Posts Tagged ‘harvati cheese’

Pear Butter (and a panini!)

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

A couple of weeks ago, we went to the Green City Market in Lincoln Park. Now from what I understand, this farmer’s market is a much bigger event during the summer, when it takes place outside, and we were there for one of the last weeks inside. No matter. We had a good time and picked up several tasty treats. One of those treats was a jar of Pear Butter from Seedling.

I’d never even heard of Pear Butter, but of course there were samples, and the samples were quite convincing, so we picked up a jar. If you’ve never had Pear Butter (or Apple Butter) for that matter, the term propbably requires some explaination.

According to Wikipedia, Apple Butter is a highly concentrated applesauce, made by cooking apples so long and slow that the sugars in the apples carmelize. Despite being called Apple “Butter,” there’s no butter, cream, or dairy of any kind involved. And the final product isn’t anything like butter, really. It’s more of a jam-like spread (though not quite as thick). We use it to spread on toast, mostly. The caramelization gives the apple butter a unique sweet taste. David, who favors apple jelly almost exclusively, likes apple butter a lot. His favorite use is to slather it on a toasted english muffin.

This Pear Butter was similar to Apple Butter—it had the same unique sweetness, but the pears gave it a little something special. I have been very happy to have it around.

The one other place I’ve seen apple butter at work is, oddly enough, in college. The dining hall made a surprisingly delicious sandwich with turkey, dill harvati, and apple butter. It sounds strange, I know, but the sanwhich was the perfect balance of salty and sweet. I decided to use the same flavors to make a panini using roasted turkey, leftover harvati cheese from our fancy Macaroni & Four Cheese, and of course, our new Pear Butter.

Pear Butter, Turkey, & Harvati Panini

For each sandwiches:

  • Two slices of good quality bread (We like this sourdough)
  • 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
  • 1 tablespoon apple butter or pear butter
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced roasted turkey (from the deli)
  • 2 ounces harvati cheese, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

1. Preheat a panini pan and press over medium high heat.

2. Spread one slice of bread with the mayonnaise. Top with one layer of cheese, followed by turkey, and then another layer of cheese, in that order. Spread the remaining slice of bread with apple or pear butter to complete the sandwich. .

3. Spread the outside of the sandwich (both slices of bread) with butter.

4. Place in panini pan and top with press. The sandwich is done when the bread is crisp all around and the cheese is melted all the way through. Slice in half and serve immediately.

Note: I wouldn’t say these sandwhiches were perfect, but if I had the ingredients laying around again, I’d definitely try to perfect it. They were quite tasty as it was. The two differences were the use of sourdough instead of plain, from a bag, sliced wheat bread (I’d say the sourdough was probably an improvement), and using regular harvati instead of a dill-flavored harvati (this could have made the sandwhich better).

Fried Macaroni & Cheese

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Is there anything worse for you than Fried Macaroni & Cheese?

I thought not.

But like so many other things that are terrible for you… it’s one of the most delicious!

If you’ve never had Fried Mac & Cheese, you’re missing out. The first time I tried it was at The Cheesecake Factory with my mom. It was so good as an appetizer that we skipped the entrees! I’ve also had it at TGIFriday’s. What’s different about making it at home is that when you control the ingredients–using olive oil to fry, and a homemade Mac & Cheese with real cheese (not OrangyProcessedCheeseFood)–the result is so much tastier than anything a chain restaurant can dream of serving.

This version has a light, crispy crunch on the outside, while the middle comes together as a warm, gooey, cheesy center. I’ve seen it served with marinara sauce for dipping, but if you start with awesome Mac & Cheese, I think a sprinkle of crunchy sea salt over the finished product is all you need.

Fried Macaroni & Cheese

  • leftovers from your favorite baked macaroni & cheese recipe, chilled overnight. (I used the leftovers from this delicious spin on traditional mac & cheese.)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup panko Japanese-style breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour for dredging
  • salt & pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil, for frying

1. Slice the macaroni & cheese into 1-inch thick slices. Keep chilled until ready to use.

2. Heat a 1/2 inch layer of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, until the surface shimmer. You want the oil to be hot enough to crisp the mac & cheese, but you don’t want the oil to smoke.

3. Place the flour in a shallow dish and sprinkle with salt & pepper. In a second dish, lightly beat two eggs together. In a third dish, combine the panko and parmesan cheese.

4. Dredge two slices of the mac & cheese in flour and shake off the excess. Next, dip the slices of mac & cheese in the eggs, and then finally in the panko/parmesan mixture.

