Skip to content

The Unnatural Cook

a chronicle of weekly meal plans from someone who can't just throw a meal together

Tag Archives: Mac & Cheese

This week’s meal plan was based on the concept of a nine-day week. I stretched it because my second semester of school started and I didn’t want to grocery shop until Thursday (after my classes were over). On school nights I try and keep dinner as simple as possible – usually something from the freezer. Tonight we had mac & cheese (leftovers) and garlic broccoli. The garlic broccoli is John’s recipe and I thought I knew the technique but I was wrong. The broccoli he makes is blackened and garlicky but mine was mild and overcooked. One of the nice things about the blog is that it forces me to correct mistakes. Normally I’d fret, do nothing and screw it up again. It could go on that way for years – but now I’ve discovered Command K.

Command K is the link button and I love it. I knew I’d want to turn the words garlic broccoli into a link and even as I was cooking, I was writing out the recipe. As things turned out, it was a recipe for bland, mushy broccoli. So over dinner John explained the technique again, and after dinner he corrected the recipe for me. Next time, I’ve got it in writing. In school the professors often talk about imitating writing you love as a way to learn how to write. I suppose it’s the same with cooking. Recipes are a form of imitation. I’m imitating cooks I love (in this case literally) until I become one myself.

Tags: , , , ,

I didn’t feel like posting tonight, but I did anyway. That’s how I feel every time I sit down to write a meal plan. I don’t feel like it, but I do it anyway. In fact, the whole act of creating meal plans taught me that I possessed this discipline. It took me three years before I was confident I wouldn’t give up. I decided that three years was the time it takes to form a new habit.

The blessing of forming a new habit, a good habit, is that it suggests that other new habits can be formed. Like, writing shall we say? It seems unrelated but it’s not, quite. In order to write successfully, I have to be able to sit at the computer, every day, whether I want to or not. A few years ago I would not have believed myself capable. Now I’m not so sure. Now I think that I can sit down, write this post without a clear understanding of what the hell it’s all for, but with the faith that given enough time, I’ll figure it out. Well, it’s only week two. That’s the working premise anyway.

Tonight I tried something new, mac and cheese from the Barefoot Contessa. I’ve had good luck with her recipes: gazpacho, penne vodka, pecan shortbread cookies. This one had a video of her making it so I could watch it before I tried it. I definitely like to learn that way. The comments of people who’d tried it led me to make some adjustments: switching the amounts of the cheddar (cheaper cheese) and gruyere to save money and decreasing the amount of nutmeg and salt. We all liked it but I have some questions. Like, is it really necessary to dirty an extra pot by heating the milk before it gets added to the butter and flour? And, how am I supposed to know how many quarts a baking dish holds? I got myself into some trouble trying to split the recipe into two dishes so I could put half in the freezer to save for another night.

Next time I think I’ll skip the gruyere altogether and opt for something less fancy, like jack cheese to go with the cheddar. And maybe even use a less sharp cheddar. My mac and cheese tastes tend toward old-fashioned comfort food versions. I don’t really want a grown up version. I still don’t think I’ve found the perfect recipe but at least I’ve learned a little bit about what I’m looking for.

Tags: , , , ,