Saturday, February 22, 2014

Skillet Macaroni and Cheese

While grocery shopping last week I did what I often do, I followed my cravings. Namely, I had been thinking about a grilled chicken sandwich with bleu cheese dressing all day long. When I make a sandwich like that, I like a lot of lettuce on it. I like the cool, crisp crunch and it makes me feel healthy even on top of the bleu cheese dressing. So, without thinking things through, I grabbed a package of leaf lettuce from the produce section.

Even the small bags have a LOT of lettuce.

For days afterward, I've been eating salads...
Lots and lots of salads...
And after about 4 salads in as many days... I was feeling GREAT!
With that in mind, I decided to finally get off my butt and find ways to use the big bag of quinoa that an ex-roommate left sitting on top of our refrigerator.

(Update: I did end up finding one.)

My first step was to go to the website where my sister found our absolute favorite quinoa salad recipe. This recipe makes a TON of salad and involves a ridiculous amount of chopping. I'm not kidding, I've given myself blisters when making this over at Casey's house.

It's worth it. I could eat this stuff all day long.

This is the point in the story where all of my healthy planning goes right out the freakin' window. You see, right there on the homepage was this article/slideshow of skillet dinner recipes. In true internet-surfing style, I got a little sidetracked. In my own defense, who wouldn't get sidetracked by this???

Now, normally I would bookmark this recipe for another day, but I was SO...... DAMN...... HUNGRY.

On top of it all, I had all of the ingredients I needed (including a few substitutions) and the recipe scales down to a third sooooo easily.

Skillet Mac & Cheese for one
Adapted from Fine Cooking's Quick Skillet Mac And Cheese

You can make this without a skillet. Just make the sauce in a separate saucepan and pour it into a small baking dish and follow the recipe from there.

4 oz dried pasta (whatever kind you like to use in mac and cheese. I used rotini.)
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp all purpose flour
2/3 c. milk (I used mostly 1% with a healthy splash of half and half to approximate 2%)
1 c. freshly grated cheese (I used sharp cheddar here.... and yes, this is proportionally more cheese than the original recipe calls for. So sue me.)
1 tsp whole grain dijon mustard
1 scant tsp Worcestershire sauce (I used a full teaspoon and wouldn't have been unhappy if I'd used just a teensy bit less)
1 pinch of dried thyme
freshly ground black pepper
1 handful of italian seasoned breadcrumbs

Preheat your oven's broiler with the rack close to it, but far enough away that your pan/baking dish can fit under there.

Cook the pasta. There's no need to pull it out early, because it's not going to be in the oven long enough to get mushy.

In a small oven-proof skillet (or a saucepan, see note above) melt the butter over medium heat and sprinkle in the flour. I used my 6.5" skillet here but may use the 8" in the future. Things got a little tight. Stir that up good so there are no lumps and let it cook until the butter/flour mixture starts to turn light brown.

Pour in the milk, stirring constantly to get rid of any lumps. Let the sauce start to bubble until it turns... um... saucy. Add the mustard, thyme, Worcestershire and the grated cheese, continuing to stir until everything is incorporated and the cheese is melted. Pour in the cooked pasta and some salt and pepper to taste and stir again to mix it all up. Take the skillet off the heat and sprinkle the top liberally with the breadcrumbs and pop the whole thing under the broiler to brown.
My broiler sucks. I let it go a good 6 minutes until everything was bubbly and the top was nice and brown.
For the first time since I bought my skillets, I had a lunch that I could eat right out of the pan.

It was heavenly... Now it's time to go do some crunches.

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