Monday, August 31, 2009

Say Cheese!

Ever wonder where your favorite food got it’s start? How about macaroni and cheese? Many believe that Thomas Jefferson invented macaroni and cheese; however, he perhaps only introduced the dish to America. Although it is true that Jefferson served Macaroni Pie at Monticello, macaroni and cheese was already a popular dish in Europe where Jefferson first tasted it.

The first known written recipe for Mac & Cheese comes from Elizabeth Raffald’s The Experienced English Housekeeper in 1769, (p.261). It's worth taking a look at if only to show your kids how people wrote weird back then, (Macaroni with Permafent Cheefe!). Actually, it's kind of neat to think that people back in the olden days liked the same foods we do today. Just think of Jane Austen with a big plate of Mac & Cheese. Maybe she thought about writing, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of macaroni, must be in want of cheese."

Today's recipe is an antique recipe from Mrs. Isabella Beeton. She wrote Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management which was Victorian England's Bible for all thing domestic. And just so you can appreciate what it took to make Macaroni back in the day, Mrs. Beeton states the time to boil the macaroni can be up to 1 3/4 hours. Talk about slaving over a stove all day...

Mrs. Beeton’s Macaroni, as usually served with the Cheese Course
Adapted for the modern kitchen
Serves 6-7 (In Victorian terms that is, this is part of a larger meal)

½ lb. Pipe macaroni
¼ lb butter
6 oz. Grated Parmesan or Cheshire cheese
pepper and salt to taste
1 pint milk (optional, see note below)
2 pints water
fine bread-crumbs (I think I’ll use Ritz cracker crumbs, yum!)

Put the milk and water in a saucepan with sufficient salt to flavor it. Bring water to a boil and cook macaroni as directed on package. Drain macaroni and put it into a deep dish. Sprinkle some of the cheese and butter cut into small pieces throughout the macaroni. Spread the remainder of the cheese over the top. Season with a little pepper and cover with bread-crumbs. Warm, without oiling, the remainder of the butter and gently pour over the bread-crumbs. Place it under the broiler to brown the crumbs.

(Mrs. Beeton says that the macaroni can be boiled in plain water instead of using milk, but should then be mixed with some butter.)
Click here for the Printable Recipe at Tasty Kitchen.

Cheshire Cheese (bought mine at The Fresh Market)

Even though Ritz crackers are not the breadcrumbs Mrs. Beeton would have used, I have to say they balanced with the tangy Cheshire perfectly.

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