So my roommate and I had a guest over for Dinner this week. One of our new neighbors who we wanted to get to know and who we bribed with the promise of food to come over and help us put up our drapery rods in our TV room.  I was in charge of the food (when am I not in charge of the food?) and planned to make my world famous (well, at least much loved by all and sundry) Crack and Cheese. A gourmet take on Mac and Cheese that lifts it from humble comfort food to holy cow I’m going to eat an entire pan of this and die happy in a hazy cheese coma. I planned to leave work right on time, pick up some needed ingredients on the way home and be home and cooking by 5:45 to give me plenty of time to craft a masterpiece of culinary delight and look like holly homemaker when our guest arrived at 7:30. As usual when it concerns me, nothing went according to plan. I got off work late, traffic was awful, I decided to stop at Walmart for the groceries since it was on the way home rather than try and backtrack to my favorite store, when I got to Walmart I couldn’t find anything since I was unfamiliar with the store, I spent 5 minutes looking for pancetta, apparently Walmart does not stock pancetta, I had to settle for little smokies, then I had to take a phone call in the store and then lines at the store were worse than the traffic on the freeway. This all led to me frantically rushing in the house at 6:30 pm with an hour before our guest arrived. This is the story of one woman’s heroic attempt to make dinner in record time…

I can't believe I survived this dinner.

I can’t believe I survived this dinner.

I had intended to get my camera out and take proper, lovely pictures that this food deserved. Sadly, I had no time. Apart from the Crack and Cheese our menu was simple. Lightly steamed broccoli with lemon zest and pepper, home grown tomatoes and cucumber with gray salt and balsamic vinegar, baguette, lime water and Banoffee Ice Cream Tarts for Dessert with homemade caramel sauce. Alright, I realize dessert was not so simple. (and I will post pics and recipe for that over the weekend) I got the pasta boiling while I started the cheese sauce. Luckily I had cut the broccoli into florets when I got it so it was all ready to go into the steamer, while I waited for the pasta to finish cooking and the sauce to boil I prepped the base of the tarts for dessert (while giving the sauce a quick stir every minute or so) and cut the cucumbers and tomatoes. Once the sauce was finished and the main dish topped with shallot butter breadcrumbs and put safely in the oven to warm I set the table and started the broccoli. I then moved on to the homemade caramel sauce. I have a tried and true caramel sauce recipe that I make every fall to go with my apple pie and bread pudding but this time I decided I wanted to try something I hadn’t just made up and try to go with a legitimate recipe with real measurements. This was a huge mistake. The clock was counting down till the guest arrived as I had two batches of the caramel sauce candify or crystallize and end up down the drain. I finally decided to go with my own recipe and finished the sauce as my roommate let Neighbor Boy through the door. This was so frustrating, I don’t have kitchen fails very often, and I am always super frustrated with myself when something fails to work out. But I have realized looking back at some of my more memorable disasters I probably could avoid them by not trying something new or crazy when I’m pressed for time. Lesson learned. Never try a new recipe when you only have an hour to prepare! In the end everything turned out wonderfully. The Neighbor Boy was blown away by dinner, he incredulously asked if we ate like this every night. Dinner conversation was great, a good time had by all and my roomie and I felt like we ended the night having made a great friend. It just goes to show, it doesn’t matter how badly things go in the kitchen, the one true ingredient for a good dinner party is to relax and enjoy the company.

see how the napkins match the cute chairs my roommate painted green? Total coincidence.

see how the napkins match the cute chairs my roommate painted green? Total coincidence.

I wish you all could have been there. I miss our dinners together. But since you are not here to share some Crack and Cheese at my table, you will just have to make it yourself.

Britt’s Crack and Cheese

2 boxes bow tie pasta

1 stick of butter, plus 3 Tablespoons for the breadcrumbs

3/4 cup flour (approx)

Secret Ingredient: Scant 1/2 teaspoon Curry Powder

1 can coconut milk

2-3 cups milk (I use skim, you can use whatever you like)

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 jar Cheez Whiz (don’t judge me!)

4 cups cheese of your choice, I usually mix medium to sharp cheddar and an Italian cheese blend with mozzarella and Parmesan. If I feel really fancy I mix cheddar, mozzarella and Gouda or Gruyere.

1 pkg pancetta, or in this case, little smokies

3/4 c Italian Style Breadcrumbs

1 shallot, finely sliced

 

Put pasta water on to boil, once boiling cook pasta until just Al Dente. In a medium to large heavy bottomed saucepan melt the stick of butter over medium low heat. Once butter is melted add curry powder and then stir in flour until a thick paste forms. Whisk in coconut milk until there are no lumps left in the mixture and then whisk in the regular milk. continue stirring over medium heat until mixture thickens and starts to bubble, let bubble for one minute and then turn the heat to low. Add salt and pepper. If the sauce is too thick stir in some more milk. Stir in cheez whiz until it melts. Add cheese one cup at a time until it melts into the sauce. At any point if the sauce gets too hard to stir add a little milk. Drain pasta combine pasta and cheese sauce, add more salt and pepper if necessary. Stir in the cooked pancetta or little smokies. Put pasta and sauce into a large oven safe dish. In a small frying pan melt the 3 tablespoons butter and saute the shallot until soft. Stir in Italian breadcrumbs. Spread breadcrumb mixture over the pasta in an even layer and put in oven at 350* until breadcrumbs have browned and sauce is bubbling.

Warning! This recipe may cause over eating.

This recipe feeds a small army, My roommate and I ended up with two decent sized containers of leftovers and were planning on giving one of them to the neighbors. This was so good however that we haven’t minded eating it for lunch and dinner in the ensuing days so the neighbors will just have to wait till we invite them over next time.  🙂

Check back tomorrow when I post the recipe for Banoffee Ice Cream Tarts with Homemade Caramel Sauce!

 

 

 

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