Who Moved My Cheese? Deli Mac and Cheese and Pickled Carrots

3 Oct

Livin' the life

Are you part of the solution? Or part of the problem?

I’m pretty confident that I’m part of the problem – in countless ways, but this week’s litany of offenses against the environment and common human decency has been especially lengthy.

You see, Stephen and I are moving this week. We have been slowly shuttling boxes of whatnots and thingamajigs up to Kent Lakes for weeks, but D-Day has arrived, and we are so not prepared. In the madness of packing, most of my cooking utensils have been tucked away in heaving piles of boxes and bags, along with most of my spice cabinet, not to mention my will to live.

They say moving is almost as horrifying and traumatic as a death in a family or divorce. Not quite, but almost. Whoever “they” are, “they” are on to something. And the empirical evidence that I have gathered this week shows that moving may lead to one, or both, of the other major life stresses “they” are always rattling on about.

Stephen and I found ourselves craving super-fatty foods this week. (Fear that sinking our life savings into a pile of timber is a bad idea, driving us to hit the Twinkies harder than usual? Burning more calories by putting large objects in cardboard containers and repeatedly lifting and setting them down? The tingling, almost effervescent sensation of giddy, apocalyptic, murderous mania that always sweeps me up in a funnel cloud of personality disorders and impulsive eating when I move? Don’t know, don’t care. Give me that tub of butter and a big wooden spoon, or move aside.)

Every time I look over at my better half, he seems to be cramming something vaguely grotesque yet droolingly delicious into his mouth, and I’m right there with him: on Saturday evening, we each managed to put away granola bars, Tootsie Rolls, cups of steaming hot coffee, the last juicy nectarines of the season, quivering trays of chicken and shrimp dumplings, a giant vat of curried udon noodles swimming in a seafood-flecked oily broth, a thick bacon grilled cheese sammy, generous slices of carrot cake and toasted salt bagels with warm slatherings of veggie cream cheese. Unfortunately, some of the gluttony occurred in front of Brenda and J., friends we met in China, who were hanging in NYC for the weekend. While they delicately sipped green tea and sampled a few dumplings, Stephen and I guzzled German beer and attempted to cram the entirety of FoodParc into our mouths.

No ordinary joint of meat or tub of dressed noodles would do this Sunday. We needed food fit for construction workers, pyramid-builders, Michael Phelps. (Did I mention that we’re moving everything ourselves? Don’t be jealous. It’s not as glamorous as it sounds.)

Strangely, I have also been craving pickled carrots – I love homemade pickles because I can control the level of tang (I like lots of bright acidity), the heat (crank it up) and the overall texture (crunchy, but not hard as a rock). I just love pickles, okay?

An open jar of pickles on the floor adds a much-needed touch of class to moving day

To silence both cravings, I made Deli Mac and Cheese and …. Pickled Carrots.

The crimes against the environment, basic tenets of Epicureanism and common human decency were committed due to the disappearance of many of my knives, my grater and my casserole dish, in addition to the time, patience and care required to gather ingredients from a market. I hit a deli next to my new job and asked them to slice up Cheddar and Mozzarella cheese, thin, and I made do with that; I bought overpriced, dodgy deli macaroni, the cheapest one they had; I shamelessly raided the coffee station in my (now former) apartment building on three separate occasions for tiny plastic, evil vats of half and half (hell’s no was I paying $3.00 for a quart of milk at the deli), and gathered the rest of the ingredients from the remnants of my pantry.

Click on for recipes!

