Friday, September 17, 2010

J's No-Pants Mac n' Cheese

Hello everybody.  As you all know the Baking Midwife is off galavanting around Thailand this week.  After much prodding, she graciously consented to me doing a guest post while she was away, and by "consented" I mean I just kept bugging her about it until she was too exhausted to resist.

So this week we will be revisiting one of my old college standbys, mac n' cheese!  I briefly considered trying something more adventurous for this blog post, but I'm a practical man.  I know my role pretty well.  There are things in life that I excel at and then there's cooking (also sports, singing, and most things involving science).  But that's the joy of being in a couple!  You meet someone who compliments your faults so they can cover for you in all the areas in which you suck.  So, needless to say, I lack some of the culinary prowess of my better half and usually defer to her around dinner time.  When the need arises for sarcastic commentary or an encyclopedic knowledge of 80's video games, I take the lead.  When it comes to cooking or delivering babies, I take on a support role (coincidentally, in both of those scenarios my responsibility is usually to boil water).

The Misses is away.  Not going to need these.
Now my love of mac n' cheese is a matter of public record.  This is not a lantern I hide under a bushel.  I let that light shine for all to see.  Along with tiramisu, it is one item on the menu I am compelled to sample at every restaurant I go to.  In my travels I've tasted the best and the worst of what is commercially available.  The Baking Midwife even made a homemade variety for me once that was both delicious and entirely too complicated for me to replicate.

You see, for me, the joy of mac n' cheese is the incredibly small amount of attention you have to give it while it's cooking.  Recipes that allow me to wander off for long periods of time appeal to me.  I like to tell people that it's because I'm a man of many interests and I just can't spare the time to focus exclusively on the mundane task of feeding myself.  In reality, however, I'm just easily distracted and entirely too enamored by the "Play Now" option on the Netflix website (did you know you can watch all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer instantly?  ALL SEVEN SEASONS!!!).  So for me, box mac n' cheese is the way to go.

Poke me for Pasta!
I used to be a Kraft man, but that was when I hated my body and sought to destroy it.  These days I go with Annie's Homegrown.  It claims to be organic, but I take that claim with a grain of salt.  It's a box of mac n' cheese after all.  How natural can that be?  I'm not sure if Annie's is available everywhere, but it's pretty easy to find in New England.  You'll know it because it's the only brand that features a rabbit's butt on the "push to open" tab.  I'm not entirely sure what kind of statement Annie is trying to make with that, but I'm pretty sure it's inappropriate.

You'll start by boiling some water.  This is going to take some time, so wander off for a while and distract yourself.  I passed the time burninating things.

Once the water is boiling, go ahead and defile the bunny and then pour the macaroni into the pot.  The box says to let the noodles boil for 8-10 minutes, but you've got some wiggle room.  I prefer to to boil until just after Buffy wraps up the big action sequence and comes to a natural pausing point.

Yum! Dehydrated cheese product
Next, drain the noodles in a colander.  While they're sitting there, take the opportunity to prep the sauce.  I've always been fascinated by the chalky orange dust that puts the "cheese" in mac n' cheese.  Is it really cheese?  If so, what unholy process did they put it through to make if come out like this?  Of course, these are questions you should push far out of you mind while preparing this dish.  It's really best not to think about it.  If you do, you may end up so intrigued that you pour all of the powdered cheese into the measuring cup first so you can study it and take a picture.  Only then do you realize that you need that cup to measure out the 1/4 cup of milk you're supposed to add.  So then, really, you have no other recourse than to pour the powdered cheese out of the measuring cup into a dirty coffee mug that just happened to be lying around.  You then measure out the milk as quickly as possible, pour the cheese back in, and look furtively about to make sure no one saw what you just did.

Always think through your plan
ahead of time.
Once you're done mixing the sauce, take the noodles and return them to pot in which you boiled them.  Add the sauce and mix it in thoroughly with a big wooden spoon.  If you're a responsible human being who actually stirred the noodles while they were boiling, you probably already have one out.

At this point, you should have an entirely edible meal in front of you.  However, if you want to kick it up a notch (and who doesn't!), dig around in the fridge and find that bottle of ketchup you've had in there since the Bush administration.  You know the one.  Apply the ketchup liberally to the mac n' cheese and whip it in with the big wooden spoon.  You know you've added enough when the liquidy cheese substance turns a peculiar shade of fuchsia.

I think I might throw in my
Half-Baked VHS.
You're now ready to enjoy your meal.  If you're fancy, you can go ahead and pour the mac n' cheese into a bowl.  I prefer to just eat it out of the pot I made it in with the big wooden spoon I stirred it with.  I mean, why add to the pile of dishes if you don't have to?  The trick here is to put a dish rag underneath the pot so you don't end up singeing the rug.  Also, if you're fully following my example and doing this without pants, you really want to be careful to keep that pot far out in front of you.  It was just on the stove, after all, and you don't have a lot of padding down there.

This meal should serve one shameless human being.  It's a perfect meal for any laid back evening when you're newly divorced, chronically depressed, or just plain lazy.  The Baking Midwife should be back next week with more delicious recipes (God knows I'm counting the days).  Until then, enjoy the mac n' cheese or, better yet, just go out and get something at the pub.

J's No-Pants Mac n' Cheese
Inspired by the recipe on the back of the box and a complete lack of motivation.

Boil Water over high heat.

Discard Pants and dick around for a while.  Suddenly remember you have water boiling and rush back into the kitchen.

Add noodles to water and wander off again.  Briefly enter a fugue state and lose all track of time.  Fret about whether the noodles have been boiling way too long or not long enough.  Remove from heat.

Mix 1/4 cup of milk with the dehydrated cheese product.  Avoid questioning where the substance came from or where it is about to go.  Under no circumstances make comparisons between the dried cheese and the burnt up dreams of your idealistic youth.  Whip until smooth.

Drain noodles and add the cheese sauce.  Stir in with wooden spoon.  Add ketchup to taste.  Do not experiment with mayonnaise.  You still have standards.

Check wooden spoon for splinters.  If none found, dig in.  You can move the pot to the rug in front of the television, or just eat it standing at the stove.  In either case, avoid all reflective surfaces while eating and try not to make direct eye contact with the dog.



Probably shouldn't have left that there that long.

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