Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tense Turkey Wraps And The Comfort Of Mac N' Cheese

The news outlets still flicker with ongoing coverage of Osama Bin Laden's death today; pundits picking over the remaining shrapnel of information. It seems that I've become a bit of a news junkie once again. I find myself absorbing every nugget, endlessly fascinated with all the minutiae surrounding the astounding Navy Seal mission in Pakistan. Its an odd contrast for me to the days surrounding 9/11, when I started to avoid coverage; overwhelmed with the emotional tsunami the news would both trigger and represent. We lived in Washington, DC at the time and I was about a mile down the road from the Pentagon on 9/11 and those memories just washed over me with a deep shudder. I'll wait until the tenth anniversary this September to tell that story on the blog. I watched an interview with Mark Bingham's mother a couple of days ago and she was such a beacon of grace, strength and hope that I found myself getting choked up once again. I hope the 9/11 families can find some closure in this latest development as I'm sure the pain never quite goes away. Big ups to Prez O for making the call and especially to the amazing Navy Seals and their ballsy operation in taking Public Enemy No. 1 out. Actually, while the mission may have seemed "ballsy" to my couch-potato ass, the Seals pull off missions like this all the time. I watched an interview with Eric Greitens on The Today Show yesterday. Greitens is both a former Navy Seal and a Rhodes Scholar and writes of being both humanitarian and warrior in his book The Heart and The Fist. I'm thinking this will be my next read.

Yes, I was all over the map with this first paragraph but that's a good look at my stream-of-consciousness mindset these days. Its even more entertaining in person....look for the people walking away from me mouthing the words "train wreck!". I digress....

One of the most prevalent photos making the media rounds is of the President and the national security officials in the Situation Room monitoring the progress. The look on Hillary Clinton's face in particular says it all. The Gurgling Cod site refers to a riveting New York Times article describing that Situation Room meeting that also mentions, "A staffer went to Costco and came back with a mix of provisions-turkey pita wraps, cold shrimp, potato chips, soda." The non-news reveal of the "menu" itself sparked a mini-debate on Twitter as to the necessity or lack thereof in mentioning the food. Its what Gurgling Cod wrote about it that I loved...."It is oddly reassuring that when the leadership of the free world takes on the most momentous event in the Obama presidency, they eat like academics at a state university lunch meeting." Talk about some tense turkey wrap eating...

As much as "Buy Local!" is becoming more and more of a rallying cry for me, every now and then convenience with a tad bit of comfort calls for a quick solution. I DO find it a bit "oddly reassuring" that instead of having the White House chef hit the gardens to whip up a culinary creation for this nail-biting occasion, the Prez and company sent out for takeout. I decided to do what I do best and eat in solidarity: for the first time in a long time, I went out and picked up one of my own favorite takeout turkey wraps, the Chipotle Turkey Wrap from Einstein's Bagels. Stuffed with thinly sliced turkey, greens, black beans, roasted corn, cheddar and pepperjack cheese and a jalapeno "shmear" , its a spicy wrap of tastiness. Threw in the chips and a drink, and the only thing I'm missing is the cold shrimp.

Continuing the comfort food theme, I was looking for a Cookbook Challenge recipe that would be comforting for the K-Man as he has been under the weather. The one dish that tasted good to him over the past few days was a plate of good ol' venerable Kraft macaroni and cheese. My Mom was a great cook, but when it was time for mac n' cheese she broke open the Kraft box and added a little onion to it and I was happy as a clam. In college, my buddy Lee would make the same mac and cheese and douse it with Tabasco and that became my new favorite way of eating it. When we lived down South, however, I would be introduced to the rich, creamy and life-altering homemade soul-food version and that was a game-changer, to say the least. Every Friday at the Atlanta conference center where I worked, a love lady named Tina made a batch of her made-with-love mac and cheese and it was get-there-early-or-you're-S.O.L. every week. I was there early every week.

I consulted the Macaroni and Cheese Cookbook by Joan Schwartz for today's recipe and decided to go with the Soho Grand Macaroni And Cheese from New York City's Soho Grand Hotel which unnamed "respected food writers" declared was the best they had eaten anywhere. This dish is a bit on the rich and decadent side but I did substitute skim milk for local milk. It also plays on the M.A.C.s of my life, incorporating both onions and hot sauce. This sumptious beauty may very well be I've. ever. had. All apologies to those darling Southern belles whose cooking I will always treasure but this was just badass. The touch of nutmeg added a slight nuttiness and it was as rich as I would want it, so the skim milk worked. As young Tanner might say, Holy Frijoles, that was awesome.

I was so pumped to share this with Keith and was crestfallen to discover that the medication he's on means he can't have dairy within one hour of taking. Who in the bloody hell came up with that warning? Same person who came up with one of the other warnings on the label...may cause you to hear voices. Unbelievable. One medication could turn him into a lactose-intolerant Sybil. So...I'm enjoying one of my favorite meals yet by myself. Oh, well....K actually has to see and smell it and can't have any. That's worse. This counts as CC#53 and the recipe follows...Make it!

Mac N' Cheese Soho Grand from Macaroni and Cheese Cookbook by Joan Schwartz
My notes in ( )

1/2 pound cavatappi, or substitute and short, curved pasta
2 cups whole milk (I used skim)
2 tablespoons butter, plus extra for the dish
1 cup finely diced onion
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, 2 tablespoons reserved
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Dash of Tabasco (I used Franks' Hot Sauce)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper (I used white)
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat and cook the pasta until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and place in a mixing bowl.
2. Preheat the oven to 350. In a small saucepan over medium heat, scald the milk. (I admit it, I had no idea what this meant, so I Googled it. I found it here.)
3. In a saute pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter and cook the onion until saoft and fragrant but not colored, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the flour, and cook, stirring, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the scalded milk, 2 cups of cheddar, mustard, nutmeg and Tabasco. Keeping it over low heat, simmer, whisking occasionally, until the cheese is melted and smooth. Taste, and season with salt and pepper, if needed. Pour the mixture over the pasta and mix well.
4. Spoon the cavatappi mixture into a lightly buttered 2-quart gratin dish and sprinkle with the reserved 2 tablespoons of cheddar and Parmesan. Bake on the middle shelf until bubbling and browned on top, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve immediately.


Kristy said...

Lactose intolerant Sybil. First laugh I've had this week. My meds allow for dairy, unfortunately they also deaden my apetite to the point that I have actually turned away cheesecake. Hope Keith gets to try your Mac n cheese soon. Looks yummy!

Anonymous said...

I want you to know that JB reminded me just a few days ago that he hasn't had Mac N' Cheese for "at least five years" oh so not subtle way of saying that I haven't made any for him. So. Our new challenge is Grilled Mac. Will let you know how it works, or doesn't.


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