Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Meat-Free Monday: Achilles' Heel Edition

My mother is an excellent cook. However, she can't make a decent chocolate pie to save her life. Her first attempt at chocolate pie-making resulted in the, now legendary in our family, request, "I'd like another cup of pie, please."

Chocolate Pie is my mother's cooking Achilles' heel. Mine, it would seem, is mac 'n' cheese. The last time I tried to make mac 'n' cheese (from scratch, yo. I can make the box kind) the result was less than pleasing.

This time, although my teeth didn't feel chalky, the sauce was not creamy. And I burned the butter when making the roux. [The heat was too high.] And, then, thinking that the butter was ruined, I dumped in the flour and it went all foamy and brown. Totally weird. I still used it though.

Which made the milk, as it thickened, look kind of brownish. And it would get this weird skin on it that I had to keep stirring.

I started to lose patience with the milk so as soon as it looked sort of like it was getting thicker, I dumped in a cup of cheddar, a half cup of blue cheese, and ... um ... a big pile of grated parmesan that I didn't bother measuring.

Then, I poured that over the noodles. The taste? Yummy. The texture? Not too pleasing. Clumpy. Not creamy.

How the friggin' frig does one make a creamy cheese sauce for mac 'n' cheese? GAH!

Mac 'n' cheese, my Achilles' heel. Who'da thunk it?

What's your cooking Achilles' heel?


  1. What's your cooking Achilles' heel?

    Using the stove...

  2. Have you tried the recipe for mac & cheese I once sent you? It never fails ... :)

    My Achilles heal ... pastry. I've given up. I just buy frozen pie shells.

  3. gayprof: that's more like an Achilles' Right Leg, than just the heel.

    cooper: I completely forgot about your recipe ... I'll have to dig it up. But, if I remember correctly, didn't it require baking? VUBOQ is currently ovenless.

  4. Oh dear.

    Creamy sauce is the result of constant whisking. In all sauce or gravy making endeavors, your wire whisk is your friend.

    It's okay to use browned butter or to let the flour toast a little, but you mustn't use burnt butter - if your butter burns, turn down your heat, discard the butter, and start over.

    When adding the milk to the roux, whisk the mixture the entire time! If the milk is hot, which it should be, you shouldn't have to wait long at all for the sauce to thicken.

    Add more milk if the sauce is too thick to incorporate the cheese.

    Take the sauce off heat entirely to add the shredded cheese. Cheese will separate if it gets too hot! You can put it back on the heat to warm it up, but never let it simmer or the cheese will get stringy and gross and your sauce will separate.

  5. I have yet to make satisfactory sweet potato latkes. I did it once by accident and it was splendid. So I keep trying but can't seem to replicate it.

  6. Chocolate chip cookies.

    I'm bloody serious. I have made cakes, I have made pies, I have made fruit tarts and bread of all kinds, fondant balls, chocolate truffles, bonbons, and marzipan--I have even made really delicious shortbread cookies--but for the life of me, every bloody time I try to make a batch of simple (ha) good ol' chocolate chip cookies, something happens. I am cursed, cursed I tell you!

  7. like mush says, much whisking, but also, don't dump in the cheddar since it doesn't melt well in large quantities and tends to get grainy and oily. also, use medium or mild cheddar. old is much harder to work with. a good cheese to use is swiss (ementhal) since it melts very smoothly and tastes cheezy.

    if all else fails, use cheez whiz :)

  8. shortcrust pastry. I can do good puff pastry but my shortcrust could be used as a building material.