My favorite thing about being back in the “real world” of working 9-5 (aside from the steady paycheck, the validation and collaboration with peers I respect on projects of a larger scope than I could ever handle myself, and the general sense that I am a contributing member of the community I live in) has got to be LUNCH. Or more specifically, getting to go out every single day, spend just a few bucks, and pick something new to feast on in the middle of the day.
The trouble is, I have been kind of burning out on my choices lately. Don’t get me wrong: The restaurants in my regular rotation are all excellent for different reasons (Clan MacLaren for spicy tuna melts, Thorndike Creamery for outstanding pizza, Lobsterman’s Restaurant for when I want to enjoy the distinct pleasure of eating an inexpensive steamed lobster by myself in the middle of the day and for no reason, and Rockland Cafe for their bargain-basement haddock sandwiches and their ode to cornstarch as a thickening agent, the open-faced hot fresh turkey sandwich). But it took only a few weeks to go from excited every day by the options that lay before me to, well, kinda bored.
That’s not all. As my workload has increased, I’ve started doing battle with the clock, sometimes making sitting at my desk and working through lunch while grabbing a few stray bites here and there the best option for an on-time departure at the end of the day. I’ve been looking for a few key comfort-food dishes that I can make over the weekend and then eat out of a microwaved piece of Tupperware all week without ever getting bored, like a traditional american chop suey, or a comforting meatloaf.
Last week, I settled on this roasted garlic macaroni and cheese. It’s hearty enough to stay with you all afternoon, and the whole ball of garlic keeps your coworkers from getting too close when you’re trying to get work done. And best of all, when slathered in ketchup and Sriracha like the heathen I am, I never got tired of it. I hope you like it, too.
- 4 slices white bread, crusts removed, and torn into crumbs
- 1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, divided
- 1 large ball of garlic
- Olive oil
- 1 pound uncooked cavatappi pasta
- 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 5 cups milk
- 4-1/2 cups coarsely shredded cheddar cheese
- 2 cups coarsely shredded gouda cheese
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 1/2 a stick of butter. Drizzle over fresh breadcrumbs, toss, and set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the top 1/3 off a head of garlic, and nestle in a piece of tinfoil. Wrap the sides of the foil up around the garlic to make a small bowl. Drizzle the cut side of the garlic with olive oil, and place the top 1/3 back on top. Wrap tightly in foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove garlic from oven, and squeeze cooked cloves into a small bowl. Mash with a fork until smooth, and set aside.
Cook the pasta in a large pot of well-salted water until just shy of al dente, about 2-3 minutes less than package directions. Drain the pasta and set aside. Combine all shredded cheeses in a large bowl, and mix well with your hands to combine. Butter a 13×9-inch shallow baking dish.
In a large saucepan, melt 1 stick butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour and garlic paste. Cook the roux, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes until golden. Slowly whisk in the milk. Bring the sauce to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce to a simmer and let cook for 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat, and working a handful at a time, stir in 6 cups of shredded cheese mixture (leaving a cup set aside), dijon mustard, salt and pepper until well combined.
Add the pasta to the pot, stirring to combine. Transfer the macaroni and cheese to the buttered baking dish. Sprinkle it with the reserved crumb topping, and the reserved cup of the shredded cheese blend. Place it on a sheet pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling.