Thursday, June 14, 2012

I Had To Use Up The Milk

We are not milk drinkers. Last week we had a guest for dinner and I asked James to pick up the smallest container of milk he could -- I needed a cup and a half for our dessert cobbler. James brought home a half gallon and I knew there'd be at least a couple milk based recipes in his dinner future.  I've whipped up cornbread and cookies and polenta so far.
I can't bare to waste ingredients. You'd think I was a child of the depression they way I take an MK Fisher-like delight in making leftovers new and palatable (pork roast empanadas anyone?) or creating dinners from fridge odds and ends. Today I had to face the milk. Looking around for other ingredients to add to my "don't let food spoil" dinner I spied a bunch of swiss chard (from our garden, even more precious than usual), the mustard greens I didn't use in the other night's sausage pan fry, and odds and ends of several kinds of cheese. Bingo! Macaroni and cheese with greens and mushrooms (while digging around I found a box close to it's last legs). Okay, it's not exactly Sunday church supper mac n' cheese and certainly far from the dreaded blue box but this slightly upscale baked pasta is just what my fridge extras ordered.
I started a pot of water to boil and added in the pasta (no elbows but these fusilli will soak up the cheese sauce nicely). Two minutes before the pasta was cooked (I let it cook for about 2/3 of the stated cooking time so it would finish cooking in the oven in the rich sauce) I added in the chopped greens and drained the whole pot in a colander. Meanwhile in a saucepan I started a white sauce by melting butter (4TB) and then whisking in a couple TB (4 or so) of flour. I just read a NY Times article about cooks in Provence making béchamel sauce with olive oil so I gave it a splash of olive oil too. I know you are supposed to use warm milk and add it little by little. I suppose that's fine when you have one pot going and all day to wash dishes. I added in the milk -- all at once -- right out of the fridge -- about 3 1/2 - 4 cups. I didn't bother to measure. I let the sauce simmer and thicken while I sautéed the mushrooms, grated the cheese and mixed the pasta and vegetables together. I tossed the cheese into the sauce along with S&P and a dash of nutmeg and poured the whole pot over the waiting pasta mixture. Once tossed together, I ladled the pasta mixture into buttered baking dishes (one for tonight and one for the freezer) and topped our mac n' cheese with breadcrumbs, grated cheese, and a drizzle of melted butter.
After 30 minutes at 375º James' dinner was gooey, cheesy and warm with crispy delicious edges -- and we were out of milk. Mission accomplished.

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