Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Passed Over Passover

I know you are thinking something like “why is she posting about Passover now?  It happened well over a month ago and besides, most of us don’t care about it anyway.  And even if we did, she’s already blogged about it at length.  Please, spare us!”

Don’t worry, I’ll spare you.  That’s because we spared ourselves this year and turned our backs on the usual gefilte fish, matzoh ball soup and heavy Passover food.  Instead we headed to Florida with our dear friends Sue and Ross (with whom we always spend Passover) to hang out in their fabulous new house in Rosemary Beach.  Not a gefilte fish in sight!

Sue and Henry are basically the same person.  They laugh a lot, interrupt anyone who gets within ten feet of them, yell frequently, are unbelievably opinionated and would gladly give anyone in need the shirts off their respective backs.  They call each other “bro” and “sis” and they love each other dearly. 

At the same time, Ross and I are very much alike.  We provide the balance to those ebullient spouses of ours.  We are somewhat quieter, we love to cook, there is nothing we won’t experiment with and it is our great joy in life to share our food with others.  We also have a deep love for heirloom recipes which have been passed down to us from beloved family members.  Ross has a box of hand-written recipes from her grandmother, Bebe.  I have one from our beloved uncles, Jack and Ander.  Ross keeps hers at the beach house for inspiration; I keep mine in the kitchen.

Because Ross and I are incapable of sitting around and relaxing, we decided to host a dinner party for twenty people while we were at the beach.  (I mean, why laze around in the sun when you can be sweating it out in the kitchen?)  I’m talking barbecued ribs, Liz's gazpacho shots, butterbeans with cornbread, homemade cole slaw, Sue’s smoked salmon, Ross’ truffled deviled eggs and a fabulous mac and cheese (recipe follows).   So no, I’m still not a skinny cook!  Especially since we also made Bebe’s Hot Milk Cake with Boiled Frosting.  More about that in a minute.

MAC AND CHEESE WITH BUTTERY CRUMBS  (from Grace Paresi, Food & Wine Magazine)

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided, plus more for buttering pan
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups half-and-half or whole milk
1 pound extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, diced
1/2 pound Colby cheese, diced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound elbow macaroni
3/4 cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.  Butter a shallow 2-quart baking dish.  Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large saucepan.  Add the flour and cook over moderate heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the half-and-half (or milk) and cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly until thickened, about 3 minutes.  Add half of the Cheddar and Colby cheeses and cook over low heat, stirring until melted.  Stir in the mustard, nutmeg and cayenne, then season well with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook the macaroni in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente.  Drain well then return to the pot.  Add the cheese sauce and the remaining cheese and stir well to combine.  Pour into the prepared
baking dish.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.  Toss with the bread crumbs, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle over the macaroni mixture.  Bake 45 minutes, or until bubbling and golden on top.  Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Serves 6 - 8

Now for Bebe's Hot Milk Cake.  Ross remembers this cake from her childhood.  It's a lovely moist yellow cake and the frosting is the perfect counterpoint as it gets crunchy and sugary when it hardens.  You'll feel like a kid again when you try it.  Trust me.


3 eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 stick unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.  Butter and flour (2)  8-inch or 9-inch round cake pans.

In an electric mixer, beat the eggs until foamy.  Slowly beat in sugar and continue beating until mixture is thick and glossy.

Place milk and butter in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until butter melts.  In another bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking powder.

Fold the dry ingredients into the egg/sugar mixture.  Add the milk all at once and stir just to combine.  Add the vanilla extract.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans.  Bake for 25 minutes, or until just done.  Remove to a rack to cool slightly, then turn out of pans.  Frost when completely cooled.

Boiled Chocolate Frosting:
1 stick unsalted butter
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup whole milk
2 cups granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon brewed coffee
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place butter, chocolate, milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.  Cook and stir until butter melts and mixture is smooth.  Turn heat to medium-high and bring mixture to a boil.  Cook for 4 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and add coffee and vanilla.

Place into a mixer bowl or use a handheld mixer and beat until creamy enough to spread.  Frost cake immediately.

Yield:  (1) 8 or 9-inch cake

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