Tag Archives: entrees

Apple Dijon Pork Saute

photo 2-227

It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

Thinking it is fatty many people tend to avoid pork. Some pork is fatty–bacon anyone???- but cuts like pork tenderloin are lean and easy to cook. When you slice the tenderloin into coins it cooks even faster making it a perfect meat for a fast Friday night dinner. The pork is quickly sauteed in olive oil then added to a creamy Dijon mustard and apple juice sauce. Serve over a bed of brown rice or orzo with a green vegetable and dinner is served.


1 pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat and cut into 1 1/2 inch rounds

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 shallot, minced

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup apple juice

2 tablespoon cider vinegar

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces

3 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/4 cup heavy cream

  • Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a large skillet set over medium-high heat.
  • Generously sprinkle the pork coins on both sides with salt and pepper.
  • When the oil is hot, add the pork and cook for 3-4 minutes per side or until the pork is no longer pink in the middle. Remove the pork from the pan and place on a large plate tented with foil.
  • Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet.  Add the shallot and salt and cook until soft, about 2 minutes.
  • Stir in the apple juice and cider vinegar and bring to a simmer. Cook for approximately 9 minutes or until the mixture is syrupy.
  • Stir in any of the pork juices.
  • Turn the temperature to low and slowly whisk in the butter.
  • Stir in the Dijon mustard and cream then return the pork to the pan.
  • Cook for 2 minutes or until heated through.

Serves 4

Chicken w/ Artichokes in Creamy Mustard Sauce


This dish adapted from The Splendid Table (which by the way is the best podcast ever) uses one of  my all time favorite vegetables: artichokes. Artichokes have a mild and slightly sweet and tangy flavor that pairs well  with just about anything. Here it is combined with Dijon mustard and chicken to make a quick end of the week dinner that the entire family will eat. In order to keep the flavor subtle, be sure to use plain artichoke hearts and not ones that have been pickled. Serve the chicken over rice so you can absorb all of the yummy sauce.

Chicken w/ Artichokes in Creamy Mustard Sauce

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 teaspoon salt, divided

1 teaspoon, divided freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 shallot, minced

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 1/2 cups canned artichoke hearts, drained and sliced

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth

1/3 cup heavy cream

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Chopped parsley, for garnish

  • Season the chicken on both sides with half of the salt and half of the pepper.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the chicken  and brown for 2 to 3 minutes per side. It does not need to be cooked through at this point.
  • Remove the chicken from the pan and reduce the heat to medium.
  • Add the shallot and red pepper flakes and scraping the bottom of the pan, cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add the artichoke hearts, lemon zest, oregano and the remaining salt and pepper. Cook for an additional 2 minutes then stir in the tomatoes.
  • Return the chicken to the pan then add the wine and chicken broth.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce the heat so the chicken is at a low simmer and cover.
  • Cook for an additional 8 to 10 minutes or until the chicken is tender and cooked through.
  • Meanwhile, combine the cream and mustard in a small bowl.
  • When the chicken is cooked, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the mustard sauce.
  • Top with the chopped parsley and serve immediately.
Serves 4

Chicken Marsala

photo 1-67

It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

Chicken Marsala is a family favorite in our house and this recipe from America’s Test Kitchen is my all time favorite.  Sweet Marsala wine combined with mushrooms result in a rich sauce that is the perfect topping for boneless chicken breasts.  If you can find them, I like to use chicken breast filets since they are thinner and cook up in just a few minutes.  If you only have chicken breasts you can either pound the meat into a uniform thickness or slice the breasts in half to make them thinner.  When paired with a pasta or mashed potatoes, this dish is fast and you can have dinner on the table in a matter of minutes.  Alternatively, you can make the chicken ahead of time and let it sit on a warm burner for up to two hours before serving.


