Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Carla Hall and Sam Champion's Mac & Cheese 10.4.11

Today is a difficult episode for me to comment on.  I live in the Kansas City area.  We have a tragedy going on right now.  You may have heard that there was a nationwide Amber Alert, centered in Kansas City.  The least of my concern was the ongoing TV coverage of the event.  As I write this, Lisa Irwin is still not home where she should be.  As I sat down to watch yesterday's episode, the first 20 minutes were centered on the ongoing investigation.  Also, another couple of news breaks interrupted or abbreviated the live show.

So, I don't think I saw an entire segment, and certainly not an entire recipe.  BUT... the good folks at ABC have set up a website that made it a bit easier (http://beta.abc.go.com/shows/the-chew).  Sadly, I did not find the episode I wanted to see until this morning, but I was able to find the recipe.

The recipe is incredibly easy.  It also makes just about the creamiest, the cheesiest Mac N Cheese I have ever eaten.  It is a stove top recipe, which makes it very easy.  I do miss the contrast of textures from a baked MnC, with a bit of a crunch.  BUT, the ease that this comes together, combined with the incredible taste makes this recipe a real keeper.


As I am working on this post, I have been listening to the segment.  This is an interesting segment, Sam Champion is NOT a cook.  He freely admits that his schedule keeps him from cooking and that certainly showed in the segment.  While I have enjoyed the food related guests, I think this is a great move from the shows' producers.  Non-cooks are terrific to use as examples of how easy cooking actually is.  It is also a bit of a trick to gently teach cooking techniques without saying you are teaching.

Now, there is a small detail in the recipe.  It is listed as taking 30 minutes or less.  In fact, there is no way to caramelize onions that fast (unless you do a cheat and add brown sugar and butter to the pan, but that makes onions in a caramel sauce... almost the same, but not really).  The caramelized onions show up as an ingredient.  Sorry Carla, I just don't know where to shop where I can find caramelized onions.  they are easy to make, but it takes time.

But that's not that big of a concern.  Just know that the recipe will take about 45 minutes to make the onions.  Multi tasking can get this recipe into the 45 minute time frame and leave plenty of time to work on a main course...

Like this simple Balsamic Chicken Bruschetta open faced sandwich i served along side the Mac N' Cheese.

OH, one final change, Carla made this dish with standard elbow Macaroni.

I used a Rotini, corkscrew type pasta.  In fact, I used a whole wheat pasta.  I like the idea of whole wheat as adding a shade of a health benefit to this very fat filled recipe.  I also personally like the extra chewy texture of whole wheat pasta.  But that's just me.

You can find The Chew website version of the recipe by clicking HERE.  Easy, fast, especially VERY easy and fast if you eliminate the caramelized onions.

Now, I loved the recipe... BUT

I do wish the hosts would have discussed Brick Cheese vs the bags of pre-shredded cheeses.  In my opinion, brick cheese has a deeper taste.  The pre-shredded bags add surface area to the cheese.  More surface area, more oxygen hits the cheese.  more air hits, the faster the cheese losses it's taste.  ALSO, the bagged cheese adds just a touch of wax to keep the cheese from re-clumping.  It's subtle, but the wax does have a taste.  With all of those potential sous chefs, seems like Carla could have assigned and explained what most cooks and all chefs know.

Like I said before, though, it is one heck of a GREAT recipe!

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