Friday night's recipe was for good old-fashioned Roni Cheese. As it turns out, I needed this dinner.
Friday night I was at my 9-5 until roughly 8:30pm. Generally, that's called "teh suck". When it happens on a Friday, it's called "kill yourself". Luckily, I didn't.
But once I slogged it home, half-starved because I hadn't eaten since 1 (when I ate Wednesday night's left overs, because why eat left-overs the day following, when you can eat them two days later, right?) I was glad I'd picked something that I've probably made 10 times since I invented the recipe (and for me that's a lot). Something I could practically make in my sleep. My Roni Cheese.
I usually make it with pancetta, but since we were buying for a week here, bacon was more reasonable, since we eat it with breakfast and I'm putting it in tomorrow night's dinner, chili. So I chopped up the bacon and shallots, cooked them with a little olive oil until they got all nice, and then made a roux out of hte rendered fat, olive oil, a little butter, the bacon/shallots, and flour. Once that cooked, I added a bunch (too much, in retrospect) of chicken stock, milk, and some heavy cream. I seasoned (always, always taste as you cook, and season. always) and let it simmer while boiling the pasta. When it got to the right consistency, I added the cheese, which my boyfriend was kind enough to grate. I use cave-aged Gruyere and Emmenthaler, both of which I bought at Trader Joe's, and higher quality versions of which you can find at Whole Foods, or any place that doesn't only sell it's own, store-brand of cheese.
Side note. I hate grating cheese. If I had my way, I'd buy everything pre-shredded. But, some cheeses just do not do well with that, which is why it's worth mentioning that my boyfriend grated the cheese. I really fucking hate my grater, and I hate getting my fingers grated every time I use it. Someday, if I'm rich, I'm hiring someone to grate cheese for me, unless someone invents a grater that won't grate my knuckles/fingertips before then. I really fucking hate grating cheese.
I added too much chicken stock. Don't make my mistake. Add about half as much stock as you think you need, then add the milk and cream and see where you are. If you're using canned stock, add about half the can, about 2 cups of milk, and half a cup of cream. Then add the rest of the can, and slit your wrists with the lid because you didn't buy the boxed stock that is FAR superior.
If you're using boxed stock(and if you can't use homemade, you should ALWAYS use boxed stock), use about a cup, 2 and a half cups of the dairy, and then maybe another half-cup (yes, I know a can of stock is almost 2 cups, but trust me here, that stuff is 98% water. Bleh).
Stir the cheese in a little at a time, with a figure-eight motion, until it's all in. Let it sit on the lowest heat setting you've got until the pasta's done. Drain, and mix the sauce with the pasta. Start your broiler.
I generally reserve some of the shredded cheese for the top. If you didn't, that's ok. Use some parmesan, and sprinkle it all over everything. Then, cover that with breadcrumbs (regular or panko are both delicious), and cover the crumbs again with parm. Broil until the parm is nice and crusty brown. Eat asap. Enjoy.
Now I've just given you the approximation of a secret recipe. Even my roommate, who doesn't really like to admit that I can cook loves this stuff. The Roni Cheese is heavenly. Luckily for me, nobody reads this thing, so I don't have to worry about you all stealing my recipe. Please still come to my cafe to eat it, once it opens. I came up with this on a wing and a prayer, after a few awful attempts. What can I say, all the roni cheese I'd ever eaten until I was 23 came out of a box. Therefore, you are fully encouraged to mess with this. Add mustard to the sauce. Add chili powder. Don't use the pancetta. Use different cheeses - although if you're going to use cheddar, use Emmenthaler as the other cheese, or something not oily. Two oily cheeses do not make a good time. Trust me. Next time, I might add cauliflower or broccoli as I'm combining the cheese sauce and pasta. I don't know, I'm crazy!!!
Seriously though, this is basically a fool-proof situation, as long as you know what a roux is. You're learning to make one of the basic sauces in all of French Cuisine, bechamel, by making this dish (that's what it's called when you make a roux, then pour in milk and whisk like crazy. ta-daaa!!). Amazing, huh??
We ate this with a delicious nouveau wine that we buy at the Trader Joe's wine store. Any young red would go well with this, as would most whites, I guess. I'm a wino, but my selection is limited - Riesling, Zin, Merlot, Pinot Grigio, and Pinot Noir, unless Charles Shaw starts making other stuff. :) Sit back and enjoy a meal with which you will be able to feed most everyone (except vegetarians. For them, take out the bacon, and make it vegetable stock. Vegans are fucked, but you already knew that).
Next time: In which I surrender the reins, and let my boyfriend make the pizza dough.
In which I accidentally get beer all over my ass.