Saturday, February 20, 2016

Macaroni and Cheese (of the stovetop variety)

A quick rant, I promise.

First, some background. I love macaroni and cheese. When I was a child, it was one of 5 dinner foods that I deemed worthy enough to consume—along with cheese pizza, scrambled egg sandwiches (first without crust, but eventually progressing to crust included), cheeseburgers (ketchup only), and spaghetti with Parmesan. (I've since graduated to other foods of course, but these 5 still hold a special place in my heart).

Additional background: my mother is pretty effing terrible at cooking. Mainly because she can't maintain any sort of focus/concentration on cooking and invariably leaves things too long.

So relatively early, I took over the important part of mac and cheese cooking: the sauce.

Adding butter, milk, your own Velveeta (or easy melt equivalent) and an assortment of spices to the powdered cheese gunk that comes with even the cheapest of macaroni and cheeses can make it palatable to any one that isn't trying to be a pretentious fart.

(My present personal blend consists of excessive amounts of garlic powder, "Italian seasoning", basil, onion powder, crushed red pepper, black pepper, dill weed, paprika and probably a couple others I'm forgetting at the moment.)

Of course, then they come out with the "deluxe" boxes and family sizes with cheese SAUCE instead of powdered cheese gunk and everyone's life markedly improved.

Of course, you should still add all of the previous additions, but it's no longer a requirement unless you want to go from yummy to oh-my-god-I-can't-stop-eating-I'm-going-to-die-like-Tycho-Brahe (who purportedly died of explosion from eating too much and not leaving the table, but actually died several days later very painfully from probably uremia).

Quite recently (after buying four or five boxes of mac and cheese), I realized that I was paying two or three dollars more than normal pasta pretty much entirely for the cheese sauce, which—after the amount of Velveeta and Parmesan I add to the sauce (not to mention whatever other cheeses I have on hand)—is really quite superfluous.

So I've switched away from the traditional brands of macaroni and cheese, and now make my own.

Now, I may not have spoken at length on here about my views on stagnation, but for quite a long while, I've believed that stagnation is akin to dying (although maybe not as bad because of the hope for a future renaissance, although maybe worse because at least if you're dead you have an excuse for being stuck in a hole). So I try to continue to improve my blend and I work further and further on the Macaroni and Cheese Problem.

Once, my mother had an exclusive garlic pesto blend she bought at some social gathering that ended up being way better than anything I had ever done up to that point. The macaroni and cheese I had that year was legendary, but when the pesto ran out and the truth about its origin came to the surface (namely that there wouldn't be any more ever again) it pushed me even further until I eventually came up with the blend I use today (which, if I'm being honest, is a bit of a combination of the spices my father uses for his spaghetti sauce and the spices in my favorite chicken scampi recipe + a lot more garlic).

So this brings us to tonight: I'm hungry, but not famished—and a bit overly salted from my lunchtime ramen—and I remember that I had just bought some easy melt cheese last week, so macaroni and cheese is officially an option.

Recently, I've come to the conclusion that eggs are almost more a condiment than a food in most dishes, and I've been increasingly interested in adding eggs to, well, everything. So I go online to see about adding some eggs to my macaroni and cheese.

First, I just come across the standard carbonara recipes, so I refine my search and try again, and I come across this expansive guide on making macaroni and cheese.

Well, I believe that stagnation is akin to death, so in for a penny in for a pound, I'm fucking doing this, you know?

And this guide isn't overly revolutionary, but they do stress the creation of a pseudo-bechamel sauce, so OK, let's make a roux, not something I've ever officially done (although I have made gravy, which is basically the same thing plus meat). Great, roux officially made, now adding milk and bechamel (without all the fanciness) done. Awesome, Next, separate eggs, again not something I've ever done, but it's a snap. Why did I ever think this was difficult? OK, next is tempering eggs, not something I ever remember even hearing about in my entire life, but SUPER glad I know about this now. Eggs are now getting added to EVERYTHING.

And I mix this all in with some spices and cheeses and am ready to add the macaroni.

. . .

. . .

. . .

And it's OK.

But WHAT IS ALL THAT EFFORT FOR JUST FUCKING OK MACARONI AND CHEESE?

I don't know that I've ever been more disappointed to have something that tasted good in my entire life.

I ended up adding a significant amount more of cheese and milk to sublimate the roux in the end and there was the funny quality of not-being-able-to-stop-eating-it-even-though-I-don't-really-love-it. And it was definitely a hell of a lot more filling and heavy than anything I had ever made. And that might be interesting. I'm glad it had strange properties that don't make sense to my heart, but I wanted some Tycho-Brahe-exploding-level of good macaroni and cheese.

I'm also glad I learned some new cooking skills, but it was just such a disappointment overall that I had to share.

Thanks for reading! Do you have any cooking fails you'd like to share? Or do you have a special way to make macaroni and cheese you think I might love? (stovetop or baked is cool with me).

Oh. Also, I guess I'm not very trustworthy. That's like 1000 words. Nothing quick about it at all. I'm very sorry.