Autumn is sizing us up. It is cooler in the mornings. Old Luke the wonder dog has a spring in his step as we make our morning rounds. I have taken to wearing a light sweater for our first 5,000 steps of the day, and am enjoying the novelty. I imagine that in the middle of gelid February I will be singing a different tune, and will be yearning for short sleeves and balmy breezes. As we get used to autumnal changes, I am happily rummaging through my sweater collection, and thinking about other old favorites that I can bring into the dinner rotation, which is in need of a little energizing.
Our cooking routines just make it easier to plan dinner menus and the shopping trips to stock the larder. I know just what we need for Meatless Mondays (pasta) and Taco Tuesdays (ground beast, Colby cheese, jalapeños) and Friday Night is Pizza Night (00 flour, pepperoni, mozzarella). The routines can become so stultifying. What is wrong with experiencing some novel cooking during the week? Home cooking can be Instagram-worthy, if we can climb out of our precious, convenient ruts.
This week, Pasta Night is not going to be a summer-y Martha Stewart’s One Pan Pasta, which we have made at least twice a month since May (https://food52.com/recipes/30147-martha-stewart-s-one-pan-pasta) nor will it be our other fave in constant rotation, Samin Nosrat’s Cacio e Pepe (https://www.copymethat.com/r/iNU9zfzlp/samin-nosrats-pasta-cacio-e-pepe/). This week we are going to make adorable, individual baked mac and cheese casseroles, in the coquette pans I have had taking up precious cabinet space ever since I found them on sale last spring.
I love frozen Stouffer mac and cheese. I love Kraft boxed, powder-y mac and cheese. I love boxed Velveeta mac and cheese. I love Southern mac and cheese, with a coating of homemade bread crumbs. Mac and cheese. I do not discriminate. I prefer hot, steamy, give-you-blisters-on-the-roof-of-your-mouth mac and cheese. And I will not cook anything that calls for a can of Campbell’s mushroom soup. I like this recipe from the New York Times for its simplicity, and because our time is valuable: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1015824-baked-macaroni-and-cheese?
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
3 tablespoons butter
12 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
12 ounces American cheese or cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
1 pound elbow pasta, boiled in salted water until just tender, drained, and rinsed under cold water
⅛ teaspoon cayenne
⅔ cup whole milk
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Use one tablespoon butter to thickly grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Combine grated cheeses and set aside two heaping cups for topping.
In a large bowl, toss together the pasta, cheeses, cayenne (if using) and salt to taste. Place in prepared pan and evenly pour milk over surface. Sprinkle reserved cheese on top, dot with remaining butter and bake, uncovered, 45 minutes. Raise heat to 400 degrees and bake 15 to 20 minutes more, until crusty on top and bottom.
I like add-ons. Add crumbled bacon. Or if you must, broccoli. Or lobster. Or ham. Or onion rings. Please make your onion rings, and do not use French’s canned onion rings. Those are manufactured solely to disguise mushroom soup in the green bean casserole some misguided relative is sure to bring to Thanksgiving. Be sure to have an emergency can on hand, in case you are hosting this year…
Food52 always knows best. These are divine and crispy: https://food52.com/recipes/16365-crispy-onion-rings
This Mac and cheese recipe is a little fancier, and has more steps and ingredients. Go ahead, show off: https://whatshouldicook.coventry.domains/Digitalmarketingapplication/easyrecipes/easy-mac-and-cheese/
“Her pleasure in the walk must arise from the exercise and the day, from the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges, and from repeating to herself some few of the thousand poetical descriptions extant of autumn–that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness–that season which has drawn from every poet worthy of being read some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling.”
― Jane Austen