Sunday, January 30, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese

It was high time I tried to sneak some beans into baked macaroni and cheese, and I had these odd little bits of cheese that needed to be used.  I'm noticing a theme in my recipe choices:  using up leftovers.

First, I pureed two cups of bean and a bit of liquid.  The beans had been soaked overnight, then simmered until tender for pureeing.  Then I began seasoning.  I got a little carried away:  one teaspoon of garlic powder and one teaspoon of onion powder is too much for two cups of bean puree.  I figured that out pretty darn quickly and then only added about a quarter teaspoon each of dried mustard and white pepper.  I turned the heat its lowest setting (which on my stove involves using a heat diffuser as I don't really have a low setting.)

Once the bean mixture starts to heat, add the cheeses.  I used about a cup of Cracker Barrel cheddar and about a cup of shredded mozzarella.  It was really clumpy but I threw it in and mixed it to break it up.

It will take a long time to melt the cheese because if you turn the heat up, the beans will start to stick to the pan.  There isn't any fat besides the cheese to keep it from scorching.

In the meantime, cook your noodles.  I used about a half box of small shells.  You can see the steam.

Once the cheese has finally melted into the beans, pour it over the noodles.  At first, I thought there would be way too much sauce but after adding in half, I decided that the rest would be just fine.  Cheesy, creamy and good.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until it is hot through and a little brown on the top.  I completely failed to take a picture as I scrambled to get everyone to the table at a decent hour.  It looked pretty much the same, except with a little brown on the top.

The Verdict

This certainly wasn't the prettiest macaroni and cheese I've ever made.  I think that using mozzarella made it too white and bland.  It was also a little bland in flavor, despite the excess of seasonings.  The beans weren't at all noticeable.  Next time, less seasonings and stronger, yellower cheese.  Or more cheese.  That would definitely work, too.  I would have liked some sort of crumb topping but that is unpopular here.

One food critic declared "It is bland and yet overseasoned at the same time.  Is that constructive criticism?"  The food critics also told me it wasn't inedible at all, just not great.  I guess they are used to great food around here.  I'm going to assume that is a compliment.

Macaroni and Cheese, serves four

two cups white beans and a little liquid, pureed
two cups strong, yellow cheese, like sharp cheddar
eight ounces dried pasta
one quarter teaspoon each garlic powder, onion powder, dried yellow mustard and white pepper

Prepare the pasta as directed on the package.  Undercook a bit if you like your macaroni and cheese pasta to still be firm after baking.

Place pureed beans in a small saucepan and begin to heat over the lowest possible flame.  Use a diffuser, or even a double boiler, as necessary.  Add the seasonings.

Once the beans begin to warm, add the chopped or shredded cheese.  Stir through.

Continue heating until the cheese is melted completely.

Mix the cheese and bean sauce with the pasta.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes.

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