Prairie Breeze Mac and Cheese

Prairie Breeze Macaroni and Cheese   Serves 12

(Adapted from Martha Stewart’s recipe)

It’s often said that a dish is only as good as its ingredients, and that’s never more true than when you’re making something simple like mac and cheese.

Our newest cheddar, Prairie Breeze, is loaded with flavor, hitting just the right balance of sweet & sharp. It also melts like a dream, which makes it a great choice for cooking. This recipe makes enough to serve a crowd and calls for a hefty helping of cheese – we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ingredients

  • 6 generous slices rustic white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, additional for greasing baking dish
  • 5 3/4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (freshly grated is best, if available)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated Prairie Breeze cheddar
  • 2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyere
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni (or other pasta shape like Rustichella Trenne)

Method

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place bread pieces in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour butter into the bowl with bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute.

2. Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.

3. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, mustard, 3 cups cheddar, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere. Set cheese sauce aside.

4. Cook macaroni following manufacturer’s instructions, but cook 2 to 3 fewer minutes than instructions on box, until outside of pasta is cooked and inside is underdone as it will continue to cook in the oven. Transfer the macaroni to colander and rinse under cold water, making sure to drain well to avoid watery mac and cheese! Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.

5. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar and 1/2 cup Gruyere; scatter breadcrumbs over the top. If you like, top with a sprinkle of additional cayenne, black pepper or sweet paprika for an extra kick. Bake until bubbling and browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes before serving. Bon Appetit!

James Is Not A Chef: Meatless Mondays

James Stahl is a cheesemonger and may or may not have a thing for the original male cast members of ER. This blog invites you to take a peek at his most recent creation and dares you to try this at home.

Beef-Free Beefish Mushroom Bolognese

For one teenage year I was a vegetarian. This decision was not motivated by ethical or health concerns; I stopped eating meat for approximately three hundred and sixty five days because I wanted to be as cool as my older brother. I’ll give you one guess as to how that worked out for me. But because my father is a compassionate man, he developed a vegetarian red sauce that tasted like it had meat in it for me and my brother to eat. Desperate for anything that tasted vaguely beefish (and no, fake beef doesn’t taste even remotely beefish), I consistently finished my first, second, third fourteenth plate whenever he made it. I even loved that sauce after I stopped being a bad vegetarian (Cheetos don’t have meat in them, right?). Now I’m sure my dad has the recipe floating around somewhere, but I decided that I’d rather try to recreate it myself and see what happens. The results are below.

The Recipe

1 pound cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
1 28 oz can peeled tomatoes, diced and sauce saved
1 large white onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup vegetarian broth
2 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried basil
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano , for topping
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pan, heat 1/4 cup olive oil to smoking. Drop garlic into olive oil and cook until browned, only about 90 seconds. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook for about 6 minutes.

Add tomatoes and sauce, paste, broth, vinegar, oregano, basil and cayenne into pot and stir until thoroughly mixed. Salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

Spoon over cooked pasta of your choice, garnish with Parmigiano-Reggiano, and serve.

mmmm… beefish….

What Went Well

Quote The Girlfriend: “If you make this again and change the recipe I’ll break up with you, kick you out of the apartment and keep both cats. Yes, even the one you’ve had since you’ve been twelve.”

So yeah, I think she liked it.

Broth. Again, a good broth comes through and balances out a dish. This time it added a real depth and heartiness that, in tandem with the mushrooms, provided the meaty flavor that I was looking for.

What Went Less Well

Wait, did you say DRIED basil? Unfortunately, I did and I apologize to every Italian mother in the city, but the local grocery store was not carrying fresh basil and I had to make do with dried. While I don’t think the sauce was ruined or anything, the pop of fresh basil would only have helped.

Olives. In retrospect, I think adding a 1/3 to a 1/2 cup of chopped kalamata olives* would’ve really helped the dish. I have no rational explanation as to why I feel that way, but I do. (Girlfriend politely disagrees.)

The Verdict

It was really good and really easy to make. I stopped using jarred tomato sauce a long time ago and haven’t looked back. I’ll definitely make this again.

Best Song Played by Internet Radio While Cooking

November Rain by Guns ‘N Roses. The live 12 minute version that starts off with a completely superfluous 3 minute Axl Rose piano solo that has no real connection to the actual song other than to prove that Axl Rose can, in fact, play the piano.

Embarrassing That’s What She Said

The girlfriend and I are watching the Falling Skies premier and it’s pretty good. It’s basically the Revolutionary War with aliens taking the place of the British. Lest you forget that Steven Spielberg produces the show, at the end of the first episode they celebrate a little kid’s birthday despite the fact that two thirds of the human race has been wiped out. I direct an eye-roll towards the girlfriend only to find that she’s tearing up. She notices my look and blurts out, “I know! I’m easily manipulated!”

