Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Comfort Foods take us down memory lane.

Familiar house numbers on Nana's San Antonio home.

















Comfort whether it pertains to a place, a food or feeling one gets taking a trip down memory lane. It's something that makes us all feel an emotion about the person place or thing.  Last year my Nana's house sold in San Antonio Texas & it was a bittersweet feeling.  Good because the family who bought the home knew my grandmother & loved the property. Bittersweet in that the empty house brought back so many memories that somehow would never again be so visceral or so easily touched.  Emotions & memories are like that.  Touching on something deep within which somehow make us connected to that which we are from.  Comfort foods are like that also.  Comfort foods connect us to a person or event which gets relived even in a tiny form when we experience it again.  I recently found a new twist on an old favorite.
Ground Smoked Chipotle Pepper adds a smoky quality
















So normally I don't just take a recipe I find in a food magazine then just revamp & repost.  Something within me yearns for a little more creativity but, how can one really improve on something as great as mac & cheese? The recent cover dish on the March issue of Bon Appetit has been in my focus since I saw it.  B A food writers have an entire article dedicated to mac & cheese.  True, mac & cheese is what every red blooded American kid grew to love & crave no matter what era you grew up in post World War II.  Even if it was that familiar blue box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese & it somehow made an episode of the Brady Bunch last a wee bit longer. (Ha! Guess I'm dating myself with that one...) I left behind my boxed macaroni & cheese some years ago when I realized homemade mac & cheese is better than anything pre-packaged.  My version of the Pimento Mac & Cheese has a bit more heat in it than the original version may have.  I found a nice ground smoky chipotle pepper.  At it's outset it has a nice smoky scent imparting a nice touch of hot. Whether you want to play with the recipe as I did or just make the mac & cheese ingredient for ingredient it's by far one of my favorite macaroni & cheese recipe's I've had in some time. I also opted to roast my red bell pepper since I like the flavor of roasted bell pepper. Can't wait to see what strikes my fancy in the April issue. Bon Appetit!


Pimento Macaroni & Cheese

  • 1 7- to 8-ounce red bell pepper. (After roasting seed & cut into 1-inch pieces.)
  • 2 garlic cloves, halved, divided
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 3/4 cup drained mild Peppadew peppers in brine, 1 tablespoon brine reserved
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle chiles
  • 1 1/4 cups (packed) coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup (packed) coarsely grated whole-milk mozzarella
  • 8 ounces medium shell pasta or gemelli
  • ingredient info

    Peppadew peppers are available in jars or in the deli section at some supermarkets, at specialty foods stores, and from

    Look for panko at supermarkets and at Asian markets. Ground Chipotle Chile peppers are available in the spice section of supermarkets and at Latin markets.


  • Broil or roast in the oven the garlic & red bell pepper. Simmer until pepper is soft, about 15 minutes.
  • Toast panko in skillet over medium-high heat until golden, stirring often, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to bowl; cool to lukewarm. Rub 1 tablespoon butter into crumbs to coat. Mix in 1/4 cup Parmesan.
  • Transfer bell pepper mixture to processor. Add Peppadews and 1 tablespoon brine, 2 tablespoons butter, ground chiles, and 1/2 garlic clove; then add cheddar and 1/4 cup Parmesan. Blend until sauce is smooth; season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter 8-cup baking dish (or 6 individual dishes). Cook pasta in pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain; return to pot. Stir sauce and mozzarella into pasta. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon pasta into dish. Sprinkle with crumb topping.
  • Bake pasta until topping is crisp and sauce is bubbling, about 25 minutes (15 for individual). Let stand 10 minutes.