Sunday, November 21, 2010

If this was your College Mac and Cheese, it'd have a PhD

Ever since I was small, macaroni and cheese has been one of my favourite dishes.  I'm sure as a child, my mom and my babysitter (who made our lunches), must have grown tired of always making Kraft Dinner as that was my mac of choice.

Growing up my pallette expanded and I learned how to make baked macaroni and cheese.  Although delicious, my first intro to it was rather bland, but that's how I liked it.  Today I still love macaroni and cheese, but love trying different styles.  Tonight's variation involves sharpness, spiciness, and most importantly baconess.

This was my second foray using my Kitchenaid pasta press.  I used the same methodology as last time, but aimed to keep the dough a bit drier - definitely an improvement for the machine.  A few more lessons learned.  1) when cutting the pasta doing with a quick, single slide of the blade.  At first I was doing two quick cuts (forward and back) but this ended up sealing the ends of the pasta.  2) When doing the single cut going forward, be sure not to leave the dull side of the blade in too far as it will cramp the extruding pasta.

While I boiled the water for the pasta I prepared my cheese mac sauce.  I diced a shallot and sautteed it in a good chunk of butter.  You need a good chunk as this will be used for a roux.  Once softened, I added flour and pepper (no salt only because I had used salted butter) and stirred to make a roux.  Then I added milk and kept over a medium-low heat to thicken.  I finished with a blend of sharp British cheddar, chevre, and parmesan cheeses, hot pepper flakes, and diced, well cooked bacon.  For looks and a crunchiness I topped with buttered bread crumbs and a bit more cheese. 

This smelled terrific baking.  The taste was great.  The sauce was super creamy and had a sharpness that seemed to pick up the flavours of each cheese.  The bacon added flavour but didn't overwhelm.  The heat was subtle, I think I would up it a little next time.  And the bread crumb topping added a nice texture to the mix.

Pasta Dough
2 cups flour
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp water

Place the flour into a mixer bowl.  In a separate cup mix the eggs, oil and water.  Slowly pour into flour while mixing with the paddle attachment.  When it starts to pull together, switch to a dough attachment.  If its too dry, add 1 tsp of water at a time until it forms a smooth ball, but not too tacky.  Let stand in a covered bowl for at least 20 minutes.

Mac and Cheese
4 cups cooked macaroni
1/4 cup butter
1 large shallot, small dice
3 tbsp flour
Several good grinds of fresh cracked pepper
3 cups milk
1cup grated cheddar
1/4 cup chevre, in small pieces
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup well cooked bacon, diced
1 tsp hot red pepper flakes
2 tbsp margarine or butter
1/4 cup bread crumbs 

Melt the butter in a large pot.  Add the shallot and saute until soft.  Add the flour and pepper and stir until bubbly and the flour cooks a bit.  Add the milk slowly while stirring (you don't want clumps).  Once near boiling and thickened, remove from heat and add cheeses, bacon and red pepper flakes and stir until cheese is melted.  Add the macaroni and stir again.  Top with bread crumbs that have been mixed with the melted margarine and a bit nore cheese.

Bake at 350F for 20-30 minutes until bubbly and browned.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Savory Stuffed Pork Loin

I was travelling (again) this past week and had the opportunity to watch a bunch of podcasts on my new IPad (love it).  One of the podcasts I watched was a Cook's Illustrated one for a rolled pork loin with an apple stuffing.  I'm not much for the fruit type stuffings, but I was entrigued by their technique for rolling and stuffing a pork loin, so I deciced to give it a whirl.

I used a small pork loin as there was just two of us for dinner this eve.  I cut it just as the Cook's podcast showed - starting 1/2 inch paralellel to the cutting board and then stopping short of the other end before cutting another 1/2 inch back.  (You're probably best to watch the podcast as this isn't the best description).  The picture below is after cutting, but before doing some slight pounding, under plastic wrap to even it out.

I then made a bacon based stuffing. I sauteed the bacon with an onion until just getting a bit crisp.  I added thyme, sage, and majoram and stirred until fragrant.  I then added savory bread crumbs (you could use any type of cubed bread here, but ideally a bit stale and dry) and chicken stock to moisten. 

I spread the stuffing onto the flattened pork loin, rolled and tied it at 3/4"  intervals.    I had leftover stuffing so I put it in the botton of my roasting dish for the roast to cook on. 

The roast was amazing.  And it looked really impressive.  The pork really took to the savory flavours but maintained its own distinct meaty flavour.  The stuffing was very spicy and savory which was appropraite for this type of dish. I served with roasted potatoes and yams and steamed peas.

A wonderful fall supper.

Savory Stuffed Pork Loin
2 lb pork loin roast, butterflied and pounded to even 1/2" thickness

8 strips bacon, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp marjoram
1 tsp sage
3-4 cups chunky bread crumbs (smash a bit if too large)
1/2-1 cup chicken stock to moisten

Preheat oven to 320F.

In a large pot sautee the bacon and onion until just turning crisp.  If more than 1/4 cup fat, drain off excess.  Add the spices and stir until just fragrant.   Take off heat.  Add the bread crumbs and mix.  Add enough chicken stock to moisten, but not soak and stir again. 

Place a layer of stuffing over the flattened pork loin.  Roll and tire with butchers string at 3/4" intervals.

Place the remaining stuffing in a roasting dish and place the roast on top.  Cook at 320F for 1 - 1/2 hours until the internal temerature is 160F.  You may have to place foil over the stuffing or remove it if it gets too browned.