Come to mama

Deli Mac and Cheese

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 6 TBSP butter, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 TBSP flour
  • ½ cup strong chicken or veggie stock
  • ½ cup half and half (or whole milk or light cream)
  • 2/3 cup crème fraiche (or light cream or whipping cream)
  • 2 cups peas (defrosted while you cook all else)
  • 8 oz cheddar cheese, cut into thin slices, or grated if you’re all fancy
  • 4 oz mozzarella cheese, cut into thin slices, or grated if you’re all fancy
  • 1 box elbow macaroni, cooked according to box directions
  • Optional dried spices: chili powder, pepper, adobo seasoning, old bay, a dash of nutmeg.
  • Optional herbs: chopped chives, parsley or basil
  • Salt, and lots of it

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Melt ½ stick butter in saucepan. Whisk in minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Whisk in flour and cook out a bit until light brown, a few minutes. Whisk in stock and cook until thickened, about 3 minutes. Add salt and dried spices to taste. Whisk in half and half and cook until nice and thick and smooth, whisking, about 4 minutes. Whisk in the crème fraiche. Throw in 8 oz. cheddar cheese and stir over low heat until semi-or-completely melted.  Keep sauce warm over low-low heat.

It's chedda'

  • Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to directions on the box; drain well so the water doesn’t thin out the cheese sauce.
  • Melt 2 TBSP butter in big iron skillet.
  • Drain pasta. Toss with melty cheddar béchamel and the semi-defrosted peas, more salt to taste if necessary.
  • Layer in buttered iron skillet. When about 1/3 of the mac and cheese is in, add ½ of the sliced mozzarella. Layer in more pasta, add more mozzarella, reserving a few slices for the top. Finish with the rest of the pasta, add the mozzarella and pop in the oven until golden brown in spots and bubbling furiously, about 15 minutes. Top with chopped fresh herbs, if desired.
  • Cool in pan to set for about 10 minutes, then slice like a pie and serve!

Nutritional Breakdown for Deli Mac and Cheese: About 550 calories and 30 grams of fat. High in saturated fat and cholesterol. Good source of calcium though, and a decent source of vegetarian protein.

Cost Breakdown for Deli Mac and Cheese: About $1.50 per serving.

Verdict / In the Future: When Stephen peered over my shoulder as I was about to pour the peas in, cheerily informing him that I was attempting to infuse the gut-bomb with an ounce of vegetable goodness, he shrieked in horror as if I’d informed him of my plans to have gender reassignment surgery. Thankfully, his fear that my feeble attempt to garnish our diet with a faint sheen of health was for naught. “I can barely taste them between the giant gobs of melted cheese,” he said, gleefully. Close one!

Pickled Carrots

Makes 10 or more servings

Ingredients:

  • 10 carrots, peeled and cut into quarters or eighths, lengthwise, at the fat part
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 cup apple vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  • Coriander, whole red chili peppers, fennel to taste (I used 1 TBSP or two of spices and 3 chili peppers)
  • 4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1-2 TBSP cracked red pepper (less if you don’t like heat)

Method:

  • Bring vinegars, water, sugar and salt to boil, simmer until sugar and salt dissolve, a few minutes.
  • Add carrots and simmer for a few minutes so that carrots can soak up some of the flavor and soften just a bit.

  • Meanwhile, put spices, peppers and garlic in the bottom of 2 large jars with good lids. (I don’t go through the regular pickling procedure because I eat my carrots quickly, within a week. If you plan on hanging on to them for a while, make sure you sterilize the jars properly. Go to the National Center for Home Food Preservation for great pickling procedure tips!)
  • Cool the carrots in their juices over an ice bath, stirring (or just cheat and stick the pot in the freezer for a few minutes).
  • When room temp, pour the carrots and their juices into the jars. Eat on salads, solo, on sandwiches, with anything that needs a tangy, bright kick.

Nutritional Breakdown for Pickled Carrots: Good source of Vitamin C, B6, A, folate, potassium, copper, fiber and manganese.

Cost Breakdown for Pickled Carrots: About $0.40 a serving.

Verdict / In the Future: I eat pickles almost every day, and I eat these when I’ve got em, at least twice a day. A great Sammy is hummus, tapenade, some arugula or other fresh greens, roasted red peppers and pickled carrots. Or … a crack-pot take on the banh-mi – nice, crusty baguette with mayo and sriracha, some roasted meat, pickled carrots and a bit of bacon or avocado, or a bit of both, if you have em.

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