Embarrassing That’s What I Said

The girlfriend: You and my best friend, Vicki, share a lot of the same celebrity crushes.

Me: Noah Wylie (main star of Falling Skies) and who else?

The girlfriend: George Clooney.

Me: [shockingly defensive] What’s not to like about George Clooney?

James Is Not A Chef: Spicy BBQ Shrimp Quesadillas

James Stahl is a cheesemonger, a melt-master and an all-around crazy dude in the kitchen. This blog invites you to take a peek at his most recent creations and dares you to try this at home.

Important Disclaimer: While I assume that this will be readily apparent, I am not a professional chef. I am simply someone who loves to cook. My desire is to expand my ability to create amazing dishes and, with access to the best quality ingredients in New York City courtesy of Murray’s Cheese (not to mention a pretty sweet discount), I intend to share that experience with you.  Okay, that was far too serious. It won’t happen again, pinky swear. On to the food!

Spicy Barbecue Shrimp Quesadillas

Note: The recipe shown is how I executed the dish that is pictured, not necessarily how I conceived of the dish or how I would make it again.

Ingredients:

1 pound uncooked large shrimp, cleaned
3/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/2 cup spicy ketchup
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup dark beer
1/2 cup shredded jalapeno jack
1/2 red onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
5 tablespoons butter
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large flour tortillas

In a large skillet under medium-low heat melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Add garlic, cook until browned. Add onions, sauté until soft and translucent, about 5-6 minutes.

Pour in vinegar, beer and chicken broth, raise heat to a boil. Add ketchup, mustard, cumin and cayenne pepper. Stir until fully mixed. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until reduced by about a quarter.

In a separate pan, heat up olive oil until just before smoking and add shrimp. Sear each side a nice golden brown, just over a minute each side, so pay close attention.

Heat tortillas in a microwave for about 30 seconds, add half of the shrimp on each tortilla, cover with sauce and half of the cheese. Fold tortilla on top of itself.

On a grill pan, over medium high heat, melt a tablespoon of butter, place quesadilla on pan and brown each side, a couple minutes for each side. Cut in half and serve with sour cream.

What Went Well

The Sauce. Hot damn that sauce turned out great. I was aiming for a pulled pork vinegar-style and I think I nailed it. The chicken broth balanced everything out nicely despite the fact that I hadn’t originally planned on using any. The importance of good chicken broth cannot be understated.

Could it have been spicier? I think it was plenty hot for a mixed crowd, but I wouldn’t turn down the option of chopping up a serrano pepper and cooking it with the onions.

The Shrimp. I had tossed around the idea of using a pre-roasted chicken and shredding the breast into the sauce and letting it simmer for a good long time, but shrimp really turned out to be the better option. The chicken would’ve gotten lost in the sauce while the texture of the shrimp really stood out.

What Went Less Well

My Impending Senility. So the plan was to finely chop up some chorizo, fry it crisply and add to the sauce. I bought it. It was in the fridge and everything, but I just flat out forgot about it.

The Tortillas. The large tortillas were rather unwieldy and it was difficult to get an even browning on my fry pan. I would definitely use smaller tortillas next time.

The Definition of “Cleaned” Shrimp. Apparently mine is different than the seafood shop’s. De-veining the shrimp wasn’t nearly as difficult as I had imagined, but it wasn’t particularly fun either.

That’s What She Said

The Girlfriend: “Pretty awesome but perhaps a tad too saucy, the tortillas ended up a bit soggy as a result. But I’d definitely eat that again.”

The Verdict

I definitely give it a thumbs up, but hopefully I’ll remember the chorizo next time. The smokiness and crunch from the crisp chorizo will be a killer addition to the sauce.

Favorite Song Internet Radio Played While Cooking

Dominion/Mother Russia by The Sisters of Mercy. Thank God the internet didn’t really exist back during my high school goth phase. Nobody needs to relive that. Seriously.

Nettle Meadow Chevre Recipes

Sheila Flanagan, Cheesemaker and Owner at Nettle Meadow Farm, was kind enough to share some of her favorite uses for their delightful fresh chevre spreads. Perfect for everything from a casual nosh to a fancy cocktail party, these recipes will help you make the most of one of our favorite springtime products!

Order any flavor individually, or buy all four and save!

Stuffed Mushrooms with Garlic & Olive Oil Chevre

20 Large White Mushrooms
1 ½ cups dried stuffing mix
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup dry white wine
3 shallots
1 five ounce cup garlic & oil chevre
1 ounce grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Heat shallots in butter and oil.  Pull stems off mushroom caps and heat in oven for ten minutes, stem side down.  Add chopped mushroom stems and wine to shallot mixture.    Add stuffing and chevre to shallot mixture.  Heat on low heat till soft.  Add Parmigiano-Reggiano.  Place mixture into mushroom caps and baked for another 20 minutes.

