My daughter makes me laugh, and at the same time, she inspires me. One of her latest joke’spirations was that she loves calling our kitchen and dining table the restaurant, and I am the “Cooker”. I wish I could record a video of her exaggerated voice ladeled with youthful enthusiasm. At the same time it got me to thinking, “let’s pretend our kitchen is a restaurant, and let’s make eating at home just as special as eating out.” My daughter’s food requirements are fairly consistent, so I created a menu that had four choices that were fairly easy to do in a short amount of time.
We showed the guest of honor her menu while she sat at the table and her four choices of what to have for dinner. She felt special to make her own choice of what she wanted for dinner. For this menu we had miso soup, mac and cheese, cappellini, and short ribs. Every item is home made with no sacrificing of food quality. Alessandra choose Mac & Cheese with the snap peas, and the great thing about this recipe allows for a young child to help.
The following is the recipe used for Alessandra.
55 grams good quality cheddar cheese, cut into small pieces.
25 grams gruyere cheese, cut into small chunks
pecorino romano or parmesan cheese for sprinkling
50 grams milk separated by two 25 grams amounts
bread crumbs (optional)
90 grams of elbow pasta
For the child, let them cut up the cheddar cheese and gruyere into little pieces, but keep them separated. Precision is not needed since we are melting the cheeses into a sauce and Alessandra really loves this step. Children can also add the milk to the pot (under supervision). Start salted water to boil on high and begin cooking the pasta in a hot boiling pot of water. Meanwhile, in a non-stick pan place the cheddar cheese and 25 grams of milk on medium-low heat. Once the mixture is fully melted and mixed, we can then add the gruyere into the mix and stir constantly until the cheese is fully cooked through. Add the remaining milk, and occasionaly stir into the cheese sauce to fully incorporate. You are done after the mixture reduces by a third, keep warm. Total time less than 10-15 minutes.
Once the pasta is almost fully cooked, drain from the hot water. You have two choices to finish this dish, bake or stove top. Option one, you can pour the cheese sauce on the pasta, add bread crumbs, mix well, and spread evenly in a Pyrex baking dish. Broil in the oven at 350 for about 5 – 10 minutes to finish. Option two, is to pour the cheese sauce on the hot pasta, stir, and then serve. Making sure that the pasta sauce is evenly coated on the macaroni.
This version will have texture, taste, and richness you don’t find in store-bought mixes. Plus, it was a big hit at “the restaurant”.
Side benefit, it will make going out to eat easier since the children are getting a restaurant experience at home.