Thursday, August 11, 2005

A meal with a heart....attack waiting to happen

From: LaBelle Cuisine; Recipes to Sing About by Patti LaBelle

I don't know who turned Elton John on to soul music but I do know who turned him on to soul food. Me. At least I'm pretty sure it was me. Back in the sixties, when Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles was touring London, the British band, Bluesology, played back up to us. Elton, or Reggie Dwight as he was known in those days, was the band's piano player, and he played like no other white boy I have ever heard.

For some reason, Reggie thought he could play cards like he could play keyboards. After our shows, he'd come back to our flat and challenge me to a game of tonk. No matter how many times I beat him--and I beat him all the time--Reggie wouldn't quit until I'd won all his money.

"Just one more game, Patti," he would plead, "and I'll win back all my pounds."

Of course, the only thing he ever won was my sympathy. Not enough to give the money back, of course. But sufficient to make me cook enough food to make sure the kid wouldn't go hungry before payday. After I stashed Reggie's cash, I prepared him a savory, spicy, soul food feast: smothered cabbage, red beans and rice, fried chicken and potato salad--you name it, I cooked it.

It was impossible to eat everything--although Reggie tried. But it was my macaroni and cheese that he loved the most. As you can see from this recipe, I make it with five different kinds of cheese, and that's how many times Reggie went back for more.

He wanted recipes for everything. But, since I kept them top secret until I wrote this book, he had to settle for the food sans the instructions on how to prepare it. I always sent Reg home with enough to feed an army, though. We're talking containers of food. Come to think of it, Boyfriend never did return any of my Tupperware.

By Patti LaBelle, LaBelle Cuisine: Recipes to Sing About
Serves 4-6

1 lb. elbow macaroni
8 TB, plus 1 TB butter
½ cup shredded Muenster cheese
½ cup shredded mild Cheddar cheese
½ cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup Velveeta, cut into small cubes
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
¼ tsp seasoned salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly butter a deep 2 ½ quart casserole.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. When boiling, add the macaroni and cook until just tender, about 7 minutes. Do not overcook. Drain well, return to the cooking pot.

In a small saucepan, melt 8 TB of butter. Stir into the macaroni. In a large bowl, mix the first four cheeses. To the macaroni, add the half-and-half, 1 ½ cups of the shredded cheeses, the Velveeta and the eggs. Season with the salt and pepper. Transfer to the casserole. Sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of shredded cheese and the remaining dot of TB of butter.

Bake until it’s bubbling around the edges, about 35 minutes. Serve hot.

Ask anyone who makes incredible macaroni and cheese for his or her recipe, and I bet you that Velveeta will be in there. But my recipe doesn’t stop there. To make my special macaroni and cheese, I also use Muenster, mild and sharp Cheddar and Monterey Jack, each one adding its own flavor and melting consistency. If you don’t want to use all five cheeses, you can get away with just the Velveeta and sharp Cheddar—it won’t be over the rainbow, but it will be pretty good. And, on special occasions, I sometimes add an extra stick of butter, in which instance the macaroni goes over the moon! If you use two sticks of butter, substitute milk for the half and half.

UPDATE: Picture and post here.


ScottE. said...

Because I didn't have Muenster cheese, I used 1/2 cup of Fontina. I also used 1 & 1/2 cups of cheddar/monterey jack shredded blend.

Dancer in DC said...

My suggestion would be to add some bread crumbs on top (probably seasoned) to give some nice crunch. The top layer of pasta crunches up anyway, but I think I'd prefer the crumb texture more.

Cheesy yum yum!