Monday, March 18, 2013

Finishing Touches

Macaroni & Cheese and Chocolate Chip Cookies sounded like a pretty good plan when I had an unexpected afternoon off work last week. Maybe I was in need of some comforting, but these two recipes from Bon Appetit's January issue caught my attention because they were simple and incorporated finishing touches that elevated simple to gourmet.

For the cookies, a sprinkling of flaky sea salt over the cookie dough balls before baking; for the Mac & Cheese, a panko-butter-garlic-parsley topping. I personalized my Mac & Cheese a bit more with the use of orecchiette instead of macaroni and the addition of some sauteed pancetta to the topping mixture. Another bonus of this Mac & Cheese recipe is that it doesn't require boiling the macaroni. Instead, the dried pasta is tossed with the cheese and then covered with a thinner-than-usual b├Ęchamel sauce. The pasta absorbs the extra sauce and bakes perfectly in just 30 minutes.

I started with the cookies...and never made it to preparing the Mac & Cheese that afternoon (see cookie dough dilemma, below). A few days later, when in need of a quick dinner, I was happy to have the ingredients on hand for the Mac & Cheese. Leftover Mac & Cheese saved me again on St. Paddy's Day, after spending the afternoon at Coronado's infamous McP's Irish Pub. Good thing I used Irish cheddar!

Salted cookie dough balls

Of course, there's the inevitable cookie dough dilemma. Both baking sheets are full and there's just enough cookie dough left for a few cookies. Do you wait until the others are baked and then bake just two or three cookies? Do you make yourself sick by eating too much raw cookie dough because you can't stop yourself? Or do you quickly put the bowl in the sink and fill it with hot, soapy water before you're tempted? The overwhelming response on Newf in My Soup's Facebook page was to eat the dough! Well, that's what I did. And, of course, I had to try one of the cookies when they came out of the oven, all warm and gooey and salty and sweet. By then, I wasn't hungry enough to make the Mac & Cheese so that had to wait a few more days.

Leftover cookie dough dilemma 

Got milk?

Salty Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Bon Appetit, January 2013
Makes 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 72% cacao), coarsely chopped (I used 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips)
Maldon or other flaky sea salt

Preparation

Position racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 375° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, kosher salt, and baking.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter, brown sugar, sugar, and powdered sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add egg yolks, egg, and vanilla and beat, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl, until mixture is pale and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low and add dry ingredients in three additions, mixing just to blend. Fold in chocolate chips or chunks with a rubber spatula.

Using a small ice cream scoop or spoon, spoon rounded tablespoonfuls of cookie dough onto prepared baking sheets, spacing 1-inch apart. Sprinkle cookies with sea salt.

Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until just golden brown around the edges, about 10-12 minutes. Let cool slightly on baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks; let cool completely.


Cookie Monster  

***

Here's the No-Boil Mac & Cheese...I'll borrow my mom's quote, after she enjoyed some of the leftovers -  "That was about the best Mac & Cheese I've ever had!  Seriously good stuff.  Never cared for the sharp cheddar cheesy stuff, but liked to pick at the dryer, crustier corners and this is sort of like the whole thing is kind of crunchy.  It certainly is blog worthy!  Thanks for sharing.  Enjoyed it a lot."

Beautiful, golden brown panko crust 

Just the right amount of creaminess and crunch


No Boil Mac & Cheese
Bon Appetit, January 2013
Serves 6-8

Ingredients

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon kosher salt plus more
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus more
1 pound elbow macaroni (I used orecchiette)
2 cups shredded cheddar, divided (I used Irish white cheddar)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400°. Melt 1/4 cup of the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Whisk in milk and 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook, whisking often, until a very thin, glossy sauce forms, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Remove sauce from heat.

Toss pasta and 1 1/2 cups cheese in a 13 x 9 x 2-inch or other shallow 3-quart baking dish. Pour sauce over (pasta should be submerged; do not stir) and cover with foil. Bake until pasta is almost tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt remaining 1/4 cup butter in a large skillet over medium heat (at this point, I sauteed about 1/4 cup chopped pancetta for a few minutes before adding the remaining ingredients). Add garlic, panko, and parsley and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove foil from dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese, then panko mixture. Bake until pasta is tender, edges are bubbling, and top is golden brown, about 10 minutes longer. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

***

4 comments:

HolliDe said...

Re: The Chocolate Chip Cookie - LOVE the 'Cookie Monster!' :D
Re: The Mac'n'Cheese - That recipe sounds fabulous! I use Panko almost exclusively, now, whenever breadcrumbs are needed; I love the tender crispy crunch they give to a dish. And the addition of sauteed pancetta is genius - even for a vegetarian like me; I can almost taste it - YUM!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Denise for two recipes that I'm sure to make while I'm in Mississippi! My family enjoys tasting What's Up from Newf In My Soup!

LakeladyP said...

I know you will understand my heartbreak. My beloved buddy Max passed away after nearly 15 years of being a good dog and even better friend. Seeing your picture of the Cookie Monster made me think of him. He wasn't a Newf, but he was a big ol' shaggy guy. RIP Max.

Rosie @ Blueberry Kitchen said...

Your cookies and pasta both look so good, like the ultimate comfort food meal!