1/2 cup all-purpose flour

4 boneless chicken breasts or 8 chicken breast filets

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 ounces pancetta, finely chopped

8 ounces white button mushrooms, sliced thin

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon tomato paste

1 1/2 cups sweet Marsala wine

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Place the flour in a shallow pan and generously season with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture and set aside.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering.
  • Add the chicken and cook until light golden brown on both sides, about 10 minutes for chicken breasts and 3-4 for chicken breast filets.  Transfer to a plate.
  • Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet and heat until shimmering.
  • Add the pancetta and mushrooms to the skillet and stirring occasionally, cook until the pancetta is crisp and the mushrooms are brown, about 10 minutes.
  • Stir in the garlic and tomato paste.  Cook until the tomato paste begins to brown, about 1 minute.
  • Stir in the Marsala, scraping up any browned bits.  Simmer until reduced and slightly syrupy, about 8 minutes.
  • Stir in the lemon juice and any accumulated chicken juices.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter, one piece at a time.  If you serving the chicken immediately, proceed to the next step.  Alternatively, cover the pan and return it to low heat until ready to serve.
  • Add the parsley and season with salt and pepper.

Serves 4

Cilantro Shrimp w/ Apple-Raisin Sauce over Curried Polenta

photo 4-20

It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

This meal only appears complicated but in reality is fast.  There are three components in this dish but each cooks in a matter of minutes and when combined on the plate create a satisfying Indian-esque meal. The original recipe from Cuisine at Home used sea scallops but I substituted shrimp with tasty results.  Fresh steamed broccoli completed the meal.


For the sauce:

1/2 cup peeled and diced Granny Smith apple

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons minced red onion

2 teaspoons minced orange zest

1 teaspoon honey

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons minced cilantro

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Combine the apple, raisins, orange juice, broth, onion, zest, honey, and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until the apples are tender.
  • Stir in the cilantro, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Keep warm while you make the remaining meal components.

For the shrimp:

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

1 pound fresh or frozen raw shrimp

1/3 cup minced cilantro

Salt and pepper to taste

  • Heat the oil in a large saute pan until it shimmers.
  • Pat the shrimp dry and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
  • Add the shrimp to the oil and tossing occasionally,  saute until cooked through, approximately 2-3 minutes.
  • Off the heat and stir in the cilantro.

For the polenta:

4 cups whole milk

1 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon sweet curry powder

1/3 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1/2 cup diced tomatoes

1/3 cup chopped scallion greens

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Bring the milk to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat.
  • Combine the polenta and curry powder and slowly whisk it into the milk.
  • Cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick and smooth, 4-5 minutes.  Be sure to mix continually otherwise lumps will form.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese, tomatoes, and scallions.
  • Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Serves: 4

Baked Macaroni & Cheese

Because some things never go out of style:

mac n cheese


Macaroni and cheese is one of those classic American dishes.  During a recent trip to the United States we had international friends who made a point of trying this all-American dish.  However, they came back disappointed and not understanding what all of the fuss is about.  This is just proof that not all macaroni and cheese recipes are created equal.  And as any self-respecting foodie will tell you, cheese should never come in a dehydrated form.  That means those boxes of macaroni and cheese with their bright orange powdery “cheese” are a non-starter for true macaroni and cheese connoisseurs.  Besides, when the dish is so simple to make from scratch, why should you rely on those pre-made kits anyway?

Macaroni and cheese is family favorite at our house and I regularly cook but big batches of it.  I will make a big pan of it and we’ll eat it for dinner one night then enjoy it as leftovers throughout the week.  I’ve even taken to putting the macaroni in individual sized crocks and serving it at formal dinner parties to provide our guests with a little taste of America.

In addition to being easy to make, the recipe is quite flexible.  This recipe calls for cheddar, Swiss and Gorgonzola cheeses but you can easily substitute whichever cheeses you like or have available. This is especially convenient here in Albania where our cheese selection although limited yet growing, is never reliable.  A cheese might be available in the supermarket one week then disappear off of the shelves for months at a time.  Be flexible and experiment since you never know what new flavor combination you will discover and love!  I also like to bake my macaroni and cheese. Panko bread crumbs and a bit of butter make for a crunchy topping but you can also use fresh bread crumbs or even crackers.


1 pound uncooked small pasta of your choice (I like to use shells for individual   sized servings and penne when I am making it in a single dish).

