Updated: Best Macaroni and Cheese Ever

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I know I said this was the best macaroni and cheese recipe, ever, but I was wrong. This one is. I promise. It’s delicious no matter the season and equally good in the dead winter as it is on a hot summer day.

Ingredients:
1 box Elbow macaroni uncooked
1/2 cup Butter (1-stick)
1/4 cup All-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Pepper (if you’re feeling adventurous, use white pepper)
1/4 teaspoon Dry mustard (we occasionally add a bit more up to a 1/2 teaspoon)
1/8 teaspoon Cayenne pepper (we occasionally add a bit more up to a 1/2 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
2 cups Milk (we use skim)
2 cups Sharp cheddar cheese (8-oz), grated (you can use more, we occasionally use up to 10 ounces, it just becomes cheesier and more delicious)
About 1 cup panko crumbs

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large pot of boiling water cook the pasta to al dente. While macaroni is cooking, melt butter in a heavy-bottomed 3-quart saucepan over low heat. Whisk in flour, salt, pepper, mustard, cayenne and Worcestershire sauce. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly; remove from heat. Stir in milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly (this is important or it bubbles over). Boil for about one minute, stirring constantly; remove from heat. Stir in cheese and cook, stirring occasionally, until cheese is melted. Drain macaroni and gently stir into cheese sauce. (Or pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni (whichever pot is bigger). Just make sure to mix it all together. Pour the entire mixture into ungreased 2-quart casserole. Sprinkle panko on top. Bake uncovered until bubbly, about 25 to 30 minutes. Set broiler to low (or high if you’re adventurous!) and broil until the top is a nice golden brown. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

My opinion:
While this looks complicated, it really isn’t and is easy to make for a weeknight meal. We make the whole batch at once and then usually freeze half. It is deceptively filling. If eating for a hot summer (or later summer dinner) let it come to at least room temperature before eating. Winter, eat it hot. Enjoy!

Homemade Paseo Caribbean roast

You may have noticed that whenever we take a vacation, we come back with a recipe. Our recent jaunt to Key West was no different. While we could have come back with a recipe for traditional Key Lime Pie (we did) and the best lime slush (also have that), we really wanted to recreate our favorite lunch at Paseao (which apparently is also in Seattle, who knew?).

Here’s a picture of the original sandwich.

Paseao Caribbean roast

We found a pretty easy to follow recipe and with a few tweaks got our version really close. Finding the mango juice was the hardest part. We ended up finding Mango Puree in the natural food section of our favorite grocer.

Pork Ingredients:
1 cup Mango juice
2 cups orange juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice (Key West is best, but if you can’t find it regular lime juice is just as good)
2 tablespoons fresh, chopped garlic
1 teaspoon fresh, chopped oregano
sprinkle (about 1/2 teaspoon each) kosher salt and black pepper
1 shot of rum (splurge a little and get a good dark, non-spiced rum)
3 pounds pork shoulder
tablespoon or two vegetable oil

Onion ingredients:
2 yellow onions

Garlic Aioli ingredients:
1 cup of mayonnaise
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice

Additional ingredients:
good, crusty baguette (bigger than a french loaf)
Fresh Romaine lettuce
fresh cilantro
pickled jalapeños

Directions:
Combine the pork ingredients in a large Tupperware container. Add pork. Seal. Shake. Leave it in the refrigerator for at least 4  hours, the longer the better. We left it in overnight.
Caribbean Roast Marinade

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees or set the sauté function on your Instant Pot to heat. Remove the pork from marinade, but don’t discard! Sear the pork in a lightly oiled pan or skillet (save that pan for later!) on all sides.

If using the instant pot sear on all sides in sauté mode.

It will lose all the marinade at first and get really bubbly. Don’t worry. Just let it get crispy on all sides. The juices will evaporate.
Caribbean Roast sear

Place the pork in a roasting pan and pour the marinade on.

If using the Instant Pot, pour the marinade over the pork.

