Thursday, February 26, 2009


There is nothing like a pair of hand crafted grips on a favorite gun. Like some foods, some things can be made by hand, or mass produced. Mac and Cheese is one of my favorite foods. Probably a close second behind steak. But not the blue boxed kind. but When I have time it's made the way my Mom did. From scratch, with multiple ingredients, including ham and onions, slow baked until the top is just crunchy.

You can NOT get this in a box or a freezer case. (the recipe and instructions will be in the comments)
You start by sauteing some smoked ham and onions.

Then there is the cheese. Don't panic. This isn't a picture of a pound and a half of butter, it's Irish cheddar, fresh and pure and no orange chemical dyes.

You make a roux (don't worry, there's directions in the recipe) then add the milk and cheese, til a thick bubbly sauce is formed. There's all kinds of flavor in it, including a dash of hot sauce. Pour about half the sauce in with the cooked macaroni, add the ham mixture, then some more cheese, regular cheddar for a bit of color.

Then pour the rest of the sauce over the top of it all. By covering up the last bit of cheese, the top can slow cook without getting too brown.

Slow cook til it's perfect.

And plate up. Remember, if you try your hand at this, try to avoid stampeding house guests, barking dogs or marriage proposals. This dish would convert the most hardened dieter and is worth the calories once in a while.

Seconds? Sure.

This is a truly handcrafted meal, harking back to the days of our childhood, where dinner was neither takeout or delivered but a labor of a parent's love. This dish is neither particularly simple or cheap to make, yet in place of those frugal virtues, it provides a rich palate of flavors that bring back memory, or create a new one. Like the handmade grips on a great big gun in the household, some things are best in the memory as hand crafted. For this is the only blue box I want to see on my counter.


  1. The casserole is made up of several components, each cooked separately then combined before baking. Besides the pasta (macaroni) there are caramelized onions, sautéed diced smoked ham, a sauce which is heavy with cheese and flavor, and more cheese to mix in and top the dish.
    Makes two casserole dishes,
    Ingredients:one now, one to give away or freeze.

    · 1 pound of macaroni, simmered till al dente in 1 gallon salted water, drained
    · 1 large onion, as big as your fist, diced into large chunks
    · An 8oz smoked ham steak, diced into ½” pieces
    · 6ozs of extra sharp cheddar cheese, sliced into small chunks
    · 8ozs of regular cheddar cheese, sliced into small chunks
    · 6ozs of grated white cheddar for topping the dish
    · 1 cup of half and half
    · 2 cups of whole milk
    · ¼ pound of butter
    · 3 tables spoons of flour
    · 2 tables spoons of kosher salt
    · 1 table spoon of fresh ground pepper
    · 1 table spoon dried minced garlic
    · 1 table spoon dried parsley
    · A pinch of ground nutmeg
    · A dash of Crystal hot sauce to taste

    Sautee the diced onions in butter till sweet and caramelized. Set aside in a large bowl. In the same pan, add more butter, and then brown the diced smoked ham till it just gets crispy on the edges. Add the ham to the onions in the bowl.

    In a heavy saucepan, make the sauce by first melting ¼ pound of butter over high heat, stirring with a whisk as it heats. As soon it just begins to brown, add the flour and stir constantly. Once the flour smells ‘nutty’, add the half and half, then most of the milk. (Reserve some milk for adjustment if needed). Stir constantly on high heat till the milk thickens and starts to bubble. At once, add ¾ the chunked cheeses and continue stirring. From the point the flour is added to the sauce, it must be stirred constantly till finished, or removed from the heat. As soon as the cheese is melted, add the salt, pepper, garlic, nutmeg, parsley, and hot sauce. Remove from heat and stir till the sauce stops bubbling and is very smooth.

    In the large bowl holding the onions and ham, add the macaroni and about half the sauce.
    Mix enough to break up any clumps of pasta and distribute the onions and ham through the mixture. Pour into a large, deep, baking dish leaving enough room for topping and a lid.

    Sprinkle a heavy layer of shredded cheddar on top of the pasta mix, and then pour in the remaining sauce to just below the dishes rim.

    Cover and bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Then remove the lid and bake another 15 minutes, or until the cheese browns on top of the casserole. Remove from the oven, cover, and allow to rest at least half an hour before eating.

  2. Arrgh. I knew I should have eaten supper before checking today's post. Now nothing that I'll come up with from my kitchen will appeal like that wonderful looking mac and cheese :)

  3. You can make a man drool in a lot of way's.
    Nice grips.

  4. Mrs. Borepatch says that this is evil. Temptation. Don't you know that it's Lent??!!!

    Me, now I'm hungry.

    And I have to confess that I think that Mammoth Ivory grips for the wheelgun would be awesome. It must be a character flaw.

