I couldn't believe how creamy this turned out...and from a box!
If you’ve ever had the misfortune of eating gluten free macaroni and cheese from a box, then first let me say how sorry I am that you’ve had to endure the meal. I too, have had to endure this, but I happened upon a wonderful discovery a couple of days ago, quite by accident and totally out of necessity. (Why is it that so many wonderful things happen that way anyhow?)
I live on a boat and currently we are about to head out through the Carribean and down to the Panama Canal. Since we just spent heaps of money on food to provision the boat, I cook solely off the boat. Mac and Cheese is an easy lunch right? I mean it should take under ten minutes and fill your belly up decently. That’s part of why we picked it for a lunch a couple of times a week. While the kids and Dan get to eat the top name brands, I get to have the GF brand. It’s the most common one I know of, the name brand I will not say, but she was an orphan in a movie.
If one follows the directions, this meal is watery and tasteless, not at all what I wanted to bring with me, but I had few other choices. Just as I was emotionally preparing to cook the stuff, I decided to try making it like skillet pasta. Much to my delight, it turned out fabulously! Dan tasted them side by side and said they were almost indistinguishable. I was so excited! This is just such an awesome discovery, I wish the little orphan mac and cheese would change the directions.
Of course I did not write down exactly what I did as I did it, but here’s what I am pretty sure took place:
1. I boiled 2c. of water and poured in the noodles. I let them cook until the water was starchy and they were al dente. Do not drain. You need some of that starchy water to make the sauce.
2. I added probably 1/4c or more of powdered milk along with the cheese packet and butter. I added some fresh ground pepper too.
3. Mix and enjoy!
I ran across this recipe on the Gourmet website. The only problem with the recipe is it only makes about 22 of these luscious little dumplings. I have doubled the recipe so I can stash some in the freezer for later. My daughter and I sit in front of the TV and set up a dumpling factory. The only real challenge is keeping the cat away, Muenster is her favorite cheese.
For the dumplings:
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 lb boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup grated Muenster cheese
- About 50 wonton wrappers
To cook the dumplings you’ll need:
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup water
Melt butter in heavy pan, add onions and a good pinch of salt. Cover and cook over a medium flame for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once onions are softened, uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes. Onions should be soft and nicely browned.
Meanwhile cover the diced potatoes with water and a good amount of salt, and bring to a boil. Cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain thoroughly and mash. Stir in onions and grated cheese.
Place a rounded teaspoon of the filling in the center of a wonton wrapper. Brush edges with water and fold in half to seal. Make sure to squeeze out any air pockets. Keep going ’till you’ve used up all your wrappers and/or filling.
To cook, heat oil in a non stick saute pan over medium/high heat. Place dumplings on their side in a single layer. Cook for a few minutes until nicely browned. Flip dumplings over, add 1/3 cup water and cover immediately. Cook about 5 minutes until water has evaporated and dumplings are warmed through. If any water is left in the pan, cook uncovered until it had evaporated and the dumplings have browned on the other side.
Serve with sour cream and some snipped chives.
To freeze remaining dumplings, lay out in a single layer on a sheet pan and freeze until hardened, then transfer to a plastic bag. You can cook them the same way you would the fresh dumplings.
We’ve been making this for years. My mom saw Geoffrey Holder make this on a morning show, in the ’80s I think. I’m sure we’ve messed with it over the years, but it remains a quick and delicious dinner. Quantity is not so important, use as much or as little of each ingredient as you like, just don’t skimp on the lemon juice and butter, that’s what makes the luscious sauce.
Onion, sliced in thin rounds
Snapper or cod filets
Green onion, cut into thin strips
Farmer’s cheese, or other mild cheese, sliced
Hot sauce, such as Frank’s or Tabasco
Salt and Pepper
In an appropriately sized wide pan, layer the ingredients. I like to put the onions down first, then the fish, seasoning with salt and pepper as I go. Sometimes I put very thin slices of lemon on top of the fish, because I love that intense lemon flavor. Continue on with the tomatoes, green onion, sliced cheese, hot sauce, and torn basil. Place bits of butter strategically around the pan, and squeeze a lemon over the whole thing. Turn on the heat to medium high and in a few minutes it will all start simmering and melting. Once the sauce is bubbling and the fish is almost cooked through (it’s easy enough to stick a knife in here and there and have a look) place the lid on for a few minutes so the cheese melts completely. Once it’s melty sprinkle on some more basil, serve over steamed jasmine rice with something green on the side. The rice absorbs all the lemony buttery sauce. A good crusty slice of baguette does a good job of it, as well.
I can’t help but be reminded of that wonderful and short lived tv show Pushing Daisies. It was an ideal blend of fantasy, word play and pie. I am reminded of it because I have a fridge full of cheese, just like the former synchronized swimming aunts of Chuck, who referred to the fridge as a cheese box.
So what does one do with all those oddly shaped remains of cheese? The dried up ends and fuzzy bits, the mystery cheese whose label is long gone, the warehouse store buy that seemed too good to pass up despite the fact that you have no use for a block of cheese the size of your head. Look no further. Here is your answer.
- 1 pound of various leftover cheeses
- ¼-½ cup dry white wine or vegetable broth, or a combination of both
- 1 clove garlic, or more to taste
- handful of parsley (optional)
- freshly ground black pepper
Assemble your cheese. Just about any cheese will do. Here I’ve used Fontina, Gruyere, Manchego, Monterey Jack, Chévre, and Gouda, because that is what was in my cheese box. Once you’ve trimmed all the scary bits off that cheese, you must leave it at room temperature to soften up a bit. If you’re using hard cheese it’s best to grate it, or at least cut it into a fine dice. Softer cheeses can be rough chopped. In a food processor finely mince the garlic. Place your cheese in and pulse a few times to mix. Add the torn parsley and a few grindings of pepper and pulse again.
Now pour in about ¼ cup of your wine or stock. Pulse a few times and add more if the mixture seems too dry. What you want is a chunky yet creamy mixture. Be careful not to over mix, you don’t want a paste. Taste and if it seems lacking in salt you can add a pinch, but most likely you won’t need any.
Place into the vessel of your choosing and refrigerate. It will taste better once it’s had some time to mellow. Eat it with crackers, apple slices, crusty bread. Put it on some toast under the broiler for a moment until warm and oozing. Deliciously frugal.