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at the office

The Best Macaroni & Cheese on the Planet

By at the office, food, recipes 6 Comments

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At some point last year, the Contracts department started a tradition of a monthly pot luck “Brunch Bonanza.” Each month, we bring in a breakfast or lunch dish to share with the group. There’s fourteen of us, so we’ve always got plenty of new things to munch on. In the past, I’ve contributed things like coffee, quiche, lasagna, soup, taco dip and bagels. This month, I fed my co-workers this amazing macaroni and cheese. It’s not something I make very often (because it’s a pain in the ass), but it’s literally the best macaroni and cheese I’ve ever had.

This recipe below is based on this one from Martha Stewart, but I’ve cut it in half and altered it just a tad, so it’s meant to serve six portions. It is very rich, so I normally serve it as a side dish. In this case, I was feeding a big group, so I doubled it back up to the original measurements in Martha’s recipe. =)

The Perfect Macaroni & Cheese
With Extra Sharp White Cheddar & Gruyere Cheese

3 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 3/4 cups milk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 1/4 cups (about 9 ounces) grated extra sharp white cheddar
1 cup (about 4 ounces) grated Gruyere
1/2 pound elbow macaroni

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 1 1/2-quart casserole dish; set aside.

2. Shred the cheese. (Keep the cheddar and the Gruyere separate — some will go into the cheese sauce, and some will get sprinkled on top).

2. Place bread pieces in a medium bowl. Melt 1 tablespoons butter. Pour butter into the bowl with bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside.

3. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.

4. Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.

5. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 1 3/4 cups cheddar, and 3/4 cup Gruyere. Set cheese sauce aside.

6. Fill a medium saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 fewer minutes than manufacturer’s directions, until outside of pasta is cooked and inside is underdone. Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. (Make sure to rinse thoroughly with cold water – this removes excess starch from the pasta to keep your macaroni and cheese from being grainy.) Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.

7. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheddar and 1/4 cup Gruyere over the top; scatter breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes; serve.

A few things to keep in mind:

1. Cheese is expensive, but I promise you — the higher quality cheese you use in this dish, the better it will taste. If you’re going to go through all the effort to make this, use some decent cheese.

2. No need to waste any food. It is perfectly acceptable to dip the cast-aside bread crusts in any cheese remaining in the pot while you’re waiting for the macaroni and cheese to bake.

3. It is also perfectly acceptable to fantasize about using said cheese as a hot dog topping in the future.

4. The only way I can think of to possibly make this any better is to add lobster. If you try that, please let me know how it turns out. =)

Enjoy!

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Office/Oasis

By at the office, lists, take me away, tropical islands One Comment

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Being stressed at the office hardly ever results in increased productivity. Some days call for kicking back and settling in for some serious post-lunch relaxation while you work. An afternoon at your desk is this close to feeling like a tropical oasis.

1. Get the look. An island-inspired button-down, white linen pants, metallic leather sandals and beachy waves. Polished enough for the workplace, but easy-going enough for a vacation. (Men’s version of this outfit here…maybe just dress like Kiel James Patrick.)

2. Radio Margaritaville. If you can’t stream it for free through the website on your work computer, plug your speakers into the headphone jack on your phone, and pull it up in the TuneIn Radio app. Sounds like a tiki bar, doesn’t it?

3. Pineapple juice on the rocks. It’s a tad disappointing you can’t mix it up with some coconut rum, but it’s arguably healthier than an afternoon chocolate bar, and nothing’s stopping you from adding a cocktail umbrella.

4. A breath of fresh air. If the scent of someone’s burnt popcorn in the microwave keeps wafting its way over to your area, that’s nothing a little Glade Plug-Ins can’t fix. Currently sniffing: Hawaiian Breeze.

5. Special effects. Drape your favorite beach towel over your chair, wear your bikini top under your shirt, and dab some sunblock on your wrists. Sure, you might get a few off-kilter stares, but if you can’t go to the beach, you may as well bring the beach to your cube.

Priceless

By at the office, employment, lj 10 Comments

It has come to my attention that several members of the LJ audience are reading on the job. You are getting paid to read the LJ. You can deny it all you want, but the bottom line is this: you are sitting at work, you are bored, and you are drawn to the entertainment of this LJ. I know because when I fail to produce some paragraphs for a few days, I am bombarded by IM windows demanding that I “save” you from the utter boredom of your desk jobs.

It’s nice to have a fairly amusing friend without a real job to supply you with some reading material throughout the week, now, isn’t it?

So, in return for the distraction I provide you with during your never-ending days at work, I want to know how much this LJ is worth. Do the math and leave me a comment — how much do you get paid each week to sit in front of your computer and read this LJ? Who’s coughing up the money? If you had to pay to read the LJ, how much do you think it’s worth?