Home-made Baked Mac & Cheese

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I finally found time (and ingredients were on hand!) to make some home-made mac and cheese. One kid liked it, the other didn’t. I thought it was excellent. I would have added more dry mustard powder, a bit more Frank’s Red Hot, and browned it more but decided to play it safe.

Recipe:
Cook approx. 8 oz of Macaroni till it’s al dente
Meanwhile, you’ll need approximately 8 oz (2 cups) of Sharp Cheddar, 2/3 cup (large handful) of Mozzarella, and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese. Set this aside.
Melt 2 Tbsp of Butter in a pan, and add 2 Tbsp Flour. Cook about a minute, then add:
2 cups Milk
1/2-3/4 tsp Salt
1/2-2/3 tsp Dry Mustard Powder
1/4-1/2 tsp Black Pepper
1/4-1/2 tsp Frank’s Red Hot/Tabasco/Tapatio
Whisk into the butter/flour mix, and cook till boiling and starts to thicken. Stir in the cheese (using a spoon, not the whisk. Trust me, the whisk is not a good idea here) till melted.
Pour the cooked Mac into a 2qt casserole dish, and pour the cheese mix over, and mix well. Cook @ 350 degrees F for at least 30 minutes, or until bubbly. You can increase the time for more of a crust.

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Making Sausage, round 1

I have a love for sausage-Scotch Eggs, Country Gravy, and Gumbo all wouldn’t be the same (or anything) without it.  I never have it in the house though.  It’s pricey, for the size you get, and because of that, I only buy it when I plan on making something requiring it (which is rare, again, because of the price), and more often than not if it requires a trip to the store, that just means that I will find something else to make.

So, I decided to give sausage-making a go.  Really, it’s not that hard looking.  I didn’t plan on making them into links (this time), only leaving it in a ground form and a few patties, so that made it easier, right?  Yup!  The hardest part was that I needed spices.  My stockpile had dwindled and not been replaced.  Since I needed to replace spices anyways, I’m not counting the cost of the sausage (even though it would not add much to the cost of the final product). 

We bought a pork shoulder roast that was just a bit over 11 lbs (bone-in.  Shopping was done close to closing, and the meat department was in process of cleaning up.  No reason to make them stay later than they needed to just to save me a little time later to have the roast deboned).  In the picture below, I mapped out the process, Left to Right, Top to Bottom.

First, I chilled the roast in the freezer.  It needed to be cold enough to help keep any food-borne illnesses at bay while I removed the bone.  I goofed on the timing, and it was a little more frozen than I would have liked, which made it a bear to cut.  But, I did get it all cut off the bone, in 3 sections.  Since the sections were all approximately 2 lbs each (I didn’t try, it magically worked out this way!), I decided to do 3 different recipes to see which was the best for us.  Once I had a section cubed, it went back into the freezer to get icy. Once icy, into the meat grinder it went.  I have a Kitchen Aid stand mixer (6.5 quart, Professional Series).  If you want a “gadget” for the kitchen, get a Kitchen Aid.  We had a 4 quart one while I was growing up (which I still have.  One of my girls will get it when they are older), and it’s well worth the investment.  The grinder attachment cost me just around $14 off Amazon.  I previously had one, but it, and other attachments were lost in a move, so I will be replacing them…eventually.

Being a little frozen, the meat was a little hard to get caught in the “worm” (spiral piece that pulls the meat to the die), but once they started to loosen up a little, it was a fast bit of work.  I ground the pork on the large die, the same I use for hamburger, since I like the texture.  If I was doing links, I think I would use the smaller die.  I ground it directly into the Kitchen Aid’s bowl, which also was in the freezer, to help keep the food temperatures in a safe range, and to which I added the spices.  Once that section of meat was ground, I placed the bowl on the Kitchen Aid, and mixed the spices into the meat.  I let it mix until it looked right.  After it mixed, I made a small patty, and cooked it, to check the mixture.  YUM!  Three separate recipes, all with good points, were finished in little more than 2 hours.  A good portion of that time, however, was me getting the meat off the bone, and waiting for the meat to chill.  (BTW, after boiling the bone for a while, my dog had a nice little treat).

 

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I have a few things to do differently next time around.  First, I WILL have the roast deboned in the grocery store.  I’m lucky to have a regional supermarket which boasts a full service meat counter/butcher, and they are trained to do this.  It’s a skill I need to develop, but I will need a proper deboning knife.  I had, actually, some of their old knives at one time, but I think those were also lost in the move.  Secondly, I will raise the percentage of fat.  The sausage is good as is, but it’s a little drier than I would like.  It’s ok for most things as a secondary ingredient, but as a sausage patty on it’s own?  It doesn’t quite have the greasiness required.  And lastly, less heat.  One of the recipes, in particular, called for a good portion of cayenne pepper.  It was a little spicier than I would like, and way more than my girls were comfortable with.  I might not completely eliminate it, but I will reduce it by 2/3’s, test it, then add a little more if needed.

Total, I ended up with 7 lbs, 13 oz of sausage for under $15.  Given that Farmer John sausage chubs are around $3.50 for 1.5 lbs, I count this as a total win.  If I had purchased the roast when it was on sale, I could cut my cost in half.

Why go through this, when I can buy it?  I like knowing how to do things such as this.  I also like knowing what is in my food.  I’m not adding fillers, or ingredients I know I can’t have (MSG anyone?).  And, I had a weird issue with biting into something that should be soft, and hitting a piece of gristle.  Ugh!  Once that happens, I can’t eat it at all.  That means, one bite, and I’m done.  It’s a textural issue, but it’s bad enough that I had to find a way around my issue.