Monday, March 11, 2013

Quick Indulgences - Macaroni and Cheese

Did you know it is possible to have macaroni and cheese in under 20 minutes?  Made from scratch?  This is very important to a college student who has just come home at 4:00pm, having eaten a total of a small roll, an apple muffin and half a lemon bar since 8:30am that day.  I found the recipe at the delightful blog White on Rice Couple, and kept it as an active tab for the two weeks it took me to find spare time and buy groceries.  Diane writes about the speed and simplicity of her macaroni and cheese, and the techniques she used to develop her recipe.  I followed hers...mostly.  

You see, I have a portion control problem, where, essentially, I have none whatsoever.  I cut the recipe in half (devouring the entire batch, of course), and it cooked in about half the time that Diane lists.  The rate of energy transfer (temperature rise) is directly proportional to mass, yes?  I also removed most of the mustard (not fond of it), used whole milk instead of low fat (I only have the refrigerator space for one half-gallon of milk at a time...), skipped the butter (well, she said you didn't need it...) skipped the black pepper and (here's why) used only about 1/4 cup of a nice, spicy, pepper jack cheese.  Still, thick, rich, creamy, flavorful, all those lovely adjectives that typically describe a good macaroni and cheese.  Also, I used a brown rice fusilli (gluten-free!), because my friend graduated, moved out of the apartment and kindly left me a 6-month supply* of rice.  Fusilli and cheese?

Simple Macaroni and Cheese from White on Rice Couple
Makes enough to serve one
1 cup dry macaroni/pasta pieces
1 cup whole, low-fat or skim milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch nutmeg (optional)
Pinch ground dry mustard (optional)
1 oz. or 1/4 cup shredded cheese 
Black pepper to taste (optional)

1. Pour the milk and macaroni/pasta into a pot (mine is about 3 quarts or so and has survived my shenanigans since freshman year).  Turn on the fire to medium and add the salt, nutmeg and mustard, if using.  Stir, and keep gently stirring while the milk comes to a simmer.  Don't let the milk boil over!  You might need to add more milk or water if the milk evaporates too quickly, before the macaroni/pasta has cooked.

2. Once the macaroni/pasta is cooked and the milk has been reduced to a pleasant, creamy sauce, add the cheese.  Stir the cheese into the sauce, then cover the pot, turn off the fire, and let it sit for a few minutes.  This lets the cheese melt completely (if you just cut chunks off a block of cheese, like I do, because you buy cheese in the cheapest form and still don't own any sort of grater...), the macaroni/pasta absorb the last bits of water from the sauce, and you to get more hungry while smelling the delicious cheese melting on the stove.

3. Serve immediately, and enjoy!

Does wondering whether I have too much rice automatically kick me off the Asian island?  To my credit, I graduate in two months, too, and still don't know where I'll be living this summer.  I'll be working as a research intern at Brookhaven National Lab, but haven't been given any information about where I'll stay.  What if they don't allow rice cookers where I'll be living?!

Postscript: I love daylight savings time!  I don't get enough sleep to resent losing just an hour, and the extra daylight time is completely worth it to me.  It means that I was able to make and eat this macaroni and cheese dish, write this post, and still see the light outside.  Sunlight, well, the light that manages to filter through the current clouds, makes me so happy!