2 1/2 cups whole or low-fat milk

3 dried bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 1/2 cups Gruyère cheese, shredded

1/2 cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Salt & pepper to taste

1 cup Panko bread crumbs

3 tablespoons butter

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Generously coat an 8 x 10 casserole dish or 10 individual ramekins with cooking spray.  If you are using ramekins place them on a rimmed baking sheet.  Set aside.
  • Cook the pasta until al dente according to package instructions.  You do not want to over cook it since it will continue to cook in the oven.  When done, drain and place in a large bowl.
  • Place the milk, bay leaves, and Tabasco sauce in a medium-sized sauce pan.  Heat over medium-high heat until scalding.  Do not allow to boil.  Remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes then remove the bay leaves.
  • Place the flour in a small bowl.  And the milk to the flour and whisk continually until well blended and no lumps remain.
  • Return the milk and flour to the sauce pan.  Set over medium heat and whisk continually until thickened, approximately 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the cheeses.  Mix until blended then pour over the prepared pasta.  Season with salt and pepper and stir until well combined.
  • Pour the pasta into the prepared baking dishes.
  • Melt the butter in a small saucepan.  Add the Panko crumbs and stir to coat.
  • Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the top of the pasta.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until browned and bubbly.   Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

The dish can be prepared up to one day ahead of time.  Simply allow to come to room temperature (or adjust the baking time accordingly), sprinkle with the crumb topping, and bake.

Serves 10

Lemon & Dill Tilapia Filets


One of the great things about living in this part of the world is our easy access to quality, fresh fish. From shellfish to lake trout and everything in between it is all available in Albania and it is always fresh and surprisingly affordable.  Along the coast many restaurant menus only include fish and seafood and it is common practice for a waiter to present your table with a platter of still wiggling fish plucked from the Adriatic Sea and allow each diner to select the one they want to eat.  Meals filled with fish and seafood also tend to be the most common dinner presentations at formal dinners and as such, I’ve found myself trying new types of fish on a regular basis.  My favorite meal by far has been a dinner hosted by our Turkish friends where every item on the table came from the sea.  (Who knew there were so many ways to cook octopus?).

I’ve always loved fish so I thoroughly enjoy these meals. Prior to arriving in Albania, however, Glenn would avoid anything marine related at all costs.  Much to his horror his first few formal dinners in Albania revolved around fish and seafood and he would come home with stories of how he actually ate a bite or two of the meals and survived.  While he won’t order it from a menu in a restaurant, Glenn has gotten better about eating fish and no longer cringes when it appears in front of him.  Of course, those closest to us know of his lack of enthusiasm for fish and avoid serving it but when it is presented to him, he does eat it.  And, on more than one occasion, he has even proclaimed that he liked what he ate.

We’re trying to eat healthier in the Brown household and to that end, and at Glenn’s request, we are now incorporating fish into our weekly menus.  Cooking fish at home isn’t always an easy proposition.  Most fish is sold whole and even after my taking a class on how to de-bone a fish, I struggle with getting it right.  I’ve also learned that in order for Glenn to enjoy fish it can’t taste “fishy” and he likes it to be served with a sauce which in many cases, negates the healthy aspects of the fish.

Cooking fish is also a relatively new experience for me and I find myself slightly outside of my comfort zone.  So I’m starting with the basics and working my way up. I have a vision of being able to cook a whole octopus before we leave Albania (which when cooked correctly, is absolutely delicious).  In the meantime I’m starting with a mild tasting and boneless tilapia.  Very simple but when cooked correctly, very tasty.  The olive oil adds a bit of healthy fat and when combined with the lemon juice makes for a flavorful sauce.  The best part?  When I placed dinner on the table even Sidney proclaimed that “Sidney likes fish”.


2-4 ounce tilapia filets (or one filet per person)

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons finely minced dill

1 whole lemon, seeded and thinly sliced

1/4 Teaspoon paprika

Salt and pepper to taste

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Place a large piece of foil on a rimmed baking sheet.  Arrange the tilapia filets in the center of the pan.  
  • Drizzle the olive oil on top of the fish.  Sprinkle the filets with the dill and arrange the lemon slices on top.
  • Season with the salt, pepper, and paprika.
  • Wrap the foil into packets being sure to seal the edges so none of the oil escapes.
  • Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the fish is flaky but not dry.

