Eating all the food

We leave in exactly a month.  Thirty days!

In addition to the usual holy-shit-we-need-to-do-this-now craziness of getting ready for a big move, we are also attempting to clean out the freezer.  I inventoried our freezer contents last weekend, and the good news is that we don’t need to do that much grocery shopping over the next few weeks.  The bad news is that there’s lots of random crap in there.

Some things are easier to deal with than others, like frozen pizza.  All you have to do is, obviously, bake the pizza.  Today I had pumpkin soup that I’m pretty sure I made in November for lunch.  It was still really tasty, surprisingly.

Tonight we are using up one of two packages of ground turkey and some fresh bread crumbs by making turkey meatloaf.  This will also help use up the ridiculously large amount of ketchup that we still have.  We also have tons of fresh berries in the freezer and pastry crust, so I’m also making a sour cherry crostata.

Some things I’m glad to have an excuse to use, like the leftover roasted pumpkin and cranberries.  I’ll bake up something yummy and not feel guilty because I had to use the stuff in the freezer.  Waste not, want not.  Also a random package of breakfast sausage which is so unhealthy we would typically never buy it.  But I think I bought it one year for stuffing and didn’t use it, so one morning we will have eggs and sausage.

We also have about six cups of roasted corn in the freezer.  I think a corn chowder is in our future… some of that frozen bacon (we have four packs) would go well in corn chowder too.

Not freezer-related, we also have far more open bottles of liquor than we could ever possibly manage to drink.  We are having a party a few weeks before we leave, the main purpose of which is to make other people drink our alcohol.  Whatever doesn’t get drunk we will probably give to our neighbors.  Perhaps as a form of payment for watching over our house until it gets rented.


Fontina and Bacon Mac

This is definitely a year of “firsts” and there’s a new one to add to the list: I entered my first cooking competition.

Some A-100 friends hosted a Mac & Cheese-Off a few nights ago. It was very informal, and more of an excuse for everyone to make and eat lots of macaroni and cheese than an actual cooking competition.  But I am pretty competitive, so I was in it to win it.

I decided to use fontina cheese because it has a strong (but not overwhelming) flavor and is really creamy.  Add to that some mozzarella, and you have a cheese combination that melts nicely and tastes smooth but distinctly cheesy.  Then I added bacon because, well, most people that like mac & cheese also like bacon.

I sprinkled some Italian seasoned salt on top after it came out of the oven because I was worried it wasn’t salted enough.  And I’ve seen enough episodes of Top Chef to know that under-seasoning a dish can mean defeat.

We arrived at the party, and there were nine different mac & cheeses entered in the competition.  As soon as I saw that someone had brought fried chicken and mac & cheese waffles, I knew I was sunk.  It tasted really good and was very inventive, and the woman who cooked it literally spent all afternoon and several hours the day before cooking the dish.

The four judges tasted each dish, rated them from one to ten and then discussed their findings.  Eventually they announced the winners, starting with third place.  Much to my surprise, I won!  I’d convinced myself I wouldn’t win, so I was pretty happy.  And Nate was happy because he got to eat mac & cheese all night.

Just like in Top Chef, a classic perfectly-executed dish beats out the inventive pretty good dish every time!

Fontina and Bacon Mac

Time: 20 min preparation, 25 min baking (serves 8-12)

16 oz uncooked spiral pasta
3 c grated (packed) fontina cheese
1 c grated (packed) mozzarella cheese
1 c grated (packed) Parmesan cheese
2 c heavy cream (or half and half)
2 c milk
3 t flour
2 t salt
1 t freshly ground pepper
12 oz bacon, cooked crisp and diced
1 c Panko (you can also use crushed Saltines or crushed Rice Krispies)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Butter a 9×13 baking dish.

Cook the pasta in heavily salted water (more salt than you think you need) until al dente, about 5-7 minutes.  Drain the pasta, but don’t rinse it.

Whisk together the milk, cream and flour, and then stir in 2 c fontina, 1/2 c mozzarella and 1/2 c Parmesan.  Stir in the cooked pasta, salt, pepper, and bacon.

(Taste the mac & cheese at this point, even though it will be a little weird because the cheese isn’t melted. Add more salt and pepper if necessary.  I found this needs more salt than you’d expect.)

Spread the pasta/cheese/bacon mixture in the prepared baking dish, and sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese.  Sprinkle the Panko on the top.

Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes, until bubbling and brown on top.

Other things you could add: 3 c sliced kale, 2 c chopped cauliflower or broccoli, etc. You could leave out the bacon and use ham, chicken, or turkey.

Do ahead: After sprinkling the Panko, cover the pan and refrigerate for up to 3 days.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.