I don’t know what I’m gonna be for Halloween just yet, but one of my ideas happens to be an orange woman. As in, macaroni and cheese orange. Pumpkin orange. And it’s not even a Jersey Shore cast member! Speaking of, do you have any respect for me? If so, let me fix that right now: I watch that show and I love it and hate myself for it. There.
In fact, I’m still waiting for the perfect opportunity to say to someone, “Just stick it in the jet hole and go to bed.” Thanks, J-Wowww (how many Ws in your name again?).
Of course, you’re much classier than me. So you’re probably going to make this delicious macaroni and cheese and eat it over a conversation about Rumi, far away from your TV and all the trash that’s on it. It’s okay–this dinner knows no trashiness bounds. We can still be friends, too.
First, a small onion gets sliced and caramelized. It’s a good while-the-macaroni-is-boiling activity, plus, the smell of onion cooking? It’s instant cozy. It lets everyone within smelling distance know that you mean business. Delicious business!
I think it was Wynton Marsalis who tried to illustrate blues being the foundation of American music by saying something like, “To make gumbo, you have to have roux.” You can’t have American music without blues, and that’s the truth. You also can’t have gumbo or macaroni and cheese without roux. It’s just a foundation of all kinds of milky sauces that consists of flour and fat–butter, in this case.
I just love a good food-related analogy.
Also, I really hope Wynton doesn’t mind sharing this blog post space with J-Wowww. This is kind of a mess. I’m sorry, W.
Once the flour in the roux gets a bit toasty, we add milk–lots of milk. Floury mac and cheese is not what you want, and the key to avoid that is making sure you let the flour cook a little, as well as getting all the lumps out by whisking well. The mixture gets thick and bubbly, and that is a good time to add the cheese. Smoked cheddar just doesn’t melt as well as some other cheeses, but that’s perfectly fine. The flavor is worth it. Once the cheese has melted somewhat evenly throughout, everything else goes in–pumpkin, caramelized onion, and finally, the macaroni.
And that’s it, really. You could just eat it straight away, but I like bubbling baked goodness, with a cheesy crust on the sides and a crunchy topping. If you’re like me, and you have patience, everything goes into a casserole dish, and then we cover it with additional goodness and stick it in the oven. Not the jet hole (HAHA!!). P.S. I’m sorry.
I wonder if Wynton and J-Wowww would sit down for a nice dinner if they were promised pumpkin macaroni and cheese.
Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese With Caramelized Onion and Smoked Cheddar
(adapted from Martha Stewart)
1 pound elbow macaroni
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
3/4 stick of butter, plus 3 tablespoons for topping
1/2 cup of flour
4 cups of milk (I used unsweetened vanilla-flavored almond milk and it turned out just dandy)
1 3/4 cups canned pumpkin (about 1 small can)
2 cups shredded smoked cheddar cheese
Salt, pepper and whole nutmeg to taste
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/3 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese
1 tbsp )(or less, to taste) crushed red pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cook macaroni in boiling water until al dente; drain and set aside. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, and add sliced onion. Saute until caramelized like in the photo above (about 25 minutes). Set aside.
Melt 3/4 of a stick of butter over medium-high heat in a large pot and stir in the flour. Cook, stirring constantly, until toasted and bubbling. Whisk in the milk and, whisking constantly, bring to a bubbling simmer again. Remove from heat and stir in the grated cheese. Season with salt, pepper and a fresh grating of nutmeg, and stir sauce until everything is thoroughly combined.
Mix in the pumpkin, caramelized onions and macaroni. Pour into 9 x 13 casserole dish. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter and mix with breadcrumbs and parmesan or romano cheese, then sprinkle the mixture over the macaroni. Bake until the top is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling, about 30-40 minutes.