cooking the pasta in and the other for the sauce. If you have two large pans of the same size, I'd recommend that. 

When the pasta had been boiling for a couple minutes, I started on the sauce. I melted the butter and microwaved the milk (in a glass container) for a minute or so to take the chill off of it. I didn't want it to get too shocked in the hot pan and curdle. I added the tapioca and sorghum flour to the pan of butter to make a roux--the flour and butter will create a thick cream --sort of the consistency of sour cream, you can still stir it, but it's not watery).  

After a couple minutes of the sauce being thick, I added the milk and stirred until the roux was incorporated in the milk. I added the salt, pepper and cayenne pepper at this time. Then I added the cornstarch/milk mixture and stirred to get it to a thicker state. I had about two minutes left on the pasta timer at this stage and slowly added the grated cheese, alternating with adding a handful, stirring until melted, repeating.  Once the cheese was all added and melted, I drained the pasta, rinsed that pan (which was the larger of the two), put the pasta back in the pan and then poured the sauce on top.  I realized there was going to be too much sauce and had to stop pouring--that was tricky. 

I probably could have put all the pasta and sauce in the 8x8 but I didn't want it to overflow/bubble over in the oven, so I used the small Longaberger mixing bowl as well. Great bowls, as they can be used in the microwave or oven, or used for sides of veggies or fruit on the table.