19.2.12

Comfort(able) Food: Mac & Cheese and Peanut Butter & Oreo Pie

Random Monday plans got accidentally rescheduled into Valentine's Day plans, and it seemed like the perfect excuse to deploy two of my favourite, and most completely indulgent, comfort food recipes.

I call this comfortable food because I've made it so often I don't need recipes; and of course it's delicious. I don't believe there's any such thing as unhealthy food - all things in moderation, and what might not be good for the body is more than likely good for the soul.

Dessert comes after the main course, of course, but the pie needs at least three hours in the fridge, preferably more, so that comes first. HOWEVER, I should point out that serving both of these for the same meal makes for a very rich very filling dinner.

And so, without further ado:

Peanut Butter & Oreo Pie
This is adapted from an original recipe by the glorious Pioneer Woman (who also has an utterly incredible mac & cheese recipe of her own - her site is well worth a roam). These measurements make six generous mini pies in creme-brulee style ramekins and ought to be enough for one plate-size pie.

1 packet of Oreos (in the UK the basic pack that I've seen in most supermarkets contain 15 - if you're using more adjust accordingly)
100g of butter (margarine works fine)
100g of peanut butter (crunchy or smooth according to taste - most people I know are quite firm in their preference)
150g of cream cheese
75g of icing sugar (this avoids the pie being too overwhelmingly sweet - adjust for taste, you'll probably want a bit more sugar if you're using crunchy peanut butter).
100ml of single cream

If you have a food processor (and can be bothered cleaning it afterwards), use it to crush the Oreos. Or, do what I do and improvise a pestle and mortar with a mixing bowl and (clean) wine bottle...


Blend until the white filling has been mixed in with the biscuit crumbs. 
Melt the butter, mix into the biscuit crumble.
Spread the mix onto your dish(es). (Pro tip: if you're using little ramekins, the bottom of a small glass does a perfect job of flattening the pie base; if you're using a pie dish, anything flat and round slightly smaller than the dish circumference - pan, plate, whatever).
Bake for 5 minutes.
Leave to cool.
I'm impatient, so I put them outside (and stood guard for seagulls).


Mix the peanut butter and cream cheese together.
If this photo grosses you out, this is probably not the recipe for you.


Add the cream and sugar a bit at a time, checking for taste and texture (you want it stiff enough to keep it's shape but not an effort to spread).
Mix thoroughly.
When the base is completely cool, spoon the mixture on and smooth over.



Refrigerate for at least three hours. The topping sets quite quickly, but the longer you leave it, the more the base softens - it's just as tasty but harder to serve and eat when the base is still crispy, but if you prefer it that way then serve within a couple of hours. I've eaten this after nearly a week in the fridge - much softer, still good! It's never lasted long enough to go off but I'd say a week is probably as long as you want to leave it.

Enjoy!

Mac & Cheese
[Notes: a) The photos here are of me making an industrial sized double portion for several meals including a potluck, so don't use them as a gauge; b) I have never in my life actually measured the quantities of anything that goes into this, so the amounts below are my best estimates - adjust according to taste. c) The veg is entirely optional. Also delicious with bacon (with or without the veg too).]

1 packet of macaroni (usually 500g) (I've made this with all kinds of pasta imaginable, but the particular texture of the macaroni really is best)
Approx 300g of mature cheddar (or roughly 150g each of mature and extra mature for a sharper taste - using only extra mature doesn't work as well, I find, as it doesn't blend quite so smoothly)
1 veg stock cube
1 small onion (optional)
Garlic according to taste - I'd probably use 4 or 5 cloves, but I really like garlic (optional)
150g of mushrooms (optional)
3 tablespoons of plain flour - approximately, adjust as you prepare the sauce to achieve the texture described below.
50g of butter (margarine works fine too)
150ml of milk (I use semi skimmed but whatever you have in the fridge!)
Dijon mustard (about 3 teaspoons but this is very much a matter of taste)
Breadcrumbs (probably a few tablespoons but this'll depend on the surface area of the dish you use)
Black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 200c.
Boil the water for the pasta, with the stock cube.
Chop the vegetables into roughly macaroni-sized pieces.



Fry the vegetables over a medium heat. A dab of the butter or a small amount of olive oil will work equally well.
Cook the macaroni - stirring regularly (it sticks much more than other types of pasta), until it's just shy of done - it should be soft enough to bend rather than break when pressed, but still firm. It will cook more in the sauce in the oven.
Here's a nifty trick that makes it extra awesome: drain the water from the pasta into a bowl and set aside. You'll use it for the sauce, which makes it lighter than using milk but thicker and more flavourful than just water or stock (this is true of all pasta sauces).



The vegetables should be ready about the same time as the pasta - you want them fully soft but not browning. Put both into the dish you'll be baking the mac & cheese in. Add a dab of butter or marge to stop the pasta congealing.
To make the sauce (if this explanation doesn't work for you, look up how to make b├ęchamel - don't let the fancy cuisine word alarm you, it's just cheese sauce!):
If the cheese isn't grated already, grate it now, set aside.



Melt the butter in the bottom of a saucepan on a low/medium heat.
When it's completely melted but before it starts sizzling, lift off the heat, and slowly add the flour, mixing vigourously. You should end up with a gold-ish-coloured mix with no excess moisture - it's rather hard to explain, but I'd say it has the rough consistency of pureed veg, maybe a bit dryer.
Let this mixture cook, stirring continuously. Keep an eye on the heat - don't let it burn or stick.
Slowly add the milk, still stirring to keep the mixture as smooth as possible. Don't panic if you end up with lumps, they're usually quite easy to break down. The mixture will thicken as you stir.
Slowly add the pasta water - you probably won't need all of it - until the sauce has the consistency of thick soup.
Add about a third of the grated cheese, stir until melted.
Add mustard. Like I said, I use about three teaspoons, but it's entirely a matter of taste. If you've never made it before, go a teaspoon at a time and taste, bearing in mind you'll add more cheese before the dish is done.
Add black pepper to taste.
Keep on the heat and stirring until you're ready to add to the pasta.
Mix straight into the pasta in the dish.
Add another third of the cheese and mix thoroughly.
Spread the final third of the cheese on top of the dish.



Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top.
Bake for 25 minutes at the top of the oven.
For a crunchy golden finish, turn on the grill for 5 minutes (keep an eye on it so the top doesn't burn).


Serve hot! 

If you're not serving immediately: if keeping for less than 24 hours, cover but don't refrigerate. If refrigerating, serve within three days. I would recommend microwaving individual portions rather than reheating the whole dish in the oven as it will dry out rather.

5 comments:

  1. This is a real tour de force. Well done. Puts my thoughts of posting tonight's goulash well and truly in the shade. But I will anyway as I'm plodding along in my little groove. But I'm SO impressed by yours.

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    1. Oh, thank you! These are SO simple, it's much harder to describe than it is to make, especially the cheese sauce. And I don't know how to make goulash so please please go ahead!

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    2. I can attest to the fact that these recipes both worked a treat and were delicious and so good! Thanks for the Valentine's feeding, Em!

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  2. Very excited to try out your mac 'n cheese recipe! Even though it's my absolute favourite dish, I hardly ever make it for myself - making large quantities generally encourages me to eat large quantities. But it looks like it would freeze well :)

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    1. I've never frozen it - I'm not generally a big fan of freezing things - but I think it probably would! Or just invite some fangirls over, it tends to disappear in minutes ;)

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