Thursday, August 18, 2011

An Anniversary à la America's Test Kitchen!

Like many, I was surrounded by food and the love of it growing up. The fellowship and community that comes from eating was found in so many circles throughout my childhood. From potlucks at church to violin recital receptions, food has always been the tie that binds. And no matter the location, there were certain staples at every gathering, whether I lived in the South or on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Across the board, one recurring theme on those banquet tables was always a version of macaroni and cheese. I'm sure many of you can relate to this little memory!

During these growing years, hardly a Saturday passed that I didn't flip on PBS and catch an episode of America's Test Kitchen and usually a Jacques Pépin or Julia Child, too. This is where my love for food really grew. And thanks to America's Test Kitchen, this is also how I was introduced to not just wanting to make good food, but how to make it well! Top all of that with an incredible mother for a cook and I can confidently say that my upbringing held food in the highest regard and is recalled with the fondest of memories.

As you can imagine, food has taken an even more meaningful place in my life as I have aged. It has gone from an experience through the hands of others to a very special place of creation in my own life. And I can even say that, when considering my future and having a husband, I knew I just had to marry a guy who could appreciate food creation like I do. Thankfully, Gregory met those requirements and tomorrow, we celebrate two years of marriage!

True to my blog title, the past two years have been nothin' but living and learning together. We've had every up and down you could imagine. We've come through trials of loss and disaster and also times of extreme joy. And through it all, we've enjoyed food together from all ethnicities and backgrounds. But like many of you out there, we always come back to the love that is comfort food many times throughout the year. And as I am sure we can all agree, mac n' cheese is definitely one of those go-to, feed-your-soul foods. Found at almost every gathering no matter the season, you know you'll always try it, carbs and all. It serves a purpose in every location and can be jazzed up for those fancy pants parties, too.

When I saw the facebook post for the "Dish It Your Way" Challenge on America's Test Kitchen fan page, I jumped at the chance. Here's my ode to mac n' cheese as per the call of the challenge! A big thanks for giving food bloggers a chance to share our dishes with you! Head on over to the Test Kitchen's feed website to participate in the remaining challenge this summer!

Here's my spin on the dish with a fresh, summery ingredient and three cheeses that Gregory and I really enjoy together. And I must say, this dish is certainly a friendly way to make macaroni and cheese a little more sophisticated without breaking the bank for those of us who are still students and musicians living on a budget!

Happy Anniversary, Gregory! And happy eats, friends!

Three-Cheese Mac with Fresh Basil
serves 4 as a main dish, 6-8 as a side

2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
dash of salt
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 stick of salted butter
2 tbs all-purpose flour
6 ounces sharp cheddar, grated
3 ounces gruyere, grated
3 ounces brie, rind partially removed
1 cup of 2% or whole milk
A few fresh basil leaves, rough chop

- Boil 6-8 cups of water in a medium-large pot. Throw in a dash of salt and the tablespoon of olive oil. Cook pasta until al denté, drain in a colander and set aside. At this time, sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of flour over the grated cheeses to prevent a stringy texture occurring once the cheese melts.
- In the same pot, remove noodle residue and begin to melt your butter. Toss in all cheeses, whisking frequently on medium-low heat, being careful not to overheat (or clumping will occur!)
- As most of the cheese begins to melt, slowly pour in the milk and whisk to incorporate until a nice sauce has formed.
- At this time, you can incorporate your macaroni into the sauce. Give it a few good stirs and plate up with fresh basil. *If you need to make this ahead, it can definitely be put into a casserole dish and warmed up in the oven. The sauce's consistency should allow for reheating.