I’m going to tell a story about something that happened to me a while back. Previously, I related the tale of my experience making potato crusted chicken breasts. While this wasn’t a total success, it didn’t keep me from getting back into the kitchen for long.
I mentioned in the post above that I’d gotten the chili recipe from the sports blog, Deadspin. They have a weekly column where a recipe is throughly explained, and the writer, Albert Burneko, has become a favorite of mine. His writing is hilarious, and it’s gone a long way towards deconstructing the idea that I had that cooking is inaccessible, and only the province of your Mario Batalis, Bobby Flays, and Martin Yans. I’ve had a lot of success with Albert’s recipes, and his pot roast and lasagna recipes have become personal favorites.
One of the first recipes of his I tried was his macaroni and cheese recipe, linked below:
It is a delicious preparation, and well worth the time and effort put into making it. That said, for a rookie in the kitchen unfamiliar with proportion, you should be forewarned that this recipe yields a shitton of mac and cheese.
My first clue that something was amiss was as I prepared the cheese sauce. The recipe calls for putting your biggest pot on the stove to cook the pasta, which makes sense, since you’re making three pounds of macaroni. I know this sounds like a stupid thing to say, but I had no idea exactly how much pasta three pounds of macaroni was.
Since my biggest pot was being used to cook the pasta, the second biggest pot I had was pressed into service for the sauce. The sauce recipe called for melting two sticks of butter, whisking in a cup of flour, then adding a quart each of milk and heavy cream. This left me with my pot about three quarters of the way full, which is kind of rough considering that I still had to add THREE POUNDS OF CHEESE to the pot. The fact that I managed to do this without cheese sauce bubbling over the sides of the pot and into the stove was a minor miracle. But the sauce was done, the cheese had melted, now it was time to turn my attention back to the pasta.
I had thoughtfully placed a colander into the sink to drain the macaroni in, so I was all set. I overturned the pot to dump out the cooked macaroni, and promptly realized I was fucked. This dinky colander held maybe half the pasta, and hot sticky pasta water and a significant portion of my pasta was now pouring out of the colander and into my sink. Thinking quickly, I placed the pot back onto the stove, retrieved a second pot to store the drained pasta in, and repeated this until I had drained all the pasta. I then placed all the pasta back into the biggest pot, and placed it in the sink.
Now came the difficult part: moving the cheese sauce to the sink to pour it over the pot of macaroni. This proved difficult, because scalding hot cheese sauce was percolating mere microns from the top rim of the pot. I lifted the pot up, and cheese sauce poured all over the front of my stove, onto the floor, and my pants. I then had to take three steps backwards, which resulted in more hot cheese sauce spilling out over my floor, and my feet. I then had to complete a forty five degree turn to face the sink, which resulted in more spillage, this time in a lovely crescent pattern across the linoleum. I then needed to take four steps to the sink, and wouldn’t you know, there’s more spillage, which I then walk through to get to the sink. But at last I’ve made it to the sink, and the ordeal is over, right? You’d think that, wouldn’t you?
As I poured the cheese sauce over the pasta, cheese sauce dribbled over the side of the pot, down the pot, and all over the kitchen counter, the cabinet under the sink, and the little rug in front of the sink. But don’t worry, the rug wasn’t completely ruined, because my pants and feet took a lot of it, too.
But hey, mac and cheese. Done, right? Nope, I still gotta bake it. Making use of the biggest casserole dish I had, I quickly realized the biggest casserole dish I had wasn’t quite enough, so I quickly had to make use of the second biggest casserole dish I had, and the third biggest casserole dish I had.
The remainder of the experiment proceeded without incident. So really it was quite easy, and all I had to clean up was a whisk, three pots, three casserole dishes, my kitchen floor, a colander, the stove top, overn door, the sink, kitchen counter, the under-sink cabinet, my pants, shirt, socks, and the little rug in front of my sink.
The mac and cheese was amazing, and gone within three days.