Bourbon & Brown Sugar Marinated Flank Steak


Photo courtesy of Fine Cooking

I discovered this recipe while standing in line at Home Depot of all places.  Glenn and I were in the midst of yet another home renovation project and as we stood in the check out line for the second time that weekend a new (to me anyway) magazine caught my eye.  I had never heard of Fine Cooking, but was immediately drawn to their colorful pictures, interesting recipes, and honest product reviews.  I ended up buying the magazine back in 2005 and have been renewing my subscription every year since then. We no longer own our renovated house but that very first recipe has been come a family favorite whether it is served as a quick go-to weeknight dinner or as a part of a more formal representational dinner.

Because the marinade is so good, I like to serve the steak with a starch that can soak up the juices.  Garlic mashed potatoes, a simple risotto, or gouda bread pudding are all good choices.  Regardless of which side dish you choose, the steak is fast and easy to make and is sure to please whomever is sitting at your table.


1/2 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup bourbon or other whiskey

1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon hot sauce

1 1/2 to 2 pounds flank steak

  • Combine the first five ingredients in a large Ziploc bag.  Seal and shake to fully combine and dissolve the sugar.
  • Add the steak to the bag, seal, and massage to cover the steak with the marinade.
  • Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  • Prepare a medium-hot grill.*  Remove the steak from the marinade and shake off the excess.  Grill the steak for 3 to 4 minutes per side or until desired doneness.
  • Let rest for 5 minutes then slice on the diagonal. 
  • Pour the marinade into a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cook until syrupy and serve over the sliced steak.

* You can also broil the steak in the oven for 3-4 minutes per side.

Lemony Chicken Piccata


Chicken piccata is one of the few recipes that my entire family can agree on. Between the brightness of the lemons, the saltiness of the capers, and tender chicken filets, you just can’t go wrong.  Complex yet surprisingly easy to make, this can serve as both a quick weeknight dinner and a formal meal for guests.  The original recipe comes from America’s Test Kitchen, but I’ve tweaked it over the years until it has been adapted into my current version.

When we were living in Norfolk I used to make large pans of the piccata to serve to all of the geographical bachelors living on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt.  (And let me tell you, those men could eat a lot of food).  Now I am more apt to cook up reasonable, family sized quantities and serve it along side a parmesan risotto and green vegetable smaller sit down dinners.  I usually make a double batch since the flavors mellow with re-heating and taste even better the next day.  If you want to spend time with your guests and avoid last-minute preparations, you can make it ahead of time then let it sit over low heat for several hours since the flavors will only intensify and the lemons will break down and become bite-tender.  The recipe produces a generous amount of sauce since I like to serve it over rice.  You can reduce the quantity by half and since have enough of its tasty goodness to satisfy all of your guests.  Oh, and this is a great dish to use up any extra lemons you might have in the kitchen.


Serves 4

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Salt and fresh ground pepper

8 thin, boneless chicken breast cutlets

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 shallots, minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups, low-sodium chicken broth

1 large lemon, seeded and sliced into 1/4 inch moons

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

4 tablespoons capers, rinsed

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

4 tablespoons chopped parsley

  • Spread the flour in a shallow dish and sprinkle liberally with the salt and pepper.  Dredge each cutlet in the flour mixture and set aside.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Add half of the cutlets and cook until light golden brown on both sides, about 4 minutes.  Transfer to a plate and set aside.  Add more oil to the skillet if needed and repeat the cooking process with the remaining chicken.
  • Add the shallot and garlic to the oil left in the skillet and cook over medium heat until softened, about 2 minutes.  Stir in the broth and lemon slices, deglazing the pan and scraping up any browned bits.  Simmer until reduced and syrupy, about 8 minutes.
  • Stir in the lemon juice, capers, and any accumulated chicken juice.  Return the chicken to the sauce. At this point the chicken can sit over low heat until ready to serve.
  • Immediately before serving stir in the butter, one piece at a time.  Turn off the heat, adjust the salt and pepper and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Potato & Cheese Pierogi

