Minestrone and Mac

Veggie soup and cornbread muffins

These are some meals I made a while back. For some reason I hadn’t gotten around to posting them, so I’ve decided to consolidate a bit, just to do some cyber-cleaning and get them out of the Drafts queue. First up is a pot of soup I made to use up the last few vegetables in the crisper prior to a grocery trip. We were entirely out of onions, which removed most recipes as options: what I did have access to at the time was one tiny carrot, some elderly celery (I never manage to use up all my celery before it goes limp; it’s just not one of my favorites), part of a Napa cabbage, and some leek tops that I had been saving to use for stock (for this meal, I stripped off the dark green outsides and used the lighter insides). With the addition of some diced pancetta and garlic, a cubed baking potato, a box of chicken stock, and a can each of tomatoes and kidney beans, it actually manifested into a respectable pot of soup.

Minestrone

1 can kidney beans, low sodium
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 lb pancetta or sliced lean bacon, chopped
1/3 C olive oil
1 C leek, pale parts only, rinsed and chopped
1 large carrot, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 rib of celery, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 garlic cloves, chopped fine
1/2 lb boiling potatoes
4 C shredded green cabbage (preferably Savoy)
1 14.5-ounce can tomatoes, chopped coarse and drained well
4 C chicken broth (preferably low-salt)

In a heavy kettle cook the pancetta in the oil over moderate heat, stirring, until it is crisp and pale golden, add the leek, and cook the mixture, stirring, until the leek is softened. Add the carrot, celery and garlic and cook the mixture, stirring, for 4 minutes. Add the potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch dice, and cook the mixture, stirring, for 4 minutes. Add the cabbage and cook, stirring, until the cabbage is wilted. Add the tomatoes and broth and simmer the soup, covered, for about an hour.

Drain the beans and stir into the soup. Simmer the soup, uncovered, for 15 minutes, and season it with salt and pepper. The soup may be made 3 days in advance and kept covered and chilled. Reheat the soup, thinning it with water as desired.

Source: Freely adapted from Epicurious.

Jeremy always likes some sort of bread or biscuit with his soup—really, who doesn’t?—so I made corny corn muffins to go with it. I’d never made the recipe before and actually wanted to follow it, but I nearly had to physically constrain my hands from adding cheddar cheese to it. It just sounded really good, and maybe I’ll try that out next time. They were delicious and easy to make, so there will definitely be a next time. The only adjustment I’ll admit to was the use of buttermilk powder rather than the fresh stuff, out of necessity.

Corniest Corn Muffins

1 C AP flour
1 C yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
6 T sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 C buttermilk (I used dry buttermilk and water)
3 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 T corn oil (I used olive oil)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 C corn kernels–fresh, frozen or canned

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, soda, and salt. In a large glass measuring cup, whisk the buttermilk, melted butter, oil, egg, and yolk together until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and use a rubber spatula to gently but quickly stir. Don’t worry about being thorough–lumps are to be expected. Stir in the corn kernels. Divide the batter evenly among the 12 cups of a silicone muffin pan.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a thin knife inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for several minutes before removing from the mold.

Source: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan (p. 4).

City Bakery Mac

Once the soup was all eaten up, we still had a few corn muffins leftover. As yummy as they were when fresh, stale cornbread just isn’t that great, but I hated to just throw them away. City Bakery to the rescue! From somewhere in the depths of my mind, I dredged up a recollection that City Bakery’s recipe for macaroni and cheese called for a cornbread crumb topping. I followed their proportions, but made a few slight adjustments for our personal mac and cheese tastes: pancetta added to the roux; a combination of sharp cheddar, gruyere, parmesan and pecorino cheese grated together in the Cuisinart; and a splash of Worcestershire added to the cheese sauce. It tasted great, but was rather fattier than our usual recipe (not that mac and cheese is ever health food) so I made sure to serve it with lots of broccoli. The original recipe is written out below, as I was unable to find the online source when I went back to look for it.

City Bakery Macaroni and Cheese

6 T butter, plus extra for the pan
1/4 C corn bread crumbs (or more, depending upon pan size)
1 pound elbow macaroni
1 qt whole milk
6 T flour
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 1/4 C (5 ounces) grated Gruyere cheese, divided use
1 1/4 C cheddar cheese, divided use
1 1/4 C (5 ounces) grated Grana Padano or parmesan cheese, divided use

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 3 1/2-quart deep baking dish or a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan. Spread the crumbs in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the macaroni until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes, drain, and place in a large bowl. (To prepare up to a day ahead, mix in a small amount of canola oil, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to use.)

Bring the milk to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the 6 tablespoons of butter, add the flour, and mix well with a wooden spoon or spatula. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Whisk in the hot milk and continue whisking until smooth. Raise the heat to medium and cook, stirring continuously, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the spoon. Season with salt and pepper and strain through a fine strainer.

Add the sauce to the cooked macaroni. Add 1 cup each of the Gruyere, cheddar and Grana Padano, and mix well. Taste, and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Pour the macaroni mixture into the baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Sprinkle the toasted corn bread crumbs evenly over the casserole and cover with foil.

Bake on the middle shelf until heated through, about 20 minutes; remove foil and continue baking until the top is golden brown, an additional 10 minutes. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

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2 thoughts on “Minestrone and Mac

  1. March 12, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Wow that mac n cheese looks so creamy and delicious!

  2. March 13, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    Jessica, it was awfully tasty. I’ve never used cornbread crumbs as a topping for it before, and it was great! Worth remembering…

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