  5. no fair... I'm STILL on the road eating in cheap restaurants... sigh... Another one to print and eat when I get home. I'm gonna weigh 400 lbs before I get through all the recipes :-)

  6. I have but one word to describe that ungodly conncoction....YUMMY!!!!

  7. OT, but this looks kind of up your alley:


  9. Oh, boy! I've got a nasty cold, and just sent that recipe to my girlfriend. Looks like I'll be having some real live, homemade, comfort foot tomorrow night.
    Thanks, Brigid!
    Oh, and I have a pair of Esmerelda's grips on my Kimber. Great looking grips!

  10. Brigid,
    You are killing me with the phenomenal eats!! I will have to try this one too. I made the Bacon quiche and it was awesome!
    Great post

  11. Whats half and half? Whats Crystal hot sauce?

    Oh, to have an american chain nearby...

    Looks amazing though!

  12. That looks mighty unhealthy.....which means it probably tastes great!

  13. can't call that macaroni and cheese cause that's WAY better then mac and cheese. That should be called... "Brigid's Tasty Ode To The Stuff We Used To Call Macaroni and Cheese...But Is WAY Better Then Macaroni and Cheese".

    I know its a little wordy but hey, some dishes are deserving of more words.

  14. While I will fall on a good mac'n'cheese casserole like the devouring wrath of an ancient god, I do have a soft spot for the white cheddar version of the Kraft blue-box special. That and Top Ramen got me through college, although I did shake things up with pancakes every now and then.

  15. Don't say regular cheddar in the recipe, you know it need good Irish (or dare I say it English!) cheddar in there really, and don't belive the New England crowd, I've tried Vermont cheddar and while yes it far better than any other from that side of the atlantic it no better than an average Irish or English!

  16. Brigid,

    From the looks of it, your cooking is at least as nice as your prose. I want to get lost in both! As someone who absolutely loves to cook, but is still learning to subdue a keyboard, I feel I have a long way to go yet to even approach your talents...

    My parents taught me the value of good friends, good food, good wine, and good times. Most importantly, they taught me to savour the little moments that catch you off-guard and remind you that life is meant to be Lived, not endured.

    Thank you for sharing.



  17. Just made this recipe for 8 guests. Big hit.

    I have made roux recipes before, but this is far and away the best roux-based dish I have ever made. I will have to remember the "nutty smell" sign - I think that was the key.

  18. @ Yabusame

    For half and half, use single cream.

    I'm trying to get my hungover brain around "kosher salt"

  19. Made this yesterday for dinner. Big hit with the wife and kid. Thanks for the recipes and great blog posts!

  20. Is there any chance at all you would be willing to send me that 72 layer cream cheese biscuit recipe? I am on a diet of sorts, but I do get to splurge on occasion, and that certainly sounds worthwhile...

  21. AE: Yes, Ill dig it out tonight and will send.

  22. A.E. -Here's the 72 layer cream cheese biscuit recipe. Only Old NFO has been brave enough to make.

    4 cups all-purpose flour
    5 teaspoons baking powder
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 tablespoon sugar
    1/2 cup unsalted butter, in small chunks
    4 ounces cream cheese
    1 cup, approximately, whipping cream
    1/2 cup unsalted butter, extra, in shavings or slivers
    Melted butter for brushing

    Stack two baking sheets together and line the top one with parchment paper.

    In a large food processor, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar and pulse to blend. Add in the cream cheese and butter in chunks and pulse to make a grainy mixture, keeping the chunks of butter and cheese visible to the eye. Turn out into a large bowl. In the center, drizzle in most of the cream and mix to make a soft dough, adding more cream as necessary until dough holds together. Lightly knead on a floured work surface. Pat into a rectangle of 10 by 8 inches and let rest 10 minutes.

    Roll out to 12 by 10 inches. Cover two-thirds of the dough with the slivers of butter. Fold like a letter, covering the dough once over the butter and the final third (usually the right end) inwards over the rest of the butter (you want dough touching butter). Roll the dough flatter again to make that 12 by 10 inch shape. Turn the dough (so the open ends are horizontal) and repeat the folding procedure. Do this 4 times but for the last time, roll into a thicker shape, about 8 by 10 inches. If the dough gets springy, let it rest 10 minutes or chill 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 450 F. Cut the dough into 2 inch circles. Place on baking sheet and brush with butter. Bake until golden, about 10-12 minutes. (check after 9 minutes). Biscuits sometimes unfold (like those Pillsbury rolls) but that is fine.

    Dough freezes well after cutting (make sure they are in airtight container). Bake from frozen at 350 for 20-25 minutes.
    Makes 1 to 2 dozen depending on size.

  23. Wow. I'll need to beg, borrow or steal a food processor, but that looks tasty!
    I'll be sure to let you know how they turn out. Thanks!


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