Friday, August 19, 2011

Pure Comfort

I'm not sure why someone like me, one of the lucky and privileged few, should need comfort, but every now and then I do.

Sometimes, I'm missing my Dad, even 15 years after his death. Sometimes, I'm wishing for a visit from a dear friend. Other times, although I adore our lovely dog, I wish I had a cat, for that special kind of quiet love only a purring cat can provide. When I feel like that, I make mac and cheese. From scratch, using really good ingredients.

Sure, I could get mac and cheese, much faster, out of a box, but it wouldn't be the same, not even the organic versions. I could also use other noodles than elbows, but that wouldn't fit my mental picture of mac and cheese. There's something comforting, not only in the eating of mac and cheese but also in the making of it. It's simple, straightforward and nearly mistake proof.

I'm careful to cook the macaroni just to al dente stage, not letting it get mushy. I also add chopped onion, sautéeing the onion in butter before adding the flour. I make the white sauce with real butter, all purpose flour and fresh milk (or, sometimes, half-and-half), letting the flour cook to a toasty flavor before adding the milk. This time, I had on hand three kinds of cheese, a smoky gouda, a small block of cheddar and a hunk of taleggio. None of them was, or should be, orange. I cut them into smallish pieces before adding them to the white sauce and stirring over low heat until they all meld together, then pour in the cooked and drained elbow macaroni and mix until every little curl is well coated with cheesy, oniony goodness.

The final step is the hardest part - postponing the satisfaction. You must wait until the mixture cools and rests for at least an hour, and preferably overnight. When you're hungry for comfort, it's difficult to do.

But then, when you reheat gently, everything has combined and strengthened into a deeply cheesy, unctuous whole, as if all the flavors had regrouped during the rest, found reinforcements, and come barreling back. At this point, you could add garlic crumbs to the top and bake but often, by then, I don't want to wait any longer; I get a fork and dive in.

Pure comfort.



Anonymous jann said...

Yes, we all need some comfort now and then.
However, I wouldn't count on a cat, certainly not mine, for cuddling. My dog does that just fine. You food looks like great comfort -warm and filling.

Friday, August 19, 2011  
Blogger Greg said...

Funny the way the universe flows. I'm sitting here in the fog. I just watched a recorded "United Tastes of America" on Cooking Channel. They highlighted Homeroom in Oakland on a show about mac and cheese. Now you got a beauty on your blog. Guess what I want now? Be good to yourself:)

Friday, August 19, 2011  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

Aw, I can't believe you didn't pop that into the oven, in your charming new gratin dish! Nice recipe. Nice pic, too.

Friday, August 19, 2011  
Blogger Ms Brown Mouse said...

We all, even the most comfortable of us, need comfort Zoomie. I think it's because we're human :)

Friday, August 19, 2011  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Jann, I guess it depends on the cat and it's mood. Mine usually condescended to snuggle and purr.

Greg, I hope you make some of your own. I'll look forward to hearing about it later.

cookie crumb, I am tickled pink with Janine's gratin dish. The photo was pleasing, too.

Ms Mouse, thanks for the kind words.

Saturday, August 20, 2011  
Blogger Kinda Like a Chef said...

My cat is good for cuddling, but even better for ripping the most disgusting a vile farts you have ever smelled. So, your dog might be better after all! :)

Love a good homemade mac and cheese! My kids won't even eat the stuff out of a box. I practically grew up on it!

Thursday, August 25, 2011  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Kinda, ooh, yes, cat farts - very bad! My dog only farts if I give her ham, so I have learned never to do that.

Sunday, August 28, 2011  

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