I'm not minding the unusual warmth because the octagon is happy. Momotaro says hello.
So does Matt's Wild Cherry.
My Spanish lavender smiles.
And on my walk home today, I saw the first of the passion vines, growing feral along an untidy fence, blooming passionately away.
But, it isn't too summer-y yet for a good dose of homemade macaroni and cheese. I've been making this recipe for the last couple of years, and it is so good, that I had to share it with you, even if it is "no longer in season." Hey, out on the other coast of this fair continent, I hear it is still raining. Perhaps it isn't too late.
The World's Best Mac and Cheese
Slightly adapted from Epicurious
You will need:
1 package of elbow shaped pasta or another shape of your choosing (I like trottole)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups coarse bread crumbs
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
2 3/4 cups milk
3/4 cup cream
5 cups coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar (about 1 pound, 4 ounces)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives (Mine were from the octagon--my first crop! Hooray!)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
To make the macaroni and cheese:
Start a large pot of salted water to boil and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a large (3 quart) baking dish with butter. When the water boils, add the pasta. While the pasta is cooking, complete the following steps.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and mix it with the bread crumbs and 1 cup of cheddar cheese. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, melt the remaining butter. Add the flour and red pepper flakes to make a roux. Cook, whisking, for three minutes, then stir in the milk. Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring frequently to keep it from scorching on the bottom of the pan. Stir in the cream, mustard, chives, cheddar, salt and pepper.
When the pasta has reached "al dente" stage, pour the pasta into a colander, retaining a cup of the pasta water. Return the pasta to its large pot, along with the cup of pasta water and the cheese sauce. Stir to combine, then pour the pasta-cheese mixture into the buttered baking dish. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture evenly over the casserole, and stick the whole thing in the oven for 25 minutes.
Serves six (or two, with two days of yummy leftovers).
P.S. A couple of posts ago, I asked for "fennel pollen" ideas. I tried Susan in Italy's first--an arugula, sliced fennel, parmesan, and blood orange salad, tossed with fabulous olive oil and sprinkled with coarse salt and fennel pollen. The salad came together as sweet, crunchy, and fragrant--overall, very nice, and a perfect accompaniment to the rich mac and cheese. I haven't tried Susan from The Well Seasoned Cook's gratin idea yet, but it is definitely in the foreseeable future. If any of y'all have more suggestions, I'll gladly take them.