Saturday, 29 March 2008

Lots of cheese pasta bake

I have been working partial days, so I have been quite happily watching almost daily installments of Ready, Steady, Cook and Huey's Cooking Adventures. (I have also been guilty of scheduling my bi-weekly physio appointments around RSC *hangs head in shame*).

I used to really love Huey on Healthy Wealthy and Wise and on the earlier episodes of Cooking Adventures, I thought the food he cooked was easy and delicious and was in reach of the home cook who wanted to explore ingredients and tastes or just try something different without taking too much time or effort. I do think he's sold out a bit now. I was a little put off with him endorsing Jenny Craig after he put so much emphasis on the healthfulness of the food he cooked, but now I have grown a bit and am battling my own weight problem I do understand a little better that sometimes you need a bit more than just healthy cooking. You don't necessarily have to endorse it though.

I also disliked it when he restricted all his recipes to his "Huey's Cooking Club", which is still quite expensive at $40 per year or $24.95 per six months (for example, ATK/Cook's Illustrated is only US$24.95 per year). This was quite a while ago, and we were still relatively new to the internet and paying this much for access to his recipes didn't really sit well with us, especially as his recipes were moving away from the home food and more towards a restaurant style, which wasn't what I wanted to do in my home kitchen. A few years on, now I appreciate his recipes more as I've learned more about food and ingredients, but his recipes mostly aren't what I'd think of when I want to cook something.

These little prejudices I've held onto for quite a few years, but my recent one is just how extreme his product placement is. In the current shows you are lucky to see three dishes cooked, mostly it is only two as the last ten minutes of any show is the little Cenovis infomercial. Now, I like Kikkoman soy sauce as much as the next person, but I don't need it shoved in my face everytime he uses it. It doesn't bother me when Nigella insists that only Maldon salt will do, because I take that as it just being her preference that only Maldon salt will do. Huey, on the other hand, comes across like an advertising feature in a magazine.

Anyway, this was meant to be a post about my Four Cheese Pasta Bake but turned into a rant about Huey. So, in case you managed to stay with me this far, I will get onto the food. In an episode of Huey's Cooking Adventures he made a Four Cheese Pasta Bake. I wasn't really paying all that much attention at the time, but I remember that he made a roux and then added lots of different cheeses and he made a point that the reason this pasta bake was wonderful was because you could use any different combination of cheeses and as such, the pasta bake would be different each time. He also said that it was a great way to get rid of all the cheeses you had lying around in the fridge.

That was as much as I remembered, and Google was unable to help me along any further. So, I went recipe foraging, looking for any pasta bake that had lots of cheese in a bechamel sauce. In the end I found a nice little roux instruction on Just Hungry and made it up as I went along. This is not something I do often, I like the guidance and structure of a recipe because I am not very imaginative when it comes to flavour and not very knowledgeable when it comes to technique, but last night I threw caution to the wind and ended up with this:

Or two of these actually. I went a little overboard on the cheese.

I love cheese, but luckily for my above mentioned weight problem I don't eat very much of it. That being said, I love to try it, and there is always heaps of various cheeses floating around our fridge (see here and here - this is the normal state of my fridge when it comes to cheese). When it came to making this, I pulled all the cheeses out and got to grating. This is when it turned from a Four Cheese Pasta Bake to a Lots of Cheese Pasta Bake. In the mix there were: taleggio, parmesan, sharp cheddar, mozzarella, fontina and pecorino.

This made about four cups of cheese, which meant I needed a lot of bechamel sauce, which meant I ended up cooking two casserole dishes full of pasta bake. Luckily it tastes good.

In terms of cooking, it was very easy. Make your roux from flour and butter, add warmed milk steeped with a bay leaf and whole cloves to make the sauce and mix in the cheese until it begins to melt. Once the cheese had started melting it was the most glorious feeling standing there stirring through its thick, viscous gloopiness. Tip the sauce over ready cooked pasta in a baking dish with some salt and pepper and mix. You could top it with breadcrumbs or more cheese, but I had dumped all my cheese into the sauce, so I just left it as is.

It was deliciously rich and very yummy. Small servings were called for though - DD went back for more and ended up feeling a little bit ill.

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