Vintage Recipe: Ultimate Mac ‘n Cheese

WIN_20160106_180537Mac ‘n Cheese is the ultimate Midwestern American comfort food. If you’ve been following Crowded Earth Kitchen for a while, you know that we have a big old foodie crush on Paris… but not even Paris does Mac ‘n Cheese as well as the American Midwest. We’ve been experimenting with recipes for Ultimate Mac ‘n Cheese for a while, working to create a recipe that just simply doesn’t need to be improved any further. This is it. Enjoy!

WIN_20160106_170048Ingredients (Fills a deep dish pie plate)

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese

1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1/3 cup light cottage cheese

1/4 cup light sour cream

1/2 teaspoon sweet curry powder

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound box of medium shells or macaroni noodles

WIN_20160106_163123Directions

Step 1) Pour chicken stock into a large saute pan and boil for 10 minutes or until reduced until only about 1/2 cup of liquid remains. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Step 2) Add shells or macaroni to a large pot of boiling water. Cook until al dente, or just a bit chewy – don’t overcook! Drain when al dente is reached.

Step 3) While pasta is cooking, add mild cheddar, Monterey Jack, and sharp cheddar cheeses to the saute pan with the reduced chicken stock. Heat on a low setting, stirring constantly, until cheese is melted.

Step 4) After shells or macaroni are cooked and drained, add the cottage cheese, sour cream, and curry powder to the melted cheese mixture. Stir over low heat until thoroughly blended.

Step 5) Combine the cooked, drained noodles and the cheese mixture. Stir until noodles are evenly coated, and transfer the mixture to a greased deep dish pie plate or casserole dish. Sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

Step 6) Cover with foil and bake your Ultimate Mac ‘n Cheese in a preheated 325 degree oven for 30 minutes. Serve immediately with a fresh green salad.

Simple Beef Stew

WIN_20150923_195950

A bubbling pot of beef stew on the stove has a way of settling people at the end of a busy day. November’s cold air and brisk wind can feel refreshing in small doses, but can make a person feel like hibernating by the end of the day! I start beef stew in mid-afternoon, so that the earthy aroma fills the house by the time others arrive from work and school. I enjoy watching my loved ones peel off coats and scarves, rub cold hands together, and sniff the air with wind-nipped noses. Invariably, they smile. That’s well worth a few minutes of prep time!

WIN_20150923_164751Ingredients (Makes 3 quarts)

3 pounds chopped beef (often labeled “Beef Stew” at the market)

1/4 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup oil

6 cups vegetable juice (such as V8)

3 cups water

1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence

1 tablespoon finely diced fresh rosemary

8 cups “root and tuber” vegetables, peeled and cut into chunks (any combination of potatoes, yams, carrots, onions, etc.)

WIN_20150923_170041Directions

Step 1) Combine flour, nutmeg, paprika, and black pepper. Add to a plastic bag (such as a disposable grocery bag) with the beef, and shake gently to coat the beef.

Step 2) Working in two batches, add half of the oil to a large stockpot on medium-high heat. Add half of the beef and brown with WIN_20150923_171521stirring for 3 – 5 minutes. Remove beef with a slotted spoon and set aside. Prepare the other half of the beef in the same way. Remove all of the beef and set aside, but don’t wash the stockpot!

Step 3) To the same stockpot, add vegetable juice, water, and Herbes de Provence. Bring to a boil. Add beef, stir, and reduce heat to simmer (covered) for one hour.

Step 4) After one hour, add 8 cups of vegetables as well as the fresh rosemary. Simmer, uncovered, for approximately 1 hour or until vegetables are fork tender. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking at the bottom of the pot. If mixture becomes too thick, add water or vegetable juice 1/4 cup at a time.

Step 5) Serve hot with crusty bread or wide noodles. Enjoy!