Monday, January 11, 2010

Amy Sedaris's Macaroni and Cheese - "Not appropriate for diners with heart problems."

By Hilary Havarti

After suffering from the stomach flu for a week and surviving mostly on broth and toast, I had a serious hankering for some mac and cheese. Instead of choosing a light, healthy version for my weakened constitution, I gravitated towards Amy Sedaris’s recipe from her book, I like you:Hospitality Under The Influence.

That’s what happens when your mind screams, “Yes! Please,” and your stomach retorts with an angry grumble, “Are you insane?” On the cover, Ms. Sedaris is posed in a party dress and silver lam√© heels holding a crispy cooked turkey on her arm, sans platter. Chock full of a dizzying array of recipes, entertaining advice and craft ideas, I almost had a seizure scanning the page. Of course a seizure or mild heart attack is just what the author had in mind as evidenced by this warning on her mac and cheese recipe, “This is a very rich dish. Not appropriate for diners with heart problems, the elderly, or breast-feeding mothers.”

I may not have had a “heart problem” when I set out to prepare this recipe but after eating a couple of servings, I’m pretty sure I felt palpitations. Take a gander at the ingredient list, if you will; one stick of butter, a cup of heavy cream and four and a half cups of cheese are just a few of the bypass inducing ingredients.

Amy SedarisMacaroni and Cheese

1 box of elbow macaroni
1 stick of butter
1 cup grated smoked Gouda
1 cup grated white Monterey Jack cheese
2 cups grated mild yellow Cheddar cheese (I used sharp)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup of breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
8 thin pats of butter

Boil macaroni in salted water to al dente. While you are waiting for it to boil, melt together butter, cheeses, cream, milk and salt and pepper.

Drain macaroni and put back into the pot. When cheese mixture is melted and smooth, pour over macaroni and mix well. Add to a 2-quart casserole dish.

For topping, mix together Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, parsley, salt and pepper, and sprinkle on top of the macaroni and cheese. Top with pats of butter.

Bake at 425 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until browned on top. One should be forewarned: this is a very rich dish. Not appropriate for diners with heart problems, the elderly, or breast-feeding mothers.

Assembled more like a scrapbook than a cookbook, some of the instructions required intuition. I did a bit of head scratching about the pasta quantity i.e., “A box of elbow macaroni.” Does she mean a “box” like a Kraft Macaroni and Cheese box, or a box of Barilla? I ended up choosing an eight ounce package of penne pasta. Meanwhile, there was no note to preheat the oven but I did it anyway out of habit.

This recipe doesn’t require a slurry or roux as the HEAVY cream and milk act as thickening agents for the sauce. The steps to the recipe are few. All ingredients for the sauce are thrown in a pot and melted together at once then tossed over the cooked noodles. As I typed in the recipe above, I noticed (OOPS!) I inadvertently left out the Parmesan from the cheese sauce. The case of the missing ingredient strikes again. The topping also calls for a half cup of Parmesan so I must have gotten confused. I used panko bread crumbs and though she suggested adding parsley, I skipped it (this mac doesn’t need no stinkin’ parsley) but more importantly, I refrained from putting “8 thin pats of butter” on top because I’d mixed a tablespoon of butter into the crumbs not to mention the stick of butter already in the sauce. Popping it into the oven, it baked for 20 minutes and boy did it look purty when it emerged golden brown in the white souffl√© ramekin.

Sadly, I broke this ramekin right after I carted off the leftovers but it’s easy enough to replace.

So how did it taste? Lets just say the warning label was well warranted. I couldn’t eat more than three bites. This mac and cheese could very well be the richest recipe I’ve ever cooked up (even without the Parmesan) but the flavor is very good. The combo of Cheddar, Jack and Smoked Gouda married well, with just enough smokiness to give it a kick but not enough to overpower the dish. 

Right from the oven it was creamy, cheesy and crunchy and is a dish that should be served immediately. Upon reheating, it was a grease-fest. In retrospect, leaving out that 1/2 cup of Parmesan could have affected the consistency but I can’t be certain. My noodles were floating in a kiddie pool of butter and cheese slick to the point of unappetizing. I dropped off a portion to The Humboldt Fog (who, incidentally, gifted me the book for x-mas) and she agreed, the oily texture was a turn off. Although she thought the noodles overcooked, she liked the flavors but suggested cutting the butter in half or even less. I might try that next time just to see how it goes but first, I plan to attempt Amy S’s Baked Alaska recipe. Ice cream baked in a cake? Yes! Please!

PS- If you’ve never seen Strangers With Candy, add it to your Netflix queue, stat. Amy Sedaris stars as Jerri Blank, a 46-year-old "boozer, user and a loser" who tries to put her life back together again by returning to high school. It also stars a young Stephen Colbert who doubled as a producer on the show. It’s HIGH-larious.


Mae said...

I saw this and had to take a look - Amy Sedaris rocks and so does her cookbook. Love that you featured the mac n cheese!


Vicki Bensinger said...

This sounds similar to the Mac & Cheese they serve at Flemings Steakhouse. I found this online and then contacted the restaurant here in Missouri to ask if this truely was there recipe. The chef I spoke to said it was. Here it is to compare. It's also a heart attack waiting to happen and delcious.

Sugar Apple said...

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Amy Sedaris! Her tip about putting marbles in the medicine cabinet to surprise snoopers is a classic. The mac and cheese looks great too, though a little butter-heavy.

And I love that you have a whole blog devoted to mac and cheese, one of the best things ever.