The Dabble

-food with a side of life-

September 11th, Patriot Day and Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Do you remember where you were 8 years ago on September 11th? I do. I had to perform some makeup work for a business ethics course in my first year of college. I was driving to the school (back in my commuting days) while listening to the radio host provide information about this horrible event-no music that day. This was also a day that I nearly ended up in Michigan because I missed the last Fort Wayne (Indiana) exit on I-69. I had no idea how to get back so I called my parents in a panic…I’m sure they remember this. Once there, I sat with my professor in his office, again listening to the radio. Every once in a while, we’d discuss possible repercussions for the world but mostly, we were solemn.

Before I left the house that day, I watched repeated video of the planes crashing into the Towers and remember hearing that some persons trapped in the building were jumping out of the windows. That’s when I broke down. I don’t usually dwell on this date for the entire day but I went to bed last night thinking about the families involved, those that lost their lives, the evil that was behind it and many political points the event brought into play.

As I said I don’t dwell but I acknowledge the event and send a thought out to those affected by this day. I also send a thank you out to the men and women in the military protecting/defending not only Americans but those who long for freedom. I am not the biggest supporter of war but you have to give thanks and support to those serving, at least that’s what I believe. Also, cherish your moments with family and friends. Be courteous to others-it’s that simple (and difficult).

Not even a year after the incident, I went on a trip with a group to sightsee New York City and saw the location of the Towers, Ground Zero. You could smell the dust and rubble and still see the damage on the surrounding buildings. This was a very somber place, where many strangers stood staring at a pit together, where two important buildings once were, where life was lost. There seemed to be a feeling of camaraderie, people helped and supported one another; it felt as if we were all moving and breathing together, thinking about something that was unfathomable. What a surreal feeling.

Now, it seems odd to go on and provide a recipe but it’s comfort food. (I’m not one to comfort myself with food but this seems fitting.) I was looking for something easy and cheesy (but not sleazy). I found happy’s recipe, adapted from the Joy of Cooking, seemed to fit all of my guidelines. I changed it still-this is not a flavorless dish (as some macs are). I think the flavor was enhanced by serving heirloom tomatoes with sea salt on the side. This would also be excellent with steamed cauliflower, perhaps added in or tuna. You could add a number of things but it’s great on its own.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Serves 6

10 oz. orecchiette (translated to “little ears” in Italian-thank you 2 years of Italian courses in college)
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (spice is up to you)
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp paprika
2 cups grated cheese (I would use a good quality sharp cheddar, Colby, pepper jack and/or Gruyere-it’s up to you but I would at least have 2 different kinds)

Breadcrumb topping: optional
1 tbsp butter
½ cup breadcrumbs (I toasted some rosemary bread in the oven and chopped it in my food processor)

Preheat oven to 375.

Cook pasta until just tender and set aside to drain. If you are making your own breadcrumbs, toast the bread in the oven, chop when cooled and then add the butter.

For the sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat and add flour, whisking constantly. Cook about 3 minutes and then stir in the milk gradually followed by spices. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Stir in 2 cups of cheese of your choice, salt/pepper and macaroni. Pour into casserole dish. Top with more cheese if you wish but I did not. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top and bake for 30 minutes until crumbs are lightly browned. Let it stand for 5 minutes before serving. Again, I think tomatoes make a great side with this.