My sister and I are pretty busy ladies, and even though we live together, “quality time” isn’t necessarily a guarantee. I’m an early bird, she’s a late sleeper. I pass out by midnight and she’ll burn that oil until two or three. So setting aside a night to just hang out on the couch requires both of us to pull out our calendars and see what can work. This week on Food For Thought, I make some of Amanda’s favorites and she swings by the set to try them out. Delicious Roasted Brussels Sprouts with homemade aioli, gooey mac and cheese, molten chocolate cake with maple whipped cream, and Amanda’s favorite salad with mango chutney vinaigrette round out this decadent meal for two.
ROSEMARY ROASTED BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH GARLIC AIOLI
1 pound brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 sprig rosemary
1 shallot, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large egg
You have to be careful when using raw eggs in recipes, so do what’s comfortable for you and your family. If you don’t want to use a raw egg, replace the egg and oil with 3/4 cup of mayonnaise.
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of pepper
pinch of paprika
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon snipped chives
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut off the ends of the Brussels sprouts and pull off any yellow outer leaves. Mix them in a bowl with the olive oil, shallot, rosemary, salt and pepper. Pour them on a sheet pan and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, stirring half way through so they evenly brown. Sprinkle with more kosher salt and enjoy right away.
For the garlic aioli, combine the garlic, egg, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and paprika in a medium bowl. With a whisk (electric is easiest), mix together to combine. While whisking quickly, drizzle in the olive oil and combine until it forms a pale yellow sauce and not a moment more (it can break down pretty easily). Garnish with chives and serve immediately with the Brussels sprouts for dipping
Much like when I have attempted to speak a foreign language, making macaroni and cheese has proven to be a frustrating, awkward experience, where I inadvertently insult the people on the receiving end of my efforts. And much like the 5 years of Spanish under my belt, my 20-some attempts at a good macaroni and cheese seemed in vain, leading me no closer to my goal. My problems varied from attempt to attempt: too dry, too gummy, too dense. But this last round: success! Flavorful and silky with an even ratio of cheese to pasta. The trick is in the béchamel, and using common sense when choosing the amount of pasta. The gremolata breadcrumbs add a bright and fresh flavor to this rich mac and cheese. So get ready to curl up with one of the ultimate comfort foods. Enjoy!
CLASSIC MAC + CHEESE WITH GREMOLATA BREADCRUMBS
1 teaspoon lemon zest
4 slices Italian bread
small handful flat leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
3 cloves of garlic
2 ounces parmiggiano
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
INGREDIENTS (WHITE SAUCE)
3-4 cups milk
you might need more to get the right consistency
1 yellow onion, roughly sliced
1 bay leaf
pinch of chili flakes
1 tablespoon black pepper cloves
1 garlic clove, halved
3 ounces butter
1/4 cup flour
1 cup gruyere, grated
1/2 cup gouda, grated
1 cup sharp cheddar, grated
1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano, grated
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
8-12 ounces elbow macaroni
Preheat oven to 375 F.
There are two main parts to this dish. The first is the topping, which is bread, lemon zest, garlic, parm, and olive oil. All this goes in a food processor. Pulse until well combined and the parm has become small crumbs. Add the parsley and pulse a couple of times (you don’t want green bread crumbs).
For the sauce for the mac and cheese, heat the milk in a small saucepan with all of the milk ingredients, but be careful not to boil it. Add butter to another pot and let it melt. Add the flour, and stir to create a roux (this will give something for the cheese to cling to).
Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk through a strainer and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the cheese half the pepper, and nutmeg. Salt to taste. Stir well.
Cook the macaroni according to package instructions. Start with about 8 oz and fold into the cheese sauce. If you like more pasta, add more. Pour into greased ramekins (or baking dish). Put the crumbs on top of the mac and cheese, covering the entire top layer.
Bake for 30-45 minutes (depending on ramekins or one large baking dish), or until the sauce is bubbly and the crust is browned on top.
MOLTEN CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH MAPLE WHIPPED CREAM
Do you have 20 minutes? Good. Here’s how you play this out:
You and your loved one are on the couch, catching up on Archer before the finale this week. You’ve gotten to the bottom of your takeout, and you turn to them while fast forwarding, “Want any dessert?” They sort of shrug, paying more attention to the TV than the offer, assuming that means you’re grabbing an ice cream sandwich or something from the freezer. You sneak off for 5 minutes, whisking together the ingredients and popping it in the oven. You join in until the next commercial break and then BAM! Hit them with a molten chocolate cake.
Where did this come from? How did you make it so quickly? Why the fancy dessert? Are you hiding something? Yes, busting out a molten chocolate cake might be suspicious the first time, but it’ll quickly become an ongoing phenomenon in your house if any of you like chocolate. Or cake. Or happiness. And if you don’t like these things, why are you on a cooking blog anyway?
One little cake is perfect for two to split, as its molten deliciousness is very rich. I love the chocolate paired with a maple tinted whipping cream, but feel free to just pop a scoop of your favorite ice cream on that sucker if its easier. The batter can be made ahead of time, poured in the ramekins, and kept in the fridge until it’s time for dessert; but make sure to bake it for an extra minute or two, since it’ll be cold.
There’s something innately impressive in preparing a hot, relatively composed dessert for someone. Once that spoon breaks into the cake, letting it burst open with warm, gooey chocolate, well, who isn’t going to gobble that right up? Enjoy!
Makes four 8-ounce ramekins
12 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cubed
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup white sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
1 large pinch cayenne (about 1/4 teaspoon)
1 cup heavy cream
2-3 tablespoons maple syrup (depending on how sweet you like it)
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
Preheat oven to 400 F. Melt the chocolate, butter, and sugar over a double boiler. Turn off the heat and let it cool for a minute. Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs and salt, and add it to the melted mixture. Whisk it together quickly so the eggs don’t cook. Add the vanilla, cayenne, and flour. Mix until just incorporated. Grease the ramekins and fill until almost full with batter. These are ready to go right into the oven: Bake for 10-11 minutes, 12 if you don’t want if super gooey. Meanwhile whip together the cream, maple syrup, and vanilla until soft peaks form. While I’m waiting for Amanda, I can’t resist, I have to try this. Here’s how I present it: Flip the cakes onto plates and serve with a dollop of cream. It’s beautiful and no one will know how easy it was.
AMANDA’S FAVORITE SALAD
8 ounces arugula
1 grilled chicken breast, sliced
1 pear, (bosc or anjou) thinly sliced
1/4 cup thompson raisins or dried currants
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/4 cup finely sliced red onion
1 tablespoon mango chutney
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Just combine all of the ingredients, except for the chicken breast, and mix thoroughly. In a sealed container, combine all of the vinaigrette ingredients and shake to combine. Lightly dress the salad, plate, and fan out the chicken breast on top. HOLD THE DRESSING until you’re ready to serve salad; greens start to wilt as soon as they come into contact with an acid, which starts the process of breaking them down.