We hosted our first big EatWith event last night and had an absolute blast. We had more than 20 guests, and it was such a great mix of interesting, cool people from all over.
Brian made his amazing slow-cooked BBQ pork, setting up the grill on our wee balcony and tending to it lovingly all day. We also made crudité, tzatziki, bulgar salad, coleslaw, bourbon-chipotle BBQ sauce and a new version of mac and cheese we’re experimenting with.
True to my American roots, I love mac and cheese in all its forms, and I’m always looking for my new favorite recipe. This one turned out really well. A few people asked for the recipe, so here it is! You can be flexible with the kinds of cheese you use – feel free to play around with combinations and see what you like. I’m not sure there’s a wrong way to make delicious cheese sauce.
1 1/3 lb. cheese, grated (about 600 g) - I used aged white cheddar, Grana and a semi-curado Spanish cheese that reminded me of Monterey Jack
1 egg, beaten
6 yellow onions, sliced thinly
Panko bread crumbs
Grated black truffle (optional)
Salt, pepper, other spices/herbs to taste
Heat a small amount of olive oil and butter in a non-stick pan on medium-low.
Add sliced onions and cook until golden brown and caramelized, stirring frequently, about 30-40 minutes. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, adding a generous handful of sea salt.
Cook macaroni for a few minutes less than the cook time on the package (it should be too firm to eat, not yet al dente). Drain and set aside.
While the pasta water is boiling, melt 5 tablespoons of butter in a sauté pan on medium-low heat.
Add 5 tablespoons of flour, whisking constantly to remove lumps and to keep from burning. The consistency should be a slightly thickened liquid (I added a few more tablespoons of flour here to make a bit more dense). Cook for 5 minutes, whisking constantly.
Stir in milk and dry mustard slowly. Cook for 5-10 minutes on low heat, stirring often.
Add a small cup of the sauce to the bowl holding the beaten egg, whisking constantly.(This is called tempering and gradually raises the temperature of the egg without scrambling it.)
Mix in cheese, reserving a small amount of Grana for the topping. The consistency should be thick and creamy.
Taste sauce and add salt, pepper and other spices or herbs to taste.
In a small pan, toast a few generous handfuls of panko breadcrumbs in a little butter for a few minutes.
Add macaroni and caramelized onions to cheese sauce and mix well.
Transfer mac and cheese to a casserole dish. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture and leftover Grana on top.
Bake at 375 degrees F/ 190 degrees C for 20-25 minutes, until the topping is golden brown.
Sprinkle a little grated black truffle on top if you're feeling extra fancy.
One thing Americans – and New Orleanians in particular – do exceptionally well is brunch. Long, leisurely, mimosa/cocktail-fueled, this-is-my-only-plan-for-the-day brunch.
Say what you will about our excess and indulgence… in this case, I support it.
We have recently started hosting meals through EatWith – a website that allows you to share meals in people’s homes all over the world. It’s basically Airbnb for dining, and when we first moved to Barcelona, being a guest was a wonderful way to meet new people and eat delicious food. And since we pretty much already do this kind of thing on our own (two extroverts who really love food and parties), it made perfect sense for us to become EatWith hosts.
Last weekend, we hosted our first New Orleans brunch and made one of my all-time favorites: grits and grillades. I had never had grillades (or grits for that matter) until I moved to NOLA. It’s a slow-cooked meat dish – made with beef, veal or pork – in a thick, flavorful gravy, served over creamy, buttery grits. So a light, healthy breakfast.
It’s easy to make, but it does take a long time to cook, so I advise making it the day before. The flavors are even better the next day, and all you have to do is reheat it and make the grits before people come over (you’re going to want to have people over: it makes a ton). We made our own chicken and beef stock, but you can also use store-bought.