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Friday, January 18, 2013

How to Cook

This promises to be a bit more esoteric than usual.

Begin with a goal. This is simultaneously unimportant and of the utmost import. It could be anything from "Nourish myself" to "Get this girl to love me" to "Help the person I love feel better." In this manner, you choose what you will cook.

To choose what you cook is entirely subjective.

Begin with a self. Your understandings, memories, and fantasies of, and your associations, relationships, and histories with food, your memories and your desires. All of these fall into place in determining what you cook.

Do you feel completely safe when you're eating macaroni and cheese, because—like me—you're still sitting at your grandmother's dining room table, with its ugly vinyl tablecloth blazoned with ochre and orange flowers—chrysanthemums, maybe?—and that ugly yet beautiful chandelier hung above it? I never was afraid of anything at my grandparents' house. I watched the news of the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing, I saw shots of bleeding victims and bodies and terrified firemen, and I wasn't scared, because Nana and Papa survived the Holocaust, and so they'll keep me safe.

So when my girlfriend is scared and hurt because of something that happened to her, of course I make her macaroni and cheese.

But I make it my way.
2 ounces of butter
2 ounces of all-purpose flour
1 quart of milk
2 ounces gouda, chopped/shredded
4 ounces havarti, chopped/shredded
4 ounces sharp white cheddar, chopped/shredded
2 ounces mascarpone
4 ounces parmesan, shredded/grated
white pepper

In a saucepan (I like non-stick,) melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the flour, and stir to mix thoroughly. Cook until the flour begins to take a light beige color, which can take anywhere from a minute to 5, depending on your pan, stove, etc.. Remove from heat, continue stirring, and add milk. Whisk vigorously to break up clumps of roux. Return to heat, and bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer and hold for 20 minutes. Stir frequently, making sure to mix to the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching.

Add the cheeses an ounce or two at a time, and whisk in until they have melted before adding more. Add more cheeses as you see fit, adjusting the amounts to your taste. Season with salt and white pepper to your taste.
Chill and store in portions or bulk, in the fridge for six days, or the freezer for a month or two.
Boiling pasta is quick and easy, and the natural amount of time it takes the pasta to cook allows you a moment for a romantic interlude. Perhaps a lingering, luxurious kiss on the couch? Opening a soda, or a bottle of wine? Or, if you're really lucky, a beer? (Wheat, light German style please?) Perhaps changing into something more comfortable for the both of you, together? That might take nine or ten minutes. Just remember to set a timer, eh? 
Macaroni and Cheese
1 pound of Macaroni pasta
6 quarts water
6 tablespoons salt
2 1/2 cups Mornay Sauce (see above)

Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Add salt, and when the cloud of bubbles released at the dissolution of the salt has subsided, add the pasta. Cook for an appropriate amount of time to the brand and type of pasta you have.

Meanwhile, heat the mornay in a sauté pan or saucepan large enough to hold all the pasta. Bring it to a simmer, but be careful to keep it from breaking. Taste to make sure it's still good. You may need to add salt.

Strain the pasta out once it's cooked, and mix the hot, drained pasta with the mornay sauce. Stir well to mix evenly, and serve up. This will feed two hungry Aarons, so maybe three normal people, or two guys and a girlfriend with a small appetite.
Maybe you want to be a little fancier? You're wooing, not seducing; you're serving wine, not liquor; you're playing coltrane, not LMFAO. Or whatever it is you kids listen to when you're being hasty. Maybe you're trying to show that you're as good a cook as that restaurant you hit last week where your friend got the Lobster Mac and Cheese, or that really cool Jazz Club where you saw that awfully hep Two Man Band who played music about Pork Chops and Gals whilst you ate some of the best mac and cheese you've ever had. Maybe you like your mac and cheese... crunchy.

Ritz crackers get an unfair rap for being pseudo-fancy whilst still being buttery enough to be a guilty pleasure like shortbread. Town House crackers aren't the famous ones, despite being a Keebler product. Ritz crackers are delicious, and because the National Biscuit Company makes things right, they're buttery enough to brown under heat.
Crush one sleeve of Ritz crackers, and to the result add 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated, 1 tbsp salt and 1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper. Mix, and then add in 1/4 cup melted butter. Mix again. Freeze in portions, or refrigerate for a week or two at most.

Prepare Macaroni and Cheese as above. However, instead of serving, place the pasta and sauce into an ovenproof serving vessel (industrial china bowl, etc.) and top with a layer of Ritz Topping as prepared above. Place in a 450°F oven for 5 minutes or so to brown the top. Carefully serve and consume.
Perhaps you like bacon, or vegetables, or seafood. Mix and mingle to your desire, and create Bacon Mac, or Buffalo Chicken Mac, or Veggie Mac, or Lobster Mac, or Shrimp Mac... and on and on.

And now you've strengthened your relationship with her, because you shared something that has deep meaning for you with her, and in so doing imbued it with new meanings for the both of you, and that's nothing but good.

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