The Child gets braces, and we immediately discover two things: 1) braces hurt, and 2) now there’s even less that she can eat. She mostly doesn’t mind – half the foods on the restricted list are things she didn’t eat anyway – but she misses popcorn as soon as she hears it will be banned, even before the braces go on.
I’m sympathetic, and vow that I will henceforth produce soft, bland, vegetarian food that The Child will love.
Also, I’m lucky – at least as far as cookbooks are concerned – and had recently received a review copy of The Mac + Cheese Cookbook, an assortment of, well, Macaroni & Cheese recipes.
So, the day after the braces were attached to The Child’s teeth, I settled on Gilroy Garlic Mac & Cheese, since it didn’t involve any meat nor any really radical changes to the Mac & Cheese concept. Mild gouda cheese sauce with a bit of Romano and a ton of garlic for flavor. It was pretty straightforward to make, although it did seem to involve a significant number of pans.
All the recipes in the book are made using a base white sauce, then adding cheese and other ingredients as directed. The resulting dish can then be cooked on the stovetop until done, or, if you like a nice crunchy topping like I do, you can toss it in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Either way, if you have anyone in the house, they will hover around the kitchen and ask helpful questions like, when will it be done? soon?
When it came out of the oven, I passed out forks to The Child and her friend, and although The Child and I immediately started sampling, straight from the pan, and immediately loved it, her friend did not, and stepped back a bit.
Do you want your own plate? I asked her.
Oh, no thank you, she said. She handed me her fork. It’s just that … I’m vegan.
I could have sworn I’ve served this child pizza at this very table.
How long? I inquire.
Since a month ago, she says.
Got it, I say. This would have been helpful information to have had before she came over, but as it happens, we are all headed to a potluck: a lucky potluck, this time anyway.
Later, I let The Child know that she’s welcome to be vegan, but not while I’m cooking dinner. No problem, she says: Like I’d ever give up cheese.
I loved this recipe and we’ve made it a couple of times since, but I have one complaint about the cookbook (which I note, does include a recipe for Vegan Mac & Cheese, should The Child’s friend visit again): Nearly every recipe calls for two cups of “Mac Sauce”, but the base “Mac Sauce” recipe makes three cups. I imagine I could adjust the recipe accordingly, but it strikes me that the authors could have too. You can actually go ahead and use all three cups in this recipe, but it results in a much milder Mac & Cheese that kind of defeats the point of throwing in all that garlic in the first place.
- 3 cups whole milk
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 4 large cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- ½ pound dried elbow pasta
- 2 cups Mac Sauce (see recipe)
- 1½ cups grated Gouda
- ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- In a pot over medium heat, heat the milk until it just starts to bubble, but is not boiling, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat.
- In a separate, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the butter over medium heat until just melted. Add the flour; whisk constantly until the mixture turns light brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Slowly pour the warm milk, about 1 cup at a time, into the butter-flour mixture, whisking constantly. It will get very thick at first, then thin as you add the full 3 cups.
- Set the pot back over medium-high heat, and continue to whisk constantly. In the next 2 to 3 minutes, the sauce should come together and become silky and thick. Dip a metal spoon into the sauce. If the sauce coats the spoon and doesn't slide off like milk, you'll know it's ready. You should be able to run your finger along the spoon and have the impression remain. Add the salt. Use the sauce immediately, or store it in the fridge for a day or two. (It will thicken in the refrigerator and may need a little more milk to thin it.)
- In a small bowl, mash together the garlic and butter to form a compound butter.
- Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until a little less than al dente. Drain, rinse and drain the pasta again.
- In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, combine the sauce, both cheeses and the garlic butter. Cook over medium heat, stir until the cheese is barely melted, about 3 minutes. Slowly stir in the cooked pasta and cook, stirring continuously, until the dish is nice and hot, 5 more minutes. Spoon into bowls and serve hot. If you like your Mac & Cheese baked, top with breadcrumbs and bake at 400F for 15 minutes.