Ben’s Best Mac and Cheese

I have never made this recipe myself. But I have eaten it!  and leftovers were today’s lunch!  It was made in my kitchen last night by our youngest son, Ben, who has made it before and declared this his best!  I offered him the chance to be a guest blogger on Kitchen Keepers and when he declined he said I could share the recipe on the blog.

Joe had an emergency hospitalization which prompted fresh gratitude for the helping hands of two of my sons who live nearby.  Sean came and helped take his Dad to the hospital on Monday.  Ben came to help last night and cooked our dinner.  Try this when you are craving  cheesy, delicious comfort food!  By the way, Sean recently made his famous homemade Corned Beef Hash for us.  I will include his recipe sometme soon.  And just so you know, son Jeremy who lives too far away to pop over for week night suppers, is a gourmet cook, too. I am one blessed Mom, and their wives appreciate them, also!

Ben’s Best Mac and Cheese

Sea Salt

1 pound Dreamfield’s Penne Regate pasta

2 cups of chopped Canadian Bacon

3 cups milk

8 tablespoons (1 stick)  butter, divided

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

8 ounces Gruyère, grated (2 cups)

8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (2 cups)

1 cup crumbled Gorgonzola

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp Penzey’s French Four Spice  or 1/2 tsp nutmeg and 1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1  cup Panko bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Into a large pot of boiling salted water.add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.

Put chopped Canadian Bacon in skillet.  Heat and stir until slightly browned.

Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyère, Cheddar, Gorgonzola, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and spices. Add the Canadian Bacon and cooked pasta, stirring to mix.  Pour into a buttered 3-quart baking dish and top with bread crumbs.  Dot with small pieces of remaining butter.  Heat in oven until bread crumbs are golden brown and the sauce on pasta is bubbling.

Cranberries on My Mind

Cranberries scooped out of a big tub filled with water and berries are pretty enough to keep in a bowl for a centerpiece, and a tasty main ingredient in dozens of nutritious and festive dishes.  This week Skye and I shopped for the berries, and made cranberry vinegar when we brought them home.  I have experimented with various herb vinegars, even rose petal vinegar, but this was my first to make with cranberries.  The preparation is simple.  Watching the vinegar blush, then color and deepen to glowing red was fun, and the cranberry vinaigrette Skye made for a Thanksgiving dinner salad was fresh, tart, and tasty.

                                              Cranberry Vinegar

Wash and pat dry 1 cup fresh cranberries

Bring 4 cups white vinegar barely to a boil.

Pour hot vinegar over berries in clean jar, cover with lid, and set outside in a sunny spot until desire color and flavor are achieved.  One recipe said leave outside for 2 weeks, but we were too impatient – we bottled ours on the second day!  When ready to bottle, strain and discard the berries and pour the vinegar into bottles which have lids or corks.  I like to keep mine refrigerated.

We also made Cranberry bread, and along with other desserts, I will serve a lovely English Wensleydale cheese with cranberries!   Cranberries on my mind!

Elbows on the Table

Pasta was not a word in most families’ food vocabulary in 1940’s East Texas. However, they did eat noodles in chicken noodle soup and occasionally buttered instead of potatoes with a meal. Appearing also at family meals, macaroni, specifically small elbow macaroni, was the star in macaroni and cheese (not Kraft dinners) and a potluck favorite called simply Macaroni Salad.

The latter was favored by a woman who not only made it for her table at home, but also bore it proudly to Sunday School luncheons and church potlucks. Opal grew up on a farm, picked cotton, packed tomatoes and proudly sold tins of Cloverine salve to buy her first set of pots and pans. A hard worker at any of those jobs, she set herself to perform well at any task, cooking included. Opal’s blue eyes snapped with both humor and determination when she decided to do something. Permed curls bobbing, hands on her hips, arms ready to hug she demonstrated wit and will as well as how loyal and loving she could be. Raised in the Great Depression, she was thrifty to the bone while being generous with what she had. Food she made in her kitchen in the little house on Sunset Street in Jacksonville, Texas was prepared with what she had on hand. Macaroni Salad was no exception.

After tying on a brightly colored apron trimmed with ric-rac sewn on her Singer, she hard- boiled eggs in an aluminum pan whose handles had long ago burned off. With the cooled and peeled eggs set aside, she rinsed the pan and brought salted water to a boil for the little crooked macaroni elbows. She never worried that they needed to be al dente! Once she had drained the noodles into a metal strainer, she dumped them into a Pyrex bowl. Next came the chopped eggs and whatever other ingredients that were available. Most of the time, celery was in the icebox to be scrubbed and diced, along with American Cheese sliced into small cubes, chopped pickles, and a small squatty jar of pimiento pieces. Opal’s skinny, bespectacled young daughter often peeled eggs, pulled strings from celery and forked out pickles. Sometimes she cut onion into small pieces while tears ran down her cheeks.

Perhaps there was a recipe Opal learned from working in a cafeteria before her girls were born. Or there may well have been directions on the Skinner macaroni package. More likely, Opal helped Clyde Terrell, her own mama, so she knew how to make this for her husband Howard Teal when they married in 1931. Or it could be that Clyde’s gift of a cookbook was the source of the all those macaroni salad filled Pyrex bowls. There is a recipe for Macaroni Salad in a worn copy of The Service Cookbook by Mrs. Ida Bailey Allen,  inscribed “From Mamma, Dec. 25, 1933.”

Opal Terrell Teal was my mother. Until very near her death in 2006, one month shy of her 93rd birthday, she claimed Macaroni Salad by saying, “I always liked it.” No longer young or skinny, still bespectacled, and ever grateful for growing up loving to be in the kitchen, I like it too. My granddaughters like to wear the ric-rac trimmed aprons.

Macaroni Salad

2 cups cold cooked elbow macaroni
½ cup diced celery
½ cup finely chopped American cheese
1 Tablespoon minced onion
½ cup French dressing
½ teaspoon salt
A few grains paprika
Lettuce
Mayonnaise

Combine the macaroni, celery, cheese and onion; marinate with the French dressing, and season with salt and paprika. Chill; arrange in individual nests of lettuce; and garnish with mayonnaise and a little paprika.

Note: I don’t remember Mother using paprika, nor do I remember any nests of lettuce. Boiled eggs do not appear in this recipe, but they did appear in the Pyrex dishes.

 

 

   Opal Terrell Teal’s cookbook.        The apron on which it rests belonged to Clyde Terrell.

Welcome!

Welcome to Kitchen Keepers, a blog for sharing good memories, good stories and good recipes.  I have been asked to record family recipes which have been favorites for many years, adding to their story every time they are prepared and enjoyed as well as those newcomers which have their own story.  Since I believe growing and preparing your own food is not only a pleasure but an art which is worthy of passing on, I am pleased to begin.

  Gathering around our table has been so much more than providing physical nourishment for me.  For as we gather, whatever the table shape may be, we form a circle, a place of conversation and knowing and caring.  Expressing our gratitude for the provision of food and family, giving thanks for bread and baker, we enter a sacred space.  Welcome.