Americana

When Lindsey, Janna, and Stephanie arrived for last Sunday’s Amazing Race dinner party, we speculated about what would be for dinner while waiting for everyone else to show up.  I was hoping for a reprise of Rob’s prosciutto-wrapped figs, and as Stephanie had not yet experienced this wondrous appetizer, Janna and Lindsey brought her up to date, with a full description of the joys of figs stuffed with goat cheese and a basil leaf, wrapped in prosciutto and grilled.

Rob was running a bit late, due to the exigencies of cooking, so once everyone else arrived we settled down in front of the TV and got started.

It’s a good thing that even a dull episode of  The Amazing Race is still pretty enjoyable, because this week we watched two unremarkable episodes.  Predictably, tempers frayed under pressure as the race wore on.  Ericka fell apart like she’d been handed the runner-up award at the Miss America pageant, while the Globetrotters continued to frolic through the challenges like adorable overgrown puppies.  Admittedly, after the Mika/Canaan brawl at the top of the waterslide in Dubai the week before, anything else was bound to be anticlimactic.

Fortunately, the dinner was anything but dull.  When Rob called from downstairs asking for two people to come help him bring up the food, a frisson of excitement shot through the room.  Eyes gleamed with anticipation, hands rubbed gleefully together.  There may have been anticipatory drooling.

The rest of us remained supine while Rob, Michael, and Kwame marched in laden with grub.  Then Rob went into warp-speed chef mode, passing around a container of bacon brittle to keep us busy while he put the finishing touches on the meal, baked the homemade buns, and plated the salads.

Bacon Brittle

Rob Cooks 2

When dinner was ready, the rich smells pulled us kitchenward.  We all eagerly lined up to fill our plates.  The salad was fresh and crisp, and dressed with tangy homemade ranch dressing.  The just-baked buns split open to make the perfect throne for the tender shredded brisket.

Rob Cooks 3

Extravagently saucy baked beans and crusty macaroni and cheese rounded out the meal.  Each of the individual elements of this meal were well-made and delicious on their own.  Together, they became the quintessential, salt-of-the-earth feast.  This meal could have been served to smiles of recognition, sighs of satisfaction, and belt-loosening happiness anywhere in America.

I crouched over my plate as we resumed our TV watching, spilling bits of brisket in my lap, and mopping juice off my hands.  The macaroni and cheese was particularly delicious.  I savored each cheesy, chewy, salty mouthful.

But the lily had to be gilded.  Niki served her pumpkin bread pudding with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream.  On the short list of desserts I really like, those that I might actually prefer to a second helping of macaroni and cheese, bread pudding holds a special place.

Bread Pudding

By the end of the evening, I felt like Jabba the Hutt and wanted nothing more than to fall asleep with my head on pillow of macaroni and cheese.

Rob’s Macaroni and Cheese

(adapted from Pioneer Woman)

Mac and Cheese

Ingredients

  • 4 cups Dried Macaroni
  • ¼ cups (1/2 Stick Or 4 Tablespoons) Butter
  • ¼ cups All-purpose Flour
  • 2-½ cups Whole Milk
  • 2 teaspoons (heaping) Dry Mustard, More If Desired
  • 1 whole Egg Beaten
  • 1 pound Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Grated
  • ½ teaspoons Salt, More To Taste
  • ½ teaspoons Seasoned Salt, More To Taste
  • ½ teaspoons Ground Black Pepper
  • Dash of Chili Powder
  • Parmesan Cheese

Preparation Instructions

Cook macaroni until very firm. Macaroni should be too firm to eat right out of the pot. Drain.

In a small bowl, beat egg.

In a large pot, melt butter and sprinkle in flour. Whisk together over medium-low heat. Cook mixture for five minutes, whisking constantly. Don’t let it burn.

Pour in milk, add mustard, and whisk until smooth. Cook for five minutes until very thick. Reduce heat to low.

Take 1/4 cup of the sauce and slowly pour it into beaten egg, whisking constantly to avoid cooking eggs. Whisk together till smooth.

Pour egg mixture into sauce, whisking constantly. Stir until smooth.

Add in cheese and stir to melt.

Add salts and pepper. Taste sauce and add chili powder and more salt as needed! DO NOT UNDERSALT.

Pour in drained, cooked macaroni and stir to combine.

Serve immediately (very creamy) or pour into a buttered baking dish, top with extra cheese and parmesan, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly and golden on top.


 

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