24 May 2011

The Mac and Cheese Off

The gloves came off last weekend and a showdown was had the Rice house...Baked mac versus Stovetop mac. Which would prevail?

I used Steve's Famous Macaroni and Cheese for the baked version, and Eve-Maridy found a creamy stovetop mac from the Food Network's Alton Brown. Since we had the showdown on a Friday right after work and baked mac can take some time, I prepared mine up until the baking part and stuck it in the freezer. I also made breadcrumbs out of leftover Little T focaccia we had from earlier in the week and integrated the chili powder that way.
Eve-Maridy's creamy mac
My baked mac
Two things were discovered from this challenge. One--the two types of mac are WAY too different to really declare a clear champion. Mine with its crispy crust and four types of cheese were nothing like her super creamy, sharp cheddar goodness...each bite made me want to pick a different winner. Two--despite my effort to bring the partially made dish of mac to room temperature before sticking it in the hot oven, there were some cold parts in the middle. The top was divine--so bubbly, melty, and crunchy. The middle made me cringe. It was by far NOT my best work (sorry Steve-o). So, I suggest not only letting it come as close to room temperature as possible, but also covering it with aluminum foil for the first 20 minutes of baking, then removing the foil for an additional 20-25 minutes until crisp. Sad it wasn't my best effort, but it was still a delicious night with great friends!
Creamy and baked coexisting peacefully
To top it all off, I made a skillet apple pie (now THAT turned out perfectly), and we watched Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (filmed right here in Portland, Oregon!).
Skillet apple pie right out of the oven
Even better with some ice cream
Perfect ending to a great night

Skillet Apple Pie
by Cook's Illustrated
If your skillet is not heatproof, precook the apples and stir in the cider mixture as instructed, then transfer the apples to a 13- by 9-inch baking dish. Roll out the dough to a 13- by 9-inch rectangle and bake it as instructed. If you do not have apple cider, reduced apple juice may be used as a substitute—simmer 1 cup apple juice in a small saucepan over medium heat until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 10 minutes). Serve the pie warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Use a combination of sweet, crisp apples such as Golden Delicious and firm, tart apples such as Cortland or Empire.

1cup unbleached all-purpose flour (5 ounces), plus more for dusting work surface
1tablespoon sugar
1/2teaspoon table salt
2tablespoons vegetable shortening , chilled
6tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter , cut into 1/4-inch pieces
3–4tablespoons ice water
1/2cup apple cider (see note)
1/3cup maple syrup
2tablespoons fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
2teaspoons cornstarch
1/8teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
2tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2pounds sweet apples and tart apples (about 5 medium), peeled, cored, halved, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges (see note)
1 egg white , lightly beaten
2teaspoons sugar

1. FOR THE CRUST: Pulse flour, sugar, and salt in food processor until combined. Add shortening and process until mixture has texture of coarse sand, about ten 1-second pulses. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture and process until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse crumbs, with butter bits no larger than small peas, about ten 1-second pulses. Transfer mixture to medium bowl.
2. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons ice water over mixture. With blade of rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix. Press down on dough with broad side of spatula until dough sticks together, adding up to 1 tablespoon more ice water if dough does not come
together. Turn dough out onto sheet of plastic wrap and flatten into 4-inch disk. Wrap dough and refrigerate 30 minutes, or up to 2 days, before rolling out. (If dough is refrigerated longer than 1 hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable.)
3. FOR THE FILLING: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position (between 7 and 9 inches from heating element) and heat oven to 500 degrees. Whisk cider, syrup, lemon juice, cornstarch, and cinnamon (if using) together in medium bowl until smooth. Heat butter in 12-inch heatproof skillet over medium-high heat. When foaming subsides, add apples and cook, stirring 2 or 3 times until apples begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes. (Do not fully cook apples.) Remove pan from heat, add cider mixture, and gently stir until apples are well coated. Set aside to cool slightly.
4. TO ASSEMBLE AND BAKE: Roll out dough on lightly floured work surface, or between 2 large sheets of plastic wrap, to 11-inch circle. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll over apple filling. Brush dough with egg white and sprinkle with sugar. With sharp knife, gently cut dough into 6 pieces by making 1 vertical cut followed by 2 evenly spaced horizontal cuts (perpendicular to first cut). Bake until apples are tender and crust is a deep golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes; serve.


  1. Dude, I just watched that same movie - Behind the Mask - this weekend. What are the odds of that? Plus Mac and Cheese = my all-time favorite food. I was with you in spirit, chicas!

  2. That's so fun! Admittedly, this did not actually happen last week, though. I had written this weeks ago after the actual competition, but was lazy about getting the pictures added. I finally did and decided I'd post it as is.