Mac n Cheese:

comfort food

I make it according to a recipe from a dear friend’s cookbook. Paula Lambert founded Mozzarella Company in Dallas in 1982. She’s won dozens of awards, now makes more than 30 artisanal cheeses and published several cheese cookbooks. The mac’n’cheese is from her first book, The Cheese Lover’s Cookbook.

And yes, she has her own secret ingredient too.

Here’s how she—we—make it. I’ve made it so often that I’ve made my own tweaks, as every cook should.

 

Uptown Get-Down Mac n Cheese:
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter

3 Tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups milk or half-and-half, heated

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp. Tabasco (I always use a little more)

4 1/2 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 generous cup)

Melt the butter until the foam subsides, add the flour and whisk over low heat. Slowly add the heated milk and and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 3 – 4 minutes. Reduce the heat and simmer for 3 – 4 minutes, until it thickens. Add the seasonings and cheese, stirring until melted. Cover and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 3-quart oven-proof dish.

1 lb. elbow macaroni

1 tsp. salt

2 tbsp butter

1/4 tsp minced garlic

8 oz sharp chedd ar shredded 2 cups

SECRET INGREDIENT: ****8 oz. Velveeta cut into 1/2 inch cubes****

1/2 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano

1/2 tsp. seasoning salt

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the salt and the macaroni. Cook until very al dente, drain and mix with butter. (Note: I often do this ahead, rinse it in cold water to stop the cooking, toss it with garlic and olive oil instead of butter. Then it can wait an hour or so, covered.)

Toss the pasta with the sauce, then layer pasta and grated cheddar in the buttered dish. Finally, poke in the cubes of Velveeta at various points. Cover with buttered crumbs mixed with that last bit of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and bake until browned and bubbly.

DISCLOSURE: I’m not a cheddar purist; I use whatever bits of cheese (except blue) I have that are too ugly to serve on a cheese tray. I don’t use buttered crumbs, I use pulverized Ritz crackers (it takes about two tubes) and spread them over the top, then dot with butter.

BUT: I never make macaroni and cheese if I do not have the secret ingredient.

Serve with cold Champagne!


Funeral Potatoes

 

This is the most famous and maligned Utah recipe besides Jell-O salad, but it’s a cherished part of many Mormon family menus. Tammy Hanchett, third-generation Ogden mother/stepmother of five, remembers eating her grandmother’s version when she was a child, and it is her family’s favorite dish when she has everyone over for Sunday night supper. “My grandmother used to make her own white sauce, and she never had an exact recipe,” recalls Hanchett. “She’d add a dollop of this and a dollop of that. I’ll never taste potatoes like that again.” But after trying several recipes and variations (cubed vs. shredded potatoes, butter vs. margarine), Hanchett has come up with a recipe that comes close.

Tammy Hanchett

“Grandma always cooked it until the top was really brown. Some might think it was overcooked, but I love that toasty taste,” Hanchett says.

1/2 cup melted butter, plus 3 Tbsp.
2 cans of cream of chicken soup
1 pint of sour cream
1/2 to 1 cup milk
2 cups of grated cheddar or jack cheese
1 large bag of frozen shredded hash brown potatoes
1 cup crushed cornflakes
Mix the 1/2 cup butter, the soup and the sour cream in a large bowl. Stir in the milk, then the cheese and frozen potatoes and mix well. Plop into a 9×13 pan. Put the cornflakes in a Ziploc baggie and add the 3 Tbsp. melted butter. Mash until they are crumbs. Sprinkle on top of potatoes. Cook at 350 degrees for about 1/2 hour or until top is browned.

Utah’s Own Best Funeral Potatoes Contest

Jessica Yescas

Contestants gathered at the Downtown Farmers Market in Salt Lake City to enter their funeral potato recipe in a contest sponsored by Utah’s Own. Here’s the winner from Jessica Yescas.

1 32 oz. package freshly shredded hash browns
2 cups cream of chicken soup
2 cups of shredded Monterey and cheddar cheese
2 cups Meadow Gold sour cream
1/2 cup of diced onion
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup of Meadow Gold unsalted butter, divided
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sauté the onion in 1/2 cup butter until translucent. Remove from heat. Add hash browns, sour cream, cheese, salt and pepper and combine. Spread the mixture into a 9×13 dish. Mix the Panko with 1/2 cup melted butter and top the mixture. Bake for 40 minutes covered with foil. Uncover and bake for an additional 5–7 minutes or until golden brown.


Chicken Tikka Masala

Tikka masala is one of the most comforting foods in the Indian repertoire; this recipe is from Lavanya Mahate, owner of all the Saffron restaurants. We’ve always had good Indian food in SLC, but Lavanya kicked it up a notch when she started cooking here. Each of her restaurants emphasizes a slightly different style of Indian cuisine: Saffron Valley Canteen, Saffron Valley Colonial, Saffron Valley Bistro.

Or try making tikka masala at home. It’s delicious, freezes and re-heats well and your house will smell wonderfully exotic:

Serves 12

Ingredients:

Chicken tikka- 4 lbs, cubed into 1 inch pieces
Vegetable oil- 4 tbsp
Ginger Garlic Paste- 2 tbsp
Garam masala- 3 tsp
Cumin powder- 2 tsp
Coriander powder- 3 tsp
Sugar- 1 tsp
Salt- to taste
Turmeric powder- 1 tsp
Yellow Onions- 2 Large
Roma Tomatoes- 8 medium
Heavy cream- 2 cups
Cilantro- 2 tbsp, chopped
Butter- 1 tbsp
Dried fenugreek leaves (methi)- 2 tbsp
Serrano peppers- 1 (optional)
Method:

Heat the oil in a sauté pan on medium heat. Add chopped onion and sauté till soft and translucent. Next add ginger garlic paste. Slightly brown.

Add tomatoes, garam masala, cumin powder, coriander, sugar, salt, turmeric. Sauté for 2 minutes. Add 2 cups water and let it simmer until its becomes soft and mushy- about ½ hr. Add more water if needed.

After the mixture cools down a bit, puree in a blender or using an immersion blender until soft. This is the sauce for the tikka masala.

Take another sauce pan and add 1 tbsp of butter, add 2 tbsp crushed methi leaves (fenugreek leaves), 1 slit Serrano pepper (more if you’d like it spicy). Add the pureed sauce, chicken tikka cubes and cream. Simmer for about 10 minutes until everything comes together.

Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve with steamed basmati rice.

For Chicken Tikka:

For the Marinade:

• 1 cup plain yogurt

• 3 tbsp Ginger-Garlic Paste

• 2 tsp salt

• 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

• 4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast

• Juice of 1 big lemon

In a large bowl, mix together the marinade ingredients. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Marinate at least 30 minutes, or in the refrigerator overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the chicken in a grill pan and bake for 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the chicken rest till the sauce is ready.


And you’re going to need something sweet…

Pecan Tassies

Ingredients:

3 oz. softened cream cheese

1 stick of butter

1 cup flour

2 pinches of salt

1 egg

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup broken pecans

Preheat oven to 350. Beat together cream cheese with butter, flour and a pinch of salt. Wrap dough and refrigerate until firm—several hours or the day before. Mix together egg, brown sugar, vanilla, a dash of salt and broken pecans. Line small muffin tins with dough, pinching and molding it like Play-doh to make a tart shell. Fill each shell with a spoonful of pecan filling. Bake until filling is puffed and crust is golden. Makes two dozen.

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