5. When the oil is ready, carefully place the breaded macaroni & cheese slices in the skillet and fry until golden brown on each side, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from the pan to a plate lined with paper towels. While hot, lightly sprinkle with salt (preferably flaked sea salt). Cover with a loosely-tented piece of foil to keep the fried slices warm while you continue cooking the rest of the macaroni & cheese.

Note:  We chilled our leftover macaroni & cheese in a plastic container shaped like a loaf of bread, which made it easier to slice evenly. We’ll be making this again for sure…probably any time we have leftover Mac & Cheese!

Macaroni and Four Cheeses with Apples and Bacon Breadcrumbs

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

This was a fun one for me. You guys have caught onto the fact that I’m a Top Chef fan, right?

Of course you have.

Well, my all-time favorite Top Chef is Stephanie Izard. She’s talented, but also gracious and humble. I was really excited to see her win the title, and David and I are looking forward to checking out her restaurant when it opens up. She’s a Chicago girl, after all!

Last weekend, David pointed out Stephanie’s website to me, and it took me about a minute and a half to decide to make this Macaroni & Cheese dish. I sent David on a shopping trip for ingredients almost immediately.

We were not disappointed. The apples added a unique flavor to the traditional Mac & Cheese, but were a welcome touch of sweetness in a sea of creamy, salty cheese sauce. I skipped the ham, since David isn’t a fan. Though I can see how it would be a good addition, I can’t say that I missed it. (I did decide to double the bacon and add half to the breadcrumbs and the other half right into the macaroni & cheese). This dish was heavy enough to stand alone as a meal, even without the meat. If you want to add them, it would be good with either ham or grilled chicken, though.

Macaroni and Four Cheeses with Apples and Bacon Breadcrumbs
Adapted from www.stephanieizard.com

  • 3 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup unsalted butter (I used salted butter–no problems)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 4 cups ciabatta cubes (about 6 ounces of ciabatta bread, cubed)
  • 1 small onion, halved
  • 6 cups whole milk (we keep 1% on hand, so I used 5 1/2 cups of 1% milk with a 1/2 of heavy cream…worked out just fine!)
  • 8 ounces bacon (6-8 strips), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 Fuji apples, peeled, cored, cubed (we had Honeycrisp on hand)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 pound conchiglie pasta (I used a different shape that we had on hand, anything that’s going to catch the sauce is good)
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 4 ounces aged cheddar (1 cup grated)
  • 6 ounces whole milk mozzarella (1 1/2 cup grated)
  • 4 ounces smoked gouda (1 cup grated)
  • 4 ounces havarti (1 cup grated)
Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large Dutch oven or saucepot over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, steeping in the butter for about 1 minute, until the garlic is soft and fragrant. Remove from the heat and add the bread cubes to the pot, tossing to coat them in the garlic butter. Spread the butter-coated cubes across a baking sheet and transfer to the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, until the bread is very crisp. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

Put the onion and the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring the milk to a bare simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid scorching the bottom.

While the milk simmers, return the Dutch oven to the stove over medium heat. When the pot is hot again, add the bacon pieces and render until crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside with the cooling bread cubes. Add the apples to the hot fat in the pan, sautéing for 1-2 minutes, until the apples are just soft (not mushy). Remove the apples with a slotted spoon to a large mixing bowl. Add the vinegar and toss to coat.

Put the cooled bread cubes and bacon in a food processor and pulse several times to form bread crumbs.

Cook the macaroni to al dente, according to the package directions.

As the pasta cooks, melt the remaining 1/4 cup of butter in the Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the flour over the melted butter and whisk together, forming a thick paste, or a roux. Let the roux cook for a minute or so, until it begins to smell nutty. Strain the milk and discard the onion. Slowly add the hot milk to the roux, about 1/2-1 cup at a time, whisking well to avoid lumps. Continue incorporating the milk until a thick sauce forms. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 5 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of mozzarella and add the rest of the cheese to the sauce, stirring as it melts.

When the pasta is done, strain it and add it to the cheese sauce along with the apple mixture. Stir to combine all of the ingredients and pour into a 13×9-inch baking dish. Cover the macaroni and cheese with the bacon breadcrumbs and scatter the reserved 1/2 cup of mozzarella on top. Put the dish on a baking sheet and transfer to the oven. Broil the top until the breadcrumbs are golden and the cheese is bubbly.

(Serve immediately or hold in a 300° F oven for about 30 minutes).

Note: Love, love, loved this! When I finished the sauce and moved it to the baking dish, I was concerned that the cheese sauce was a little on the thin side. It thickened in the pan to a perfect consistency. Even better, the chilled leftovers set up so well that David suggested I make Fried Macaroni & Cheese, which is what we did with the leftovers. Come back tomorrow for the recipe!