Cheesy Nubs Mac & Cheese

You open the fridge, rummage through the tupperware and produce drawers, thinking “I know it’s in here somewhere”. It’s going to make the perfect snack, or impromptu hors d’oeuvres. And then you find it, a little gnarled, dried out hunk of cheese that used to be beautiful and now is barely fit for consumption. We’ve all been there and it can be rough. Thankfully, there is a solution: cheesy nubs mac & cheese.

Full credit on this one goes to Anne Saxelby, of Saxelby Cheese, who posted this on her blog last year, and reminded me of it when I visited her store recently, distraught over the fate of a beautiful round of Camembert I had been saving – too long it seems – for a special occasion.

Here’s what you need:

  • Cheesy nubs! (any kind of cheese and all parts)
  • Milk or cream
  • Pasta (macaroni, farfalle, penne, etc: your choice)
  • Bread crumbs (these are optional but extremely delicious)
  • Butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta to desired mushiness and drain.

cheesy nubs

While the pasta is cooking, cut, grate or mash up your cheese. Anne says you can use all parts of the cheese but I scooped out my over-the-hill Camembert and discarded the rind. I also used bits of a washed rind tomme and a gruyere style cheese.

Butter a ceramic dish (or any kind of pan really; I used a 9 inch cake pan). You can also use other kinds of fat, such as pork, instead of butter.

Spread a layer of pasta in the pan, then top with your cheesy mash, add a splash of milk or cream, sprinkle some salt and pepper, repeat. Over the last layer sprinkle your bread crumbs and strategically place some butter/fat around.

I also added some crispy pork belly that I diced and browned in a sauté pan.

Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until golden brown on top and bubbling.  Serve immediately.  Also makes yummy leftovers!

mmm cheesy deliciousness

My macaroni turned out nice and pungent, and the pork belly added a little salt and crunch.

This recipe can easily be scaled up or down depending on how much pasta you want to make/cheese you have. I used a whole Camembert, about 1/8 lb each washed rind tomme and gruyere and 1/2 lb of pasta which yielded a not too gooey but nicely cheesy result.

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La Churreria

From the team who brought us Soccarat has just arrived a little gem called La Churreria right next door to their Mulberry Street location. It opened on December 30 and it’s a good thing I got there when I did because I think lines down the block may be coming.

The main attraction at La Churreria is, unsurprisingly, churros with hot, semisweet chocolate. They also make pretty good coffee (including the Spanish staple and rare New York find, a Cafe Cortado, which, for the uninitiated, is an espresso cut with a little bit of milk) and a range of sandwiches. The menu boasts a few egg dishes and Spanish tortilla as well, but these were unavailable the day I stopped in.

The space is pretty tiny, with a small bar up front where you can order take out, 6 high top tables with stools and a banquette and a very cool black and white mosaic featuring custom made tiles with the restaurant’s C logo.

Hopefully it will stay under the radar long enough that I’ll be able to go back. (Oops, maybe that means I shouldn’t be blogging about it….)

In the meantime though, here’s being excited that another Spanish place has popped up in Manhattan.

Vital Statistics:
Location: 284 Mulberry, just south of Houston
Subway: B, D, F, M to Broadway-Lafayette or 6 to Bleecker St
Website: www.lachurrerianyc.com
Prices: churros and chocolate from about $10, sandwiches $7-9

I Love Buvette

a view down the bar

Recently I read about a new “gastrotheque” in the west village – featuring cured meats, croques Monsieur, and other French country delicacies. Naturally it went right on my to do list but, not being open for weekend brunch (quelle horreur!) I didn’t get to go until this past Monday, January 2.

A friend of mine and I popped in for a late lunch on a cold afternoon (finally it is cold!), which might be the perfect time to visit Buvette, a warm, cozy nook of a place on Grove Street right off Bleecker in the West Village.  Although, I imagine it’s pretty stellar for breakfast too.  We installed ourselves at the marble bar, ogling the plates being assembled before our very eyes, trying to decide which of the 15 things we wanted to have.  There was a great selection of cheese and charcuterie, plus a range of sandwiches, a few salads and a smattering of egg dishes.  The drinks list features two (2) cocktails: the Manhattan and the Martini; as well as lots of wines, beers and a few champagne concoctions.