My earliestmemories include watching my Polish nana pinching pierogi in the kitchen. Standing there in one of her apron covered housecoats, her fingers would fly as she grasped the palm sized bits of dough pockets and swiftly secured their fillings inside.  As kids we would eat meat filled ones boiled with ketchup.  The holidays called for fancier versions, mushrooms, onions, and potatoes took the place of ground meat and these special pierogi would be fried in butter and served with sautéed onions. Nana never shared her recipe and as far as I know she took it too her grave.  In college I dated a Polish man.  His babci wore the same housecoats and had the same pierogi pinching technique as my nana.  Like my nana, she never shared her recipe but she did introduce me to the sweet version of this Polish treat.  Plums, blueberries or even apples were staples in her household.  My relationship with this boyfriend probably lasted as long as it did because of her pierogi.
This version from Fine Cooking Magazine is close to the pierogi of my childhood. I was pleasantly surprised at my results.  I couldn’t find the farmer cheese called for in the recipe but I made the best Albanian substitution I could find; half ricotta and half Albanian white cheese (akin to feta) seemed to do the trick.  I need to practice my pierogi pinching technique but I think even my nana would approve of the results.
1-1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1-inch pieces
kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil (I used olive oil)
3 medium white or yellow onions, finely chopped
10 ounces farmer cheese (I used one cup ricotta cheese and one cup of Albanian white cheese)
7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups warm water
1-1/2 Tbs. butter or 3 Tbs. vegetable oil, for sautéing (optional)
melted butter or sour cream and snipped chives for serving (optional)

Make the filling

  • Put the potatoes in a pot with just enough cold salted water to cover them and boil until soft, 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, melt the butter with the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until the onions are translucent, about 2 minutes.  Lower the heat and continue cooking until the onion is nicely browned and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. You may need to add 1 tablespoon or more of additional butter, as the mixture will absorb quite a bit of fat. Set aside to cool.  
  • When the potatoes are tender, drain them in a colander and press lightly with a dry kitchen towel to dry them thoroughly. Return the potatoes to their hot pot and shake them dry.
  • Remove the pot from the heat; add the cooled onion mixture and the cheese. Mash the ingredients until they’re well blended and there are no more potato lumps; you may want to use a stiff whisk. Season  with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool while you roll out the pierogi dough.
Make the pierogi dough
  • Put the flour in a large bowl.  Add the butter and using your fingers, work it into the flour until the mixture has the texture of coarse meal.  Add 1 3/4 cups of the warm water and stir with your fingers until the mixture begins to come together.  If the mixture is dry, you can add up to 1/4 cup more warm water, 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough forms a shaggy yet cohesive mass.
  • Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and gently knead it until just soft and elastic; the dough will not be completely smooth, but it should be easy to shape, with a Play-Doh-like consistency.
Shape and fill the pierogi

  • Fill a large pot with 5 qt. water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, using lightly floured hands, pinch of one tablespoon portions of the dough and roll them into balls about 1-1/2 inches in diameter. You should end up with 36 to 40 balls. With a small rolling pin or dowel, gently roll out each ball into a 3 to 3-1/2-inch round about 1/8 inch thick on a well-floured surface. Keep the dough balls and disks covered as you work so they won’t dry out.
  • Hold a round of dough flat in your palm, dust off the excess flour, and spoon a generous tablespoon of the filling onto the center of the dough. Fold the round in half to enclose the filling. Seal the pierogi by pulling the edges away from the filling and pinching them together. To ensure a proper seal, pinch the edge shut once more, working from one end to the other. Set the filled pierogi on a floured work surface or baking sheet and cover with a dry towel or plastic wrap until all are filled. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
Cook the pierogi

  • When the pot of water is boiling, drop the pierogi in batches into the boiling water, stirring occasionally. When they float to the top, cook for another 2 to 4 minutes; bite into one to check that there’s no chalky line. Remove cooked pierogi from the water with a spider or slotted spoon and put them in a bowl. If you like, serve them immediately with melted butter.
  • To sauté the pierogi, heat the butter or vegetable oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Without crowding the pan, add the boiled, drained pierogi and cook until golden brown and puffy on both sides. Season with a little salt and pepper, and serve with sour cream and chives, if desired.

