After literally months of anticipation, Friday was “mac and cheese Shabbat” at Alex’s place. That meant four very different types of baked cheesy deliciousness. (There were also some veggies on the side, plus a very yellow – so as to fit with the theme – butterscotch ice cream from Marc.)
My contribution was the only mac and cheese I ever make: the version with sweet potatoes from “Entertaining for a Veggie Planet,” by Didi Emmons. Here’s the recipe, with my comments (of course):
2 medium sweet potatoes
kosher (or regular salt to taste
16 oz (3 2/3 cups) grated sharp cheddar cheese
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I always omit this)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
8 oz cream cheese
2 cups milk
1 garlic clove, minced
16 oz elbow macaroni (or whatever kind of pasta)
freshly ground pepper
1. Scrub and pierce the skin of and the sweet potatoes and microwave until tender, about 7 minutes. Cut into bite-size pieces (I leave the skin on).
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a large casserole dish or 13×9 inch baking dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
3. In a large bowl, combine the cheddar, Parmesan, and flour and toss until well combined. Set aside.
4. In a small, heavy saucepan, melt the cream cheese over low heat, stirring with a whisk. Slowly whisk in the milk and garlic until smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside.
5. Add the pasta to the boiling water and boil for 5 minutes, or until just al dente. Drain the macaroni and immediately return it to the pot. Add the cheddar mixture to the macaroni and stir well. Add the cream cheese mixture and sweet potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well.
6. Transfer the whole thing to the prepared dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes or until piping hot.
We enjoyed the leftovers for Shabbos lunch, then stopped by Beverly and Naomi’s to say hi just when they were sitting down to lunch, so we got a bonus meal.
This week, the end of Shabbat also meant the beginning of Purim (the celebration of which also lasts 25 hours), so I’m gonna throw that in here too. Back on Wednesday, I had a bunch of grad students come over to bake hamentaschen. I am even more particular about how to make hamentaschen than about how to make mac and cheese, so here is the recipe I swear by, from “A Russian Jew Cooks in Peru,” by Violeta Autumn, a real cookbook, I swear, but apparently one that no one actually owns besides my mother:
1 cup cornstarch
2 cups flour
½ cup sugar
less than ½ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking powder
¾ cup butter
Sift together cornstarch and flour. Add sugar, salt, and baking powder. Blend with butter using two forks or your hands (or an always-helpful mixer)! Beat the eggs separately, then add to mixture.
Roll out on floured board to ¼ inch thick. Cut circles and fill. Pinch corners really tightly. You can use water or milk to help them stick. (I cannot stress the importance of not overfilling the circles and of closing the corners tightly. If you don’t, you will end up with burnt jelly on your cookie sheets. The ones we used Wednesday night are goners.)
Bake on ungreased pan at 400 degrees for 12 minutes (but check at 10 minutes just in case).
These are the best hamentaschen. There’s just no way around it. (I think it’s the butter…) Naomi helped me make poppyseed filling from scratch, and I’m not sure if it’s because I hadn’t done it for a couple years or what, but it didn’t turn out the way I remember. The gist of it, though, is to grind whole poppyseeds until they turn dark black, then put them in a saucepan with some milk and honey and simmer until thick and tasty. Even if poppyseeds aren’t really your thing, at least try to appreciate the old-world nature of this project.
Over the course of the holiday, I heard megillah in a bar and in a Chinese restaurant, made up and performed some ridiculous (yet instructive) songs (see below), thoroughly enjoyed dressing up as Juno and Pauly Bleeker, encouraged lots of (safe, overage) drinking, facilitated lots of fun (hopefully) for lots of people, and tried to use the word “lots” in as many instances as possible to call up the literal meaning of Purim: lots.
Sing this to the tune of “With a Little Help from my Friends.” Go ahead and laugh; it’s part of the holiday.
What will they do when we sing out of tune?
Will they come and clear out the buffet?
Eat haman’s ears while we sing you a song
‘bout the mitzvas for Purim today
It’s when we go to give gifts to our friends
It’s when we go to get drunk with our friends
Gonna go celebrate with our friends.
First, what we do is we read from a scroll
(we’ve taken care of that one for you)
Make lots of noise, till it’s outta control,
When you hear “Hamen” that’s just what to do.
Oh it’s the day to give gifts to your friends.
Do you need anybody
To share your mishloach manot
It can be anybody
Just give two portions of food.
Two mitzvas down and the next ritual,
Is the seudah (that’s a Hebrew word for meal).
Veggie Chinese might not be traditional,
But 15 a head, you know it’s a steal.
Oh it’s a day to get drunk with your friends.
Do you need anybody
For the mitzvah of gifts to the poor
It can be anybody
Like that guy hanging outside the door
It’s a day to give gifts to your friends
Oh it’s a day to get drunk with your friends
So get drunk with your friends…
With Purim behind us, we are now officially in Passover-planning season, so that is definitely some food-related commentary to look forward to!