real life test kitchen: siracha mac and cheese

On Halloween we hosted a small handful of sugar-loaded kids and their exhausted parents. I wanted to serve something simple, that we could dish out in bowls and eat on the porch while doling out candy to trick-or-treaters. This recipe from Shutterbean fit the bill nicely. After all, mac and cheese is kinda like candy for grown ups. Despite its recent legal troubles in California, Siracha is a hot, of-the-moment, ingredient (pun intended). This Thai hot sauces makes just about everything taste better, from scrambled eggs to roasted sweet potatoes. After trying this recipe I can add one more thing to its plate — spicing up mac and cheese. Plus the bright red drizzle on top seemed to fit the theme of the night — creepy! Below is my take on the recipe from Shutterbean, which was originally adapted from the Mac + Cheese cookbook.

Siracha Mac and Cheese

What You Need:

For the sauce
3 cups milk — I used 1%
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt

For the pasta:

3/4 pound dried elbow pasta
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups grated Havarti
2-3 tablespoons Sriracha sauce, plus more for drizzling
1 bunch chopped green onions (both green and white parts)
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs

How To Make:
1. Preheat oven to 400F. Butter a large caserole dish. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until a little less than al dente.

2. Heat the milk in a pot over medium heat until it just starts to bubble, but is not boiling, 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat.

3. . Heat the butter over medium heat in a separate, heavy bottomed pot. When the butter has just melted, add the flour and whisk constantly until the mixture turns light brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

4. . Slowly pour the warm milk, about 1 cup at a time, into the butter-flour mixture, whisking constantly until it gets thick.

5. Once all the milk has been added, set the pot back over medium-high heat, and continue to whisk constantly. Once the sauce is thick enough to stick to the spoon it’s done. Add the salt and stir. Shut off heat.

6. Mash together the ginger and butter in a small bowl until fully combined.

7. Add the cheese and ginger butter to the sauce and cook over medium heat. Stir until the cheese is barely melted, about 3 minutes. Add the siracha and pasta and cook another 5 minutes. Add the green onions and stir to fully combine.

8. Pour the mac into a 14-inch casserole pan and sprinkle with panko. Bake until hot and bubbly and the topping is golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and drizzle with more sriracha. Spoon into bowls and serve.

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real life test kitchen: pumpkin queso fundido

This recipe was originally published in 2012, but it is a one of our favorites. Finally something to do with all those gorgeous market pumpkins that doesn’t involve feeding squirrels!

A few weeks ago, we hosted a Halloween-themed party at our place. I was determined to do something inventive with a pumpkin and when I spotted this recipe in Food Network magazine, I had to give it a try. It looked so cheesy and delicious, I knew that if I could pull it off, it’d be a party hit. To make this dip, you have to first make the queso in a pan on the stove, then pour it into a scooped out pumpkin to bake for about an hour. Advance planning is needed. The hardest thing, I realized, was finding the right sized pumpkins. After I made my dip, I poured it into a pumpkin that was much too large. Luckily, I had two smaller ones handy and was able to make a quick switcheroo. The nice thing about having two small pumpkins is that I served one at a time, and reheating number two mid-way through the party was a breeze. It was great to have some cheesy hotness halfway through the night. I also made my recipe slightly less meaty, by using a vegan-based chorizo substitute that we get at Whole Foods. To make it truly vegetarian, replace the chicken broth with vegetable stock.

Here’s my take on Pumpkin Queso Fundido
What you need:

2 1-to-2-pound sugar pumpkins
8 ounces chorizo (or veggie) sausage
1 jalapeno pepper (remove seeds for less heat), chopped
1 4-ounce can chopped green chiles
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken or veggie broth
2 cups shredded mozzarella or Oaxaca cheese
1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
Tortilla chips, for serving

How to make:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Slice off the tops 1 1/2 of the pumpkins and discard. Scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp.

2. Heat the chorizo or veggie version in a medium pot over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes until browning begins. Add the jalapeno, green chiles, cumin and cayenne and cook, stirring, until the jalapeno softens, about 2 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, until the flour is slightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken or veggie broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the cheeses. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cheese melts and the mixture is creamy, about 3 more minutes.

Place the pumpkin in a small baking dish and fill the pumpkin with the cheese mixture. Add 1 inch of boiling water to the baking dish. Cover loosely with foil and bake until the pumpkin is tender, about 1 hour, 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the cheese is golden and bubbly, 20 to 25 more minutes. Let cool 5 to 10 minutes. Serve warm with tortilla chips and watch it disappear.

Note: The best part is when you get near the end, and scoop up the baked pumpkin flesh along with the dip. Extra yum!

From our partners

real life test kitchen: spooky halloween buckeyes

(This post was originally published last year, but after making them again recently we decided to share again with a new photo!)

One of the best things about marrying a man from Ohio is that he introduced me to buckeyes. The state sweet, they are creamy, peanut-buttery chocolate balls of joy. They resemble the nut that falls from the state tree and bear the same name as Ohio State’s beloved college football team. I don’t know how I lived 35 years without them. Recently, we introduced some neighbors to buckeyes by bringing a spooky version to Halloween party. I was talking to the hostess when someone came over and urgently asked “Where are those chocolate peanut butter balls?! They are amazing!!” I beamed with pride and decided we’d make them for a bake sale we had coming up at our child’s preschool. Recipe to follow on the next page. Don’t eat them all once! — Angela M


From our partners

new kitchen must-have? check out the nibble baking pan

I don’t know about you, but I can hardly wait for a cake or sweet loaf to cool before I have a taste. I feel it’s a cook’s right to dive in and taste any freshly baked masterpiece. After all, how else would you know if you have a hit on your hands? The only problem is that cakes with nibbles taken out of them are not picture perfect. So how do you have sample without ruining the symmetry of your creation? Introducing the Nibble pan, yet another super clever invention available via Quirky. Thought up by Talia Wiener, the Nibble is a versatile 9 X 11 round pan that comes with a little silicone cup attached to it. Fill up the pan but save a dollop of batter for the cup, and when the cake is done, you can eat the mini-version without messing up the grand plan. My only question is whether or not the baking times would vary for the big versus little pan.

What do you think? Would you give the Nibble, $25 at, a try?

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real life test kitchen: marcella hazan’s tomato sauce with onion and butter

I pinned this recipe, for Macella Hazan’s most famous and insanely easy tomato sauce recipe, years ago but somehow never got around to making it until this past weekend. The time was ripe, in more ways the one, to pay tribute to this grand dame of Italian-American cooking. Hazan passed away a couple of weeks ago, and like many greats who fade from our memory, it took her death to remind us how influential she was. The New York Times obituary put it beautifully and simply — like many of her best recipes — saying she changed the way Americans cook. She didn’t believe in complicated things, only the purest, freshest ingredients cooked to bring out their unique flavors. Her tomato sauce with onion and butter recipe is Hazan at her best. The rest bout of unseasonably warm temperatures has yielded a bumper crop of plum tomatoes in our garden beds. I could think of no better use for them to put them in this simple sauce. Mine took a little bit longer, because I started with fresh tomatoes. But the who endeavor was done in about an hour and half, and it required so little effort, I can’t imagine why I didn’t do it sooner. This sauce is wonderfully familiar — which makes me realize that it must be used in countless restaurants all over NYC. It tastes even better the next day.

Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

What You Need:

2 cups of canned or stewed plum tomatoes in their juices — see note below on what to do if you’re using fresh tomatoes like I did
5 tbls butter
1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
Salt to taste

How to Make
1. Put the tomatoes in a large sauce pan, and add the butter, onion, and salt, and cook uncovered at a very low flame.

2. Stir from time to time, mashing up any large pieces of tomato with the back of a wooden spoon.
3. Simmer for about 45 minutes. Taste and aalt. Discard the onion before tossing with pasta.

4. Serve with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese for the table.

If you’re using fresh tomatoes:

1. You’ll need about 2 lbs of tomatoes.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
3. Drop tomatoes in and boil for one minute.
4. Drain and cool down with cold water.
5. Peel off the skins and discard them.
6. Quarter the tomatoes and add them to a pan.
7. Add a dash of salt, and cook on a meduim-low flame for about 30 minutes. Add a splash of water or olive oil if things dry to quickly.
8. Once the tomatoes have broken down nicely, you can continue the recipe as above.

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