The Only Mac and Cheese I’ll Ever Make.

I was recently invited to a potluck. I had planned to bring a pie, but then I heard that several other people were making pies. I decided I’d make mac and cheese instead. It was a blatant violation of my “never bring a dish you’ve never made to a potluck” rule.

I rarely make mac and cheese. I find it too indulgent for one or two people, and the leftovers are always disappointing (unless, of course, you bread and deep fry them like Alton Brown does). The recipes can get expensive and labor intensive, requiring the use of all your pots and all the burners on your stove.

In fact, if my friend Andy hadn’t started bringing mac and cheese to potlucks, I never would have considered making it for this event. His mac and cheese, a modified version of Alton Brown’s Baked Macaroni and Cheese, is a wildly popular potluck contribution that no one seems to tire of. Andy is also responsible for introducing me to the fabulous mac and cheese at Kelly’s Bar and Lounge.

If you’d like to make this recipe like Andy does, you’ll need to:
1. Increase the 1/2lb of macaroni to about 3/4 pound
2. Make a roux out of the flour, mustard and butter
3. Heat the milk and bay leaf separately on low heat until ready to add them to the roux
4. Substitute copious amounts of smoked paprika/pimenton for the paprika
5. Serve the final product with Sriracha and salt.

I like it so much that it’s the only mac and cheese i’ll ever make. It was the first dish emptied at the potluck, and one person told me I should have made twice as much!

Rhubarb-Berry Tart

I bought some unbelievable fruit from the Pepper Place Saturday Market, a place that’s helped ease my longing for Pittsburgh’s Strip District. The market is one of several perks to living in the South, including a longer growing season, truckloads of Chilton County Peaches, and great fish and shellfish. I could go on about things like grits, biscuits, scuppernogs, muscadines, and the local breweries and dairies…

I love the flexibility of fruit pies. I remember reading one cookbook that described how fruit texture, juiciness, and sweetness affect your choice of crusts, thickening-agents, and sweeteners. It even told you how much filling (by weight) to put in different sized pies. Much to my chagrin, I can’t remember which book it was!

The point i’m trying to make is you don’t have to follow recipes to the letter, especially when your instincts tell you there’s something wrong. I mostly read fruit pie recipes for inspiring flavor combinations. Then, I substitute my favorite ingredients, crusts, and toppings. I have made enough pies to know when I need to par-bake the crust, when I can get away without using pie weights (usually beans or pennies), and when I need to adjust the baking time or temperature.

This tart was a mashup of recipes from The LA Times, Ken Haedrich’s Pie, and Mentesana & Audureau’s Once Upon a Tart. I often pull components from Richard Sax’s Classic Home Desserts and titles by Carole Walter, Maxine Clark, and Nick Malgieri. If you have some other titles to suggest, let me know!

Continue reading Rhubarb-Berry Tart