New Debut Cookbook has Recipe for Mac and Cheese, the Best I’ve Tastedby Larry Cox on Oct. 28, 2012, under Uncategorized
Cooking With Love: Comfort Food That Hugs You by Carla Hall with Genevieve Ko (Free Press, $30)
The political season has gotten so ugly this autumn, I just want to relieve the pain by diving head first into a trough of comfort food. This is one of the main reasons why I was so attracted to this new cookbook.
Carla Hall learned to appreciate good cooking when she was a child in Nashville and watched her grandmother prepare meals in the family kitchen. Owner and executive chef of Alchemy in Washington, D.C., Hall has built a reputation for her Southern comfort foods that are easy to prepare without sacrificing taste. This award-winning cook is also co-host of ABC’s “The Chew.”
Her debut cookbook features dishes Hall claims can be made even more memorable and nourishing by preparing them with heart. Her recipes are divided into nine sections: Appetizers, Salads, Soups, Side Dishes, Vegetarian Dishes, Meat, Poultry, Fish & Shellfish, and Desserts. As a child, Hall recalls that Sunday meant supper at her grandmothers. Even though many of the dishes she serves up in her debut cookbook are such Southern favorites as Fresh Corn Grits Cakes, she borrows from other cultures to include others such as Cuban Pork Loin and Lobster Rigatoni. Her main point is that comfort food isn’t just relegated to the American South but, rather, can be drawn for many areas and cultures.
When I think of comfort food, I think of Mac ‘n’ Cheese. By adding several ingredients including both dry mustard and paprika, Hall takes this dish out of the ordinary and makes it even more tasty.
This is a fun cookbook. I tested three recipes, “Creamy Mac and Cheese,” simply the best I ever prepared in my kitchen, a zingy “Matthew’s Chicken Curry,” packed with curry, cayenne pepper, and coconut milk, and “Almond Tulles,” a cookie featuring a crackly caramelized almond texture.
Hall was assisted in this project by Genevieve Ko, a food writer, cookbook author, and former food editor at Good Housekeeping, Gourmet, and Martha Stewart Living magazines.
CLEAMY MAC AND CHEESE
3 Tbs unsalted butter
3 Tbs all-purpose flour
1 Tbs dry mustard
3 cups whole milk
1/4 cup minced yellow onion
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
1 large egg
3/4 lb sharp cheddar, shredded (3 cups)
Freshly ground black pepper
½ lb elbow macaroni (2 cups)
Preheat oven to 350F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt generously.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt the better over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and mustard and whisk for 5 minutes. Just keep it moving, you don’t want any lumps. Whisk in the milk, then the onion and paprika. Simmer, whisking occasionally, for 10 minutes.
In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg. Continue beating while adding a little of the hot sauce. Whisk this back into the sauce, then stir in three-quarters of the cheese. Season with one teaspoon salt and pepper to taste.
Add the macaroni to the boiling water and cook until barely el dente, about 2 minutes. Drain well, then add immediately to the cheese sauce. Fold until well mixed, then pour into a 2 ½-quart casserole and spread in an even layer. Sprinkle the remaining cheese all over the top.
Bake until bubbling and top is browned, about 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes, then serve hot.
Don’t be alarmed if the dish looks soupy going into the oven. Trust me, it will be perfectly custardy when you take it out.