**

Pumpernickel Squares with Horseradish Chevre, Fresh Dill and Grape Tomatoes

A sleeve of pumpernickel squares, or pumpernickel bread cut into 1″ squares
One cup horseradish  chevre
Grape tomatoes cut in half
Fresh dill

Spread horseradish chevre on each pumpernickel square and top with two halves of a grape tomato and fresh dill.  Serve immediately so bread does not get soggy.

**

Chevre Salad with Bacon, Dried Cherry, and Port Dressing

1 ¼ cups dried tart cherries
½ cup tawny port
5 ounces bacon, chopped
2 shallots, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
5 to 8 ounces chevre
5 ounce bag of salad greens
½ cup toasted pine nuts

Combine cherries and port in heavy small saucepan and bring to simmer over medium heat.  Remove from heat and let stand till cherries swell, about 15 minutes.  Sauté chopped bacon in skillet over medium low heat until crisp.  Add shallots and garlic and cook 2 minutes.  Add oil, then vinegar and sugar until sugar dissolves.  Stir in cherry mixture.  Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat over to 350 degrees and place spoonfuls of chevre on rimmed baking sheet and warm for 10 minutes.  Combine salad greens and toasted pine nuts in a bowl.  Re-warm dressing and pour over salad.  Toss to blend.  Top with warm goat cheese and serve.

**

Baked Apples with Raisins and Maple Walnut Chevre

6 apples
10 ounces Nettle Meadow Maple Walnut Chevre
½ cup raisins

Core apples and spoon out circular cavity in center.  Combine goat cheese and raisins.  Spoon into hollowed apples.  Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.

Joan Nathan’s Cheesy Passover Dishes

We’re pretty excited to welcome Joan Nathan to Murray’s on May 10 for an evening of cheese and chatting.  As the author of ten cookbooks, and a James Beard awardwinner to boot, Joan knows a thing (or three) about cooking with cheese.  In May we’ll be tasting cheese, sipping wine and trying a few recipes from her latest cookbook.  And this month, with Passover right around the corner, we asked Joan to share a few of her favorite cheese-filled recipes that she uses at her own Seder.  

FARFEL AND CHEESE – From Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook

About four days into Passover when my daughter, Daniela, was young she commented that, “We look forward to the Seder for so long that we forget after a few days, matzah gets old!”  I adapted this farfel and cheese recipe precisely for that reason.  No one can get sick of mac and cheese!  Especially when it’s full of cheddar AND sour cream. 

4 large eggs

3 cups matzah farfel

½ lb cheddar cheese (so many options here!  Try Tickler, Cabot Clothbound, or Montgomery’s – or a mixture of many)

1 ½ cups sour cream

6 tablespoons butter or pareve margarine

2 cups milk

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

     Beat 3 of the eggs and pour over the farfel.  Mix well.

     Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a casserole.  Pour the farfel mixture into the casserole.

     Cut the cheddar cheese into a small dice.  Add the cheese to the farfel.  Using a spoon add the sour cream in dollops and dot with the butter or margarine.  Mix together the milk, remaining egg, salt, and pepper, and pour it over the casserole.

     Bake covered, for 30 minutes.  Uncover and let brown for 10 to 15 minutes more.  Scoop out onto plates.

Serves 8.

PAPETON D’AUBERGINES (EGGPLANT GRATIN) – From Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous

Eggplant is a favorite of mine and I never need an excuse to make it.  In this recipe, roasting the eggplant makes it nice and smoky and with all the cheese, no one feels the least bit deprived.  I like to serve it alongside a simple green salad and use whatever cheeses I have on hand.  You should feel free to experiment.

1/4 cup olive oil

3 large eggplants, about 4 pounds

1 teaspoon salt or to taste

1 cup feta or goat cheese, crumbled

1 cup grated Gruyere or Mozzarella cheese

1 sprig thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme

1 sprig oregano or ½ teaspoon dried oregano

4 tablespoons matzo meal

Freshly grated pepper to taste

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

3 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 6-cup gratin dish with some of the oil.

If grilling the eggplants over a gas stove, make small slits all over the outside.  Using tongs, hold them over the open flame, rotating them every few minutes until they are soft and collapsed. If roasting them in the oven, cut them in half lengthwise. Brush the cut sides with olive oil, and place them cut side down on a baking sheet. Roast for about 30 minutes or until very soft.

Place the cooked eggplant in a sieve over a large bowl, sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt, and let cool and drain for about 15 minutes.  Peel, discarding the skin and any liquid that has accumulated, and, using 2 knives, chop the eggplant in a sieve over a bowl. 

Stir the feta and gruyere cheeses, the thyme, the oregano, 3 tablespoons of the matzo meal, a few sprinklings of pepper and all but a tablespoon of the remaining oil. Beat the eggs in a small bowl and stir into the eggplant mixture. Then pour everything into the gratin dish. Brush with the remaining oil and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and the remaining matzo meal. Bake for an hour or until golden on top.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings