Tag: mac n’ cheese

Cheese: The Anti-Drug

Sunday, April 20th, 2008 | All Things, Eats, Friends

Pope Benedict XVI’s visit and the Papal Mass at Yankee Stadium may have thinned our dinner ranks a bit, but those who made it to Sunnyside for SYB’s potluck were treated to an evening of good, clean fun. In honor of 4/20, the theme tonight was munchies/baked things. Hey, it’s a mainstream media event now.

Now I’ve been known to bake a cake or two, so pretty early on I had decided to take up that portion of the cooking challenge. But in the final days leading up to dinner, concerned about a potential spread of Twinkies and Frito Pie, I decided to bring something I could eat for dinner myself. (I needn’t have worried, as it turned out: there were salads, quesadillas, pita chips and guacamole, sweet & sour pork and cannoli. Also: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made with AP’s wonderful homebaked bread.)

I had a surfeit of cheese on hand due to back-to-back runs to Murray’s Cheese and the Fairway fromagerie: two types of cheddar (New York and Australian), plus selections from J’s birthday cheese platter: Asiago, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano. (I made the executive decision to leave out the Saint Agur blue and the chèvre.  You’re welcome.)

There are many recipe variations on mac n’ cheese, but knowing SYB’s preference for the casserole-type dish over the stove-top variety (and in keeping with the night’s “baked” theme), I used a recipe similar to Alton Brown’s, which begins with a roux and is topped with panko. The “Good Eats” guy recommends cutting the leftovers into chunks to be dredged and deep fried for Next Day Mac and Cheese “Toast” — an intriguing, if not very heart-healthy, option.

So why is cheese such a crowd pleaser? One chemical explanation is that when dairy proteins break down, they release casomorphin, an opioid, and tyrosine, a non-essential amino acid. (Tyrosine comes from the Greek tyros, meaning “cheese,” and is also the root of tyrophile, or turophile — “one who loves cheese.”) Tyrosine is in turn converted into the pleasure/rush-inducing dopamine and norepinephrine.

A natural high, if ever there was one.

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Pinch & S’MAC

Sunday, February 24th, 2008 | All Things, Eats

At Pinch & S’MAC on Columbus – a punny collaboration between the now-closed Pizza by the Inch and the East Village Sarita’s Macaroni & Cheese, the mac n’ cheese emporium which last year earned the Oprah stamp of approval on “Gayle’s New York Minute.”

Just as it had at its former Park Avenue South location, Pinch offers thin pies in four-inch widths, sold by length in four-inch increments, with choice of toppings. Personally I couldn’t say how their product stacks up against the offerings in a city full of superlative pizza, though they did seem to have a following. (Incidentally, Arthur Avenue’s Zero Otto Nove, which we visited a couple of weeks ago, was just named best in the Bronx by New York magazine.) The joining of these two cheese and carb forces is a coup, though, and last month’s opening of the Pinch & S’MAC joint venture, minutes’ walk from the Amsterdam Avenue frat bar scene, was met with considerable anticipation.

S’MAC offers variations on the cheesy pasta classic: from the “All American” (American and Cheddar – add seasoned ground beef to make it a “Cheeseburger” or sauced chicken pieces for the “Buffalo Chicken”) to more complicated, gourmet versions like the “Parisienne” (Brie, Figs, Roasted Shiitake Mushrooms and Fresh Rosemary) and the “Masala” (Cheddar and American cheeses, Tomatoes, Ginger, Onions, Cilantro, Cumin & Indian Spices.) Alternatively, you can pick any combination of offered toppings to customize your own dish. The elbow macaroni is served in cast-iron skillets of varying sizes — Nosh, Major Munch, Mongo and Partay! – with decent crust on top, but overall a bit soupy for my tastes. Breadcrumb topping optional.

The “Napoletana” (Fresh Mozzarella, Roasted Tomatoes, Roasted Garlic and Fresh Basil) — better in theory, perhaps, than in execution:


And the classic “All American”:

All American

To me, mac n’ cheese is one of those comfort dishes that doesn’t require a lot of tinkering, so I would be partial to S’MAC’s American and Cheddar-based versions. In 2006, The Times’s Julia Moskin went in search of the ultimate home cook’s recipe, eventually foregoing the temptation towards fancier cheeses (Swiss Gruyère, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Italian fontina and Welsh Caerphilly) in favor of two straightforward cheddar-based recipes, divided into creamy and crusty preferences.

More wordplay across the street at West Side Wine. (No milkshake reference? I guess it’s over already.) The 80th Annual Academy Awards broadcast later that night, and would become the first since 1964 that all four main acting awards were won by non-Americans. That year, “Sexy Rexy” Harrison took home the Best Actor Oscar for his career-defining role as “Henry Higgins” in George Cukor’s screen adaptation of My Fair Lady. (The classic Lerner and Loewe musical is playing this week at MoMA as part of Sir Harrison’s “Centenary Tribute.”)

West Side Wine

French star Marion Cotillard on her Oscar win: “I’m totally overwhelmed with joy and sparkles and fireworks and everything which goes like bom-bom-bom.

What a charming sentiment!

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