When we finally got some attention (the service was friendly but either they need better multi-taskers or more people) we ordered drinks – I the Rosette, which is champagne with dried cherries, and my friend a glass of Pineau, a musty, grapey fortified wine.  The Rosette is a great alternative to the perennial Kir Royal, and by the end the cherries had plumped up nicely with the bubbly so I could pick them out with my spoon.  Nothing like a good alcohol laden piece of fruit.

champers & cherries

raw meat

For food we decided on the steak tartare – served, like everything else we ordered, on crusty, country bread; brandade de morue – a kind of cod pâté that was delicious; and duck rillettes because I am incapable of not ordering rillettes when they are on the menu.

rillettes: duck fat + meat = heaven

They arrived with a healthy serving of plump, green olives and globular pickles that were tangy and salty and eminently poppable.

We were totally full after this, but naturally I couldn’t leave without sampling the mousse au chocolat – a dense, dark one topped with whipped cream.  Sinfully good.  Next time I’ll have to leave room for the tarte tatin….

Vital Statistics:
Location: 42 Grove Street, between Bleecker and Bedford
Subway: 1 to Christopher Street
Website: www.ilovebuvette.com
Prices: $45 each for 3 savory plates, 2 cocktails, and 1 dessert; cocktails $12 each, plates about the same

the Buvette bicycle (ahem, I mean vélo): throw a cork in the basket for good luck

Punch!

the flowing bowl

No, not that kind of punch, the mystery college brew of Kool Aid and cheap vodka.  I’m talking about real punch.  Classy punch.

Punch is making a comeback, as heralded by the publication of not one but two books on the subject published in the past year.  First came Dave Wondrich’s, cocktail historian extraordinaire (where do I get that job?!), Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl.  This book is part exhaustive history lesson – did you know that until the 19th Century people had not yet figured out that you should not include the heads of the liquor, which is basically acetone (= killer hangover if not blindness) – and part recipe book.  The other punch book is The Punch Bowl by Dan Searing – described by Robert Simonson on his blog as “either the bravest or the most unlucky author in the cocktail world at present” (Mr. Wondrich being a pretty tough act to follow).  It is less intense history and more recipe book, with some fun facts thrown in.

In any case, I decided the holidays were a perfect time to indulge my desire to make punch and duly scoured my copy of Wondrich’s book for Just The Right Thing.  This turned out to be harder than I anticipated as I didn’t feel like topping individual servings with meringue, as in Roman Punch, or juicing 72 lemons, as in Captain Radcliffe’s Punch.  Finally I happened upon Boston Club Punch.  Perfect!

Here is the recipe:

For every bottle of champagne:

  • 2 oranges
  • 3.5 oz sugar
  • 3 oz raspberry syrup
  • 1/6 pineapple, chopped
  • 1 oz cognac
  • 1/2 oz Jamaican rum
  • 1/2 oz Grand Marnier
  • 1 oz Kirschwasser
  • 1 pint dry, white wine
  • 1 liter seltzer

First, prepare an “oleo-saccharum” with the orange peels.  What, you don’t know what an oleo-saccharum is?

the oleo-saccharum

with the orange juice and pineapple

For the uninitiated, the idea of an oleo-saccharum is to extract all the oil from the skin of a citrus fruit – in this case an orange.  To do this you peel the oranges, aiming to get only the outer skin and as little pith as possible, combine with the sugar and let sit 30 minutes or an hour.  Wondrich recommends using a vegetable peeler to get the orange peel off, but I had better luck with a paring knife.

punch stock keeps well refigerated

At this point, most of the oil from the fruit peel should have been extracted.  Muddle vigorously, then pour in the juice of the two oranges.  Mix until sugar is dissolved, then add the pineapple.  Muddle vigorously again, then strain into a mixing bowl, pressing down on the pulp to ensure maximal flavor extraction.  Add the syrup, cognac, rum, Grand Marnier, Kirschwasser and wine.  Refrigerate at least a few hours.  You can also make this in advance (like, weeks).  If you do this, strain the mixture through a fine sieve a few days after you make it.

When ready to serve, pour over a large ice block and add the bubbles.

Notes: I could not be bothered to buy a bottle of Grand Marnier just to use ½ an oz so instead I used regular cognac (Pierre Ferrand Ambre) and added a dash of orange water.  Likewise, I skipped the Kirschwasser altogether.  The second time I also substituted half grenadine (the batch I homemade for Repeal Day) for raspberry syrup.  In all cases these substitutions have been highly satisfactory, and iIt also seems to be just fine to use Prosecco instead of the brut champagne Wondrich recommends.  For the ice block you can freeze water in a large square Tupperware, or regular ice is fine as well, but it will melt faster and dilute the punch faster.

bottoms up!