Yesterday, at the Seacoast Home and Garden Show in Durham, New Hampshire I was part of their popular "Meet the Chefs" series. I love doing these kinds of cooking demonstrations. It's so much fun to cook for an enthusiastic group of people -- more like a party than actual work.
Chef Kathy Gunst
There was another real bonus to the day -- meeting the other chefs in the series and watching them work. Immediately prior to my demo the talented and engaging Chef Kathy Gunst took to the stage. Kathy is the author of 13 cookbooks, as well as the "Resident Chef" for the award-winning public radio show, Here and Now, from WBUR Boston. During her demonstration of Butternut Squash Soup with Curried Pecans, Apple and Goat Cheese, Kathy spoke passionately about using local and organic products whenever possible. She brought lovely white parsnips dug that day from her garden in South Berwick, Maine and used them in her delicious creamy concoction.
Back to Basics
My demonstration centered around a very basic Macaroni and Cheese recipe. The goal was to show how easy it is to adapt this simple staple and take it in many different directions. Earlier that day I made three variations on the Mac 'N Cheese theme. On stage, while I made the basic version in the teaching kitchen, the other three cooked merrily away behind me in shiny Viking ovens. By the time I was finished with the demo Mac, the others were ready to sample. Each one starts with the recipe below and uses different kinds of cheeses as well as additions to create more sophisticated versions of this time-honored comfort food.
Lower Fat and Loaded with Flavor
First up was Chipotle and Chorizo Mac 'N Cheese. This is a reduced fat, flavor injected version of the classic. In place of regular cheddar I used Cabot 50% Reduced Fat Jalapeno Cheddar and added 1/4 cup of diced Spanish chorizo and 1/3 cup of salsa. I sauted the chorizo and drained it on a paper towel to remove as much fat as possible. I also used Cabot's No Fat Cottage Cheese and No Fat Sour Cream. The paprika used to spice the chorizo and the salsa lend a bite as well as a pinkish hue to the proceedings. And just enough heat to make it interesting.
I Mean, Really, Who Doesn't Like Bacon?
Next was the ever-popular combination of Bacon and Horseradish Mac 'N Cheese. I cooked, drained and crumbled 5 strips of thick-cut bacon and combined it with Cabot Horseradish Cheddar, which produced raves from the crowd. Come on...bacon and horseradish? Who's going to object to that?
A Posh Mac Makeover
Last out of the oven was the simple, yet elegant Truffled Lobster Mac 'N Cheese. This special meal required a special cheese so I chose Cabot Clothbound, a cheddar of exquisite taste and quality that is aged in the cellars of Jasper Hill Farm. It's nutty flavor combines perfectly with the delicate lobster meat (about 1/2 pound) and just a dash of truffle oil. That one disappeared before everyone could have a taste. Imagine my surprise!
Here is the basic Mac 'N Cheese recipe. It's yummy as is, but there are endless variations you can use to make it your own.
Cabot Macaroni and Cheese
Vegetable cooking spray 4 cups cooked elbow macaroni (about 2 cups uncooked) 8 ounces Cabot Sharp Cheddar, grated (about 2 cups) 1 cup Cabot Cottage Cheese 3/4 cup Cabot Sour Cream 1/2 cup skim milk 1 large egg, slightly beaten 2 tablespoons grated fresh onion 1 1/2 tablespoons melted Cabot Salted Butter, divided 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper 1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs 1/4 teaspoon ground paprika Few sprigs fresh oregano
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray.
2. In large bowl, stir together macaroni, cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, skim milk, egg, onion, 1 1/2 teaspoons of butter, salt and pepper. Spoon mixture into baking dish.
3. In small bowl, combine remaining tablespoon butter with breadcrumbs and paprika. Sprinkle mixture over macaroni. Cover with lid or foil and bake for 30 minutes.
4. Uncover and bake 5 minutes longer or until golden.