I Actually Can Cook One Thing Well
This is My Mac-n-Cheese Recipe for the Ladies at Muskrat's Birthday Party
I once documented, on this very blog, my frustration over cooking. Go ahead. Read it. I'll be here when you get back.
I've also railed to the gods above, on Facebook, how much I hate cooking. I despise the whole process. I don't like choosing the recipe, then having to slog to the grocery store, coming home and putting it all away. Then there's the whole "trash your kitchen" thing and the entire "grease up your stove" bit and let's not forget the "dripping in the oven" nonsense. And when I'm all finished and the dishes are set before my diners (read: husband and/or mother and/or kids), I typically get a Meh response.
I'm not a cook. I can't taste a gravy or a sauce or a meat or a something and tell you Needs more this. Nope. And I don't enjoy the process at all. I guess you could say I'm more of a chemist repeating someone else's experiment. As far as I'm concerned, if a recipe book has gone through the trouble of being, oh, I don't know, published, then that means the recipes have gone through a test kitchen, have been tasted, and are good to go (translation: no one in the test kitchen barfed or made funny faces and everyone gave it a thumbs-up).
Somehow, though, when those well-thought-out recipes get to my humble kitchen, the chemistry has gone pear-shaped and that teaspoon of cumin should have probably only been a half teaspoon. It's magic, people, dark magic, that's afoot.
People share their recipes with me and, don't get me wrong, I'm grateful, I'm just terrified to fix them because they'll turn out awful. I even visited the Pioneer Woman's web site for a pot roast recipe because people rave about her cooking prowess. For some reason, I've been searching for the perfect pot roast. It's my recipe holy grail to find the one pot roast recipe that delivers juicy red meat that is flavorful and not tough.
I fixed Ree's pot roast and was horribly depressed over the whole affair.
At any rate, there is ONE thing I can cook that is rather smashing. Macaroni and cheese. And it isn't even my recipe. It's from a cookbook. But not just any cookbook. Allow me to further bore you.
One of my favorite authors is Lilian Jackson Braun. She wrote a series of 29 books known as "The Cat Who..." mysteries and in said books, she described the most wonderful meals. Each time I would read one of her books, in addition to trying to solve the mystery before the main character, Jim Qwilleran, I wished desperately to step into his world and have a slice of Mrs. Cobb's coconut cake (Sidenote: Mrs. Cobb is Qwilleran's housekeeper) or to sit down with the protagonist and his cats for a plate of Polly's tuna sandwiches. Everything always sounded so mouth-watering.
And then, one day, browsing the cooking section, there it was. A cookbook based on the food in The Cat Who... books. A couple of crazy Lilian Jackson Braun superfans had come up with recipes for nearly every dish she ever mentioned in her books. I snagged the cookbook and raced home and immediately thumbed to the page titled "Mrs. Cobb's Macaroni and Cheese." This was the stuff of Cat Who legend. Whispered through the hallowed pages was Mrs. Cobb's mac-n-cheese recipe, how she made it taste just so, what was her secret ingredient that made this dish so very special. Here was the mac-n-cheese she made for Qwilleran that he would delight in eating and then freeze leftovers of it for rainy days in with his Siamese cats Koko and Yum-Yum. I HAD to make it.
And I did. And it was glorious. And it's the one page this book automatically falls open to each time I retrieve it. I make it for special occasions and a few of my friends have taken to calling it "Der's Mac-n-Cheese." Muskrat's 39th birthday party yesterday was just such an occasion to dust off the measuring spoons and bowls, and I'm proud to say that Mrs. Cobb and I came through once again. I challenge all of you to whip it up this next week and give me a verdict. Like? Love? Meh?
And if you love it, make sure you share it. Goodness knows there are other "chemists" like me who are out there, fighting the good fight, and feeling like cooking failures. Give them this recipe, pat them on the shoulder, and tell them there is hope.
Mrs. Cobb's Macaroni and Cheese
6 cups water
1 ¾ cups elbow macaroni
⅓ cup chopped onion
1 tbsp + 4 tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp salt
⅛ tsp black pepper
⅛ tsp red pepper
2 cups + 1 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup half-and-half
3 eggs, beaten slightly
3 tbsp dry white wine (Mrs. Cobb's secret ingredient)
Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Bring water to a boil. Add macaroni, stirring occasionally to separate elbows. Bring to a boil again; reduce heat to medium. Cook, uncovered, until tender - about 10 minutes. Drain. Sauté onion in 1 tbsp of the butter. Stir onion while adding the mustard, salt, and peppers. Set aside. In another bowl, combine 2 cups cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, 4 tbsp melted butter, sour cream, half-and-half, and eggs. Combine macaroni, onion mixture, cheese mixture, and wine. Place in greased dish. Sprinkle top with 1 cup cheddar cheese. Bake 35 minutes.