*Heavy breathing and drooling*
Let me start off by acknowledging the fact that this recipe is all over the place. I know, I know. “How is this going to be any different? And why do you have to ruin mac and cheese by adding vegetables?!”
If you thought any of those things, I don’t blame you. People have trouble dealing with veggies in any form, but when they’re covered in cheesy, orgasmic goodness, you have to be insane (like straight jacket, rubber wallpaper, the whole nine yards) to say no.
Since I am weird, I like to have equal parts vegetable and pasta (or even more veg than anything else). The number one food I crave is broccoli. For some reason those little green trees are just so damn delicious. Of the countless ways you can cook them (which I will be writing about), I love to blanch the florets, then sauté them in an olive oil and butter mixture with smashed garlic and red pepper flakes. In case you thought that was another language, and the TARDIS isn’t translating it for you, I’ll explain a few cooking terms for you below.
Blanch: Boil for a minute or two on high. Take the contents out of the pan and transfer to a bowl of ice water. This 2nd step is crucial because it stops the cooking process.
Sauté: To cook at a higher heat using a small amount of fat; this could be butter, oil, animal fat, etc.
*For a lot of the vegetables I cook, I find that a mixture of butter and olive oil is a damn delicious combination. If you want to be a health nut though, just use olive, coconut, sunflower oil and so on.
- 1 large head of broccoli, cut into florets (little trees)
- 2 teaspoons olive oil + a little chunk of butter
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 clove garlic, smashed
- 1 box whole wheat pasta (or regular, doesn’t matter)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 ½ tablespoons flour
- 3 cups whole milk (2% and skim are fine), room temperature
- You have options:
- Pinch of nutmeg and paprika
- Pinch of curry powder and cayenne
- Whatever the hell you want
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Salt to taste
- 1 ½ cup shredded Comte or Havarti cheese (These are just my favorites. You can be boring and use cheddar or whatever else you think would be good)
- Panko bread crumbs + melted butter
- Preheat your oven to 375°F
- Place a pot of water on the stove top and bring to a boil. Blanch the broccoli (remember to put in ice water). You will know it’s done when it turns a bright green. Set the broccoli aside for a moment. Meanwhile add the pasta to the same pot of water (if you like the taste of broccoli and want to conserve water like an eco-friendly badass) or a new pot of water. Cook pasta according to the box directions.
- Remove the broccoli from the water and dry thoroughly.* While the pasta cooks, sauté garlic in the olive oil + butter mix until garlic is about to brown. Pour this mix over the DRIED broccoli. Stir that shit up and put back in the pan. Cook the veg until slightly browned. Remove from pan.
- Lower the temperature of the pan to low/medium-low. Melt the 3 tablespoons butter, but DON’T LET IT BROWN. Stir frequently to prevent this.
- Add the flour mixture to the pan with butter. Mix that up! Let this cook for a few minutes, stirring “constantly” (just stir a lot, but don’t just stand there for 5 minutes focusing on it. It won’t cook if you do that).
- Whisk in the milk gradually. I usually follow these steps three times: add, stir, let sit, and then come back and add again. It’s not rocket science. Don’t add it all at once.
- By now, your mix should have thickened a little. Allow to simmer for 4-5 minutes after you’ve finished adding the milk. At this point, you can add your spices/herbs or whatever you have chosen to add.
- After you’ve allowed it to simmer, remove the pan from the stove top to add the cheese. You can save a little to top the mac and cheese, but I usually don’t because it can burn. Stir in both the pasta and broccoli.
- Place the pasta and broccoli mixture into a medium sized pan (use your damn head; if it looks too small, it is). Top with melted butter and breadcrumbs if you’re feeling like a fancy motherfucker. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
- When you take it out, allow the pan to sit for ten minutes in order to allow the cheese mixture to cool and you won’t burn the hell out of your mouth.
Enjoy that shit, it’s good.
You want to make sure the broccoli is thoroughly dry after blanching because you can and will burn yourself when you go to put it in the pan. If you add water to hot oil, the oil will pop up and onto your skin. Just like in any lab experiment, make sure you take all the necessary precautions to prevent injury. Hot oil REALLY hurts; I know from experience.
I recommend shredding your own cheese if you have the money and time. Bagged cheese has a layer of powder that is super unappetizing in large quantities. Try my way once, and you probably won’t ever go back to bagged cheese.