Bacon and Beer Macaroni & Cheese

On blustery winter days like today, there is nothing like a hot dinner filled with comfort foods.  For me, the ultimate comfort food is homemade macaroni and cheese.  There isn’t any of the yellow boxed stuff served at our house; rather noodles are mixed with a rich sauce comprised of whichever cheeses I have on hand.  Bake it in the oven for a half hour or so and you end up with a rich and creamy cheesy goodness that hits the spot.

This recipe was inspired by one I found on the From Away food blog. Originally made with brown ale and cheddar cheese, I adapted the recipe based on the ingredients I had on hand.  Korce e Ze, a local dark beer was substituted for the recommended brown ale and not being able to find real cheddar cheese in Albania I used a mixture of provolone, Gouda, and Swiss.  The original recipe called for 4 full cups of half and half cream. Again, not being able to find half and half I used whole milk and still received the creamy results I desired.  In the future, I’d like to try this with cheddar and pepper jack combination.  I think this would create a complex and rich dish.  Even without these ingredients the consensus was that this version of mac and cheese was pretty darn tasty.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided plus more for the dish
4 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 pound bacon
4 cups whole milk
12 ounces dark beer
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 small can chopped jalapenos
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
4 cups cheese of your choice, shredded and divided
1 cup penne, ziti or similar sized pasta
1)  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Butter a 3 quart casserole dish; set aside.
2)  Place the bread in a medium bowl.  In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons
     butter.  Pour the butter into the bowl with the bread and toss.  Set the breadcrumbs aside.
3)  Dice the raw bacon and add to a large fry pan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the
     bacon is brown and crisp.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer cooked bacon to paper towels to drain.
     Drain all but 1-2 tablespoons of bacon grease from the pan, leaving all of the brown crispy bits.
4)  Heat the milk and beer in a separate saucepan over medium heat.
5)  Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter to the rendered bacon fat and allow to melt.  When the
      butter bubbles, whisk in the flour, scraping the bottom of the pan to release the brown crispy bits
      and stir until combined with no lumps remaining, approximately 1 minute.
6)  While whisking, slowly pour in the hot milk and beer mixture.  Continue cooking, whisking
      constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.  Remove the pan from the heat.  Stir in the
      salt, nutmeg, black pepper, jalapenos, 3 1/2 cups cheese, and cooked bacon.  Set cheese sauce
7)  Fill a large saucepan with water; bring to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook 2 to 3 minutes less than the
     manufacturer’s directions, until the outside of the pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone.
8)  Transfer the past to a colander, rinse under cold running water and drain well.
9)  Stir the pasta into the reserved cheese sauce.  Pour the mixture into the prepared dish.  Sprinkle with
     remaining 1/2 cup of cheese, bread crumbs, and paprika.
10)  Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes.  Serve
Making Here Home

Expat life, travel...and books

One Real Peach.

reflections on the heartbreak and hilarity of mothering, writing, and living authentically

Wine and Cheese (Doodles)

Salty observations about life, love, and living abroad

Sprouted Kitchen

The food that accompanies my adventures!

Not Without Salt

Delicious Recipes and Food Photography by Ashley Rodriguez.

101 Cookbooks

The food that accompanies my adventures!

The First Mess

The food that accompanies my adventures!

Local Milk Blog

The food that accompanies my adventures!

Spoon & Shutter

In and out of the kitchen with Susan and Ted Axelrod

Plating Up

The food that accompanies my adventures!

A Life of Spice

Food, Culture and Lifestyle with Monica Bhide

The Blueberry Files

The food that accompanies my adventures!

Zosia Cooks

The food that accompanies my adventures!

Yummy Supper

The food that accompanies my adventures!

What Julie Ate

It's a delicious life, but somebody has to live it.

United Noshes

The food that accompanies my adventures!

The Bitten Word has moved

The food that accompanies my adventures!

Hip Foodie Mom

The food that accompanies my adventures!

Always Order Dessert

The food that accompanies my adventures!

Yankee Kitchen Ninja

The food that accompanies my adventures!

%d bloggers like this: