In Portland, January days are cold, wet and dreary. The holidays have lapsed and the thought of the long winter months ahead is somewhat daunting. This is the season for comfort foods; rich soups, stews, hearty pastas and, of course, everyone’s childhood favorite, macaroni and cheese. These are the foods that warm us up on particularly dark days and remind us of the pleasure in retreating to robust, rib-sticking meals.
Do you find yourself stuck at work later than you want and the thought of cooking when you get home makes your head spin? Don’t fret. Stop by Elephants Deli at their Northeast location to pick up their famous ‘Grown Up’ Mac & Cheese with thick-cut Nueske’s applewood smoked bacon, caramelized onions, parmesan & lemon zest bread crumbs. This macaroni is lighter in flavor, creamy, and oh so addictive. Their sauce includes parmesan, fontina and white cheddar cheeses. Make sure to bring home extras for tomorrow’s lunch. Oh, and don’t forget your gym gear for an after-work calorie burn!Take Home Mac
To warm up your entire household, grab your favorite elbow pasta and whip up my family’s recipe. The beauty of macaroni is its versatility. Mixing up the types of cheeses will completely change the taste. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your favorites.
Make-Your-Own Mac: DeMarco Family Macaroni and Cheese
16 oz. elbow pasta
4 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoon cream cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Dash of paprika
Dash of mustard
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup Dubliner cheese, grated
Cook pasta in boiling water just until al dente. Rinse with cold water, drain and set aside. Melt butter on medium-low heat in 2 ½-3 qt. saucepan. Once heated, slowly add flour, blending with the back of a spatula until lumps disappear. Slowly add milk, stirring continuously, until thick and creamy. Stir in cream cheese and sour cream. Add salt, pepper, mustard and paprika. Add cheeses and stir on low heat until well blended.
Put pasta back into its cooking pot and add cheese sauce. Stir gently and pour into a 9×13 baking dish. Sprinkle excess cheese on top. Cook at 350 degrees until hot and bubbly, about 20-30 minutes.
To make a gluten free version, use rice pasta and rice flour.
Editor’s Note: If you want to experiment with different cheeses, head to one of these favorite Portland shops for an international selection and expert cheesemongers to guide you.
Cheese Bar (They also carry a variety of European and American cured meats, if the addition of Prosciutto or Pancetta is appealing)
Foster and Dobbs (this home grown, artisanal cheese shop offers taste samples before buying)