A brief statement of purpose

There are already about a billion food blogs, so what might be a justification of yet another one, and who am I to do it?

What I aim to do in this blog is more than simply provide recipes. While recipes of my own will, in fact, be posted, some of the blog will consist of a variety of comments about restaurants and their practices, food preparation tips, personal annoyances (such as loud restaurants and the epidemic of misspellings on menus), and whatever else pops into my head relating to what we put in our mouths (and swallow, I hasten to add). The whole thing is meant to be somewhat provocative. I hope, if nothing else, it won't be boring. I, of course, solicit reader participation.

As for who I am and why I think I might have something to contribute to public discussions on this essential and pleasurable activity - eating - you'll have to click here.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Vaguely Southwest Macaroni and cheez

No, that isn’t a typo or a misspelling. You’ve probably seen “krab”, actually surimi or fake crab, haven’t you? Same principle here. The “cheese” I’ve used is Velveeta, a product which originated back during the Hoover Administration. (Having taught political science for over three decades, I know I should add that I’m referring to the 1920s.) Athough there’s no evidence President Hoover had anything to do with its creation, he may have inadvertently encouraged its consumption as a result of the Great Depression which began on his watch. 
I can be a food snob on some things, such as the national obsession with hamburgers (is that all you can think of to eat?), but as a general rule, if it tastes good, it is good. 
Still, one must wonder about Velveeta. Should it be called a cheese when it needs no refrigeration, has a shelf life of a quarter century, and when its listed ingredients provide strong hints of its shelf durability. Charles DeGaulle, President of France from 1959 to 1969, said, “How can anyone govern a nation that has 246 different kinds of cheeses?” I’m quite certain he would’ve judged Velveeta to be merde, to be forever excluded from the general category of fromage. Then again, the French are justifiably proud of their cheese, but maybe they should lighten up a bit.
I’ve made many macaroni and cheese preparations over the years, some with a long list of ingredients and several different kinds of cheese. I even have a cookbook devoted entirely to mac and cheese recipes (Joan Schwartz, Macaroni & Cheese). The only conclusion I’ve reached is that the final plated product should be creamy, very creamy. I’m certainly not inclined to pronounce this recipe as the best I’ve encountered, but one thing Velveeta does well is melt. It makes a good cheese nacho dip, too, for this reason. So it meets that criterion of  mine, but the main reason I include it here on this blog is that this recipe is ridiculously easy, it requires only a grand total of four ingredients, although I’ve enhanced it just a bit beyond those four. The four are pasta, milk, the “cheese”, and salsa. Just buy a Velveeta “log”, put it in the pantry, and await the day you’re disinclined to actually prepare a full meal, yet you want . . .  uhhh, I’m trying to avoid using the overused term “comfort food” . . .something cheesy and filling. Or, have a couple of people over who are known “foodies”, serve this to them, and tell them that the cheeses are from four different continents and are all organic and made by pampered animals with names and small producers who live off the grid. All right, maybe they won’t be convinced after tasting it - it is rather one-dimensional - but if they are, you’ll experience the pleasure of having made fools of them. Did you really like them, anyway? 

Now a bit about the particular Velveeta. There are several varieties. Don’t get the reduced fat box; it’s actually made differently from normal high-fat; it’s not as cheesy. Since I’m calling this recipe Southwestern (as in the US, not France) Macaroni and Cheez, buy either the Pepper Jack or the Mexican Mild version. The pasta is your choice. Maccheroni refers to a number of different types, not just the short, hollow pasta commonly referred to as macaroni, but please select a pasta that is, indeed, tubular and hollow: penne, ziti, mostaccioli, sedanini, etc. The reason is obvious. You want the sauce to fill each pasta, thereby increasing the Enjoyment Quotient by a factor of six (my estimate).
Most of the recipes you find here will be accompanied by a photo, but not this time. The reason is that I made this a couple of weeks ago, but I didn’t think to include it on the blog until just now, and I’m disinclined to make it again just to take a photo. So many recipes, so little time. Fortunately, pretty much everyone can conjure up a mental picture of macaroni and cheese, so do that here. Imagine a yellow pile of hollow pasta on a plate. Most people also know what tomato salsa looks like, so imagine a couple of tablespoons of it resting atop the yellow pile. And there you have it.
Damn! The simplest recipe on this blog, but very possibly the longest prologue. Oh well, there’s no word or character limit here. Only an attention limit.
Pasta, 8-10 oz
Mexican Mild or Pepper Jack Velveeta, 8 oz
Milk, whole or 2%; skim only if you insist, ¾ - 1 c
Dry mustard, ½ - 1 tsp
Ground chile powder, 1 tsp
Black pepper, a few grinds
Tomato salsa, your choice
Cook the pasta. 
While it’s cooking, melt the next four ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Take care that you don’t scorch the mixture. When it’s melted, toss in the chile powder (pasilla is good, or good paprika, or anything higher on the picante scale), mix, and toss into the pot with the cooked and drained pasta. Stir. (Do I really have to say that?) 
Dish the servings out onto plates and put some salsa - amount and type are your choice - atop each serving.

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