Tent the roasting pan with foil to seal in the steam. Place the roasting pan into the oven and cook for 45 minutes. Then uncover and cook for at least 1 hour and 30 minutes, basting as needed and flipping the meat over half way through. We ended up cooking it for a little over two hours. The longer the better. Let the meat rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting.

Instant Pot directions: turn off sauté mode. Close and seal the lid. Cook on medium pressure for 60 minutes. Natural release. Check for doneness. Pork should read at least 130 degrees. If the pork isn’t cooked through and shreds easily, put it back in for 15-30 minutes.

When you put the pork in the oven or instant pot, you can prepare garlic mayo by peeling 8 cloves of garlic (we left them whole, even though the original recipe called to chop the garlic). Put the garlic in an oven proof custard dish and pour about 2 tablespoons of lime juice on top of the garlic. Add to the oven with the pork and cook for about 30 to 45 minutes or  until the garlic is soft and roasted. Add this to 1 cup of mayonnaise. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons lime juice and stir. The original recipe called for relish, but we left that out.

Caribbean Roast Garlic Aioli

While the meat is roasting, cut up the onions yellow onions into wedges. We went with strips in the food processor and it wasn’t quite right. Place in the same pan that you seared the pork shoulder in and set to medium high heat. Cook for about 10 minutes or until onions are caramelized and have picked up all of the fond.

Cut bread in half. Slather garlic mayo on both sides and place in toaster oven till the mayo puffs up a bit and the bread slightly browns.

Last step, assemble the sandwich by adding a little more mayo on the bread, topped with romaine leaves, onions, pork, a few pickled jalapeños and some cilantro.

Caribbean Roast Sandwich

My opinion:
Three pounds of pork made five sandwiches the first night. We opted to freeze the rest, which will make at least four more sandwiches. Plan for a feast. It’s just as tasty cold the next day. I only wish I’d had a few more pickled jalapeños to add a bit more heat.

Steak with chimichurri sauce

Steak with chimichurri sauce

We recently had a bunch of cilantro and parsley that needed to get used quickly. Luckily, we found an amazingly delicious and surprisingly easy chimichurri sauce to enhance a skirt steak. (You might notice the meat in the photos isn’t skirt steak, our local grocer had thin New York Strips on super sale, so the second time we made this, we used those. But I promise the recipe works just as well with the skirt steak.)

Chimichurri Sauce Ingredients:
bunch parsley (about 1-2 cups worth)
bunch cilantro (also, about 1-2 cups worth)
olive oil (about 1/3 to 1/2 cup, enough to make a paste, not a soup)
lime juice (about 1/4 cup)
garlic, minced (2-3 tablespoons, but we like garlic. If you don’t try 1 tablespoon first)

Directions: Put everything in the food processor and pulse to make a paste, don’t over pulse or you’ll make a soup and that’s not tasty.
chimichurri sauceNow add about half to two-thirds of the chimichurri sauce to a plastic zip top bag. Add your skirt steaks and squish to coat.
chimichurri sauce
Let marinade for a few hours (the longer the better!) in the refrigerator. The day we made this dish was rainy and blustery, so grilling it was out (trust me, it’s best grilled). We ended up broiling it.
Steak with chimichurri sauce

How long will depend on your cut of meat and what temperature you like your meat. To enhance the flavor, we basted the steak with more of the chimichurri sauce about half way through cooking. You’ll want to make sure you have some of the reserve left over to spoon over the finished meat.

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My Opinion:
I love this dish. It’s bright, flavorful and works very well with rice. When we grill the meat, we often add skewers of onions and green peppers and if there’s extra chimichurri sauce, spoon that over the vegetables too.

San Francisco Shrimp

San Francisco Shrimp

We’ve been on a shrimp kick again. Only this time, we’re eating more than just the sriracha shrimp. J bookmarked this recipe on a wonderful recipe finding site, Big Oven. So far almost every thing we’ve made from the site has been delicious. While at first glance this dish may seem time and labor intensive, it isn’t. The key to making it a weeknight meal is to have the ingredients ready to go.

Ingredients:
2 pounds jumbo shrimp shelled
5 stalks scallions finely chopped (more works too!)
8 cloves garlic, minced
5 slices ginger root finely chopped (we grated it, it was easier)
2-3 pods dried red chile peppers crushed (in a pinch you can use red pepper flakes)
Sauce
1/2 cup Ketchup
1 Tbsp cooking sherry (this is a bit salty in my opinion, we usually use regular sherry)
1 Tbsp vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt (if using cooking sherry, omit this!)
4 tablespoons cooking oil (you might need more or less depending on the oil you use. We found with sesame oil, it absorbs fast, but tastes the best!)
cornstarch about 2/3 of a cup should be enough

Directions:
Put the cornstarch in a zip top gallon sized bag. Dry the shrimp with paper towels and put into the cornstarch bag. Shake. Pour about an inch of cooking oil in the bottom of a wok. Deep fry shrimp in batches until pink and slightly golden. Remove shrimp to a separate plate covered in paper towels. Ladle a bit of oil from the wok to a non-stick skillet. Heat and add scallions, garlic, ginger, and chile pepper mix in the oil until fragrant, about one minute. Pour sauce ingredients into the skillet, stir until bubbly. Return shrimp into the skillet, mix well. Serve over a bed of rice.

My Opinion:
This dish is perfect for a hot summer night. It’s delicious and sweet and spicy and a touch sour. We’ve added a diced onion into the scallion mixture and it was wonderful. We’ve added broccoli into the sauce and it was fantastic. This might just be in my top five favorite meals. So good!

Gyro Meat with Tzatziki Sauce

Homemade Gyro Meat by aurorameyer.com
A couple of weeks ago we had some friends over for a Sunday feast. J has previously mastered the Chicken Gyros (recipe soon!) and wanted to try his hand at the more traditional gyro meat, which is a combination of lamb and beef. As usual, one of our favorite Food Network chefs, Alton Brown, didn’t disappoint with this easy recipe. The hardest part was pressing the meat without a brick!

Ingredient Gyro Meat:
1 medium onion, finely chopped (we used the food processor)
1 pound ground lamb
1 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic (we probably used a little more)
1 tablespoon dried marjoram
1 tablespoon dried ground rosemary
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Tzatziki Sauce (recipe below)

Directions Gyro Meat:
Process the onion in a food processor for 10 to 15 seconds and turn out into the center of a tea towel. Gather up the ends of the towel and squeeze until almost all of the juice is removed. Discard juice. (We actually just used a coffee filter inside a strainer with a weight on top). Return the onion to the food processor and add the lamb, beef, garlic, marjoram, rosemary, salt, and pepper and process until it is a fine paste, approximately 1 minute. Stop the processor as needed to scrape down sides of bowl. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the mixture into a loaf pan, making sure to press into the sides of the pan. We ended up cooking this in two loaf pans. A bread loaf pan and a 9×13 pan. Place the loaf pan into a water bath and bake for 60 to 75 minutes or until the mixture reaches 165 to 170 degrees F. Remove from the oven and drain off any fat. (We ended up doing this twice as the first time the temperature wasn’t quite high enough. In fact, we ended up turning up the heat to 350 degrees just to make sure it cooked through.) Place the loaf pan on a cooling rack and place a brick wrapped in aluminum foil directly on the surface of the meat and allow to sit for 15 to 20 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 175 degrees F. We used smaller pans to press the meat. Warning: Be careful during this process, the water is hot, the meat is hot, the pan is hot and there are lots of opportunities for burns. Steam burns hurt. If you are using traditional pot holders and oven gloves, be extra careful the steam will cause these to get wet and increase your chances of getting a burn. If you have an oveglove, use that, we plan to invest in one ourselves.

Slice and serve on pita bread with tzatziki sauce, chopped onion, tomatoes and feta cheese.

My opinion:
This was so so so so good. I couldn’t stop eating it. The flavors rally shine and despite my hesitation (and general aversion to sauces) the tzatziki sauce make all the flavors pop even more. I cannot wait to eat this again!

Ingredients Tzatziki Sauce:
16 ounces plain yogurt (we used Dannon because it came in the right sized container)
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
Pinch kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon olive oil (we used extra virgin)
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
5 to 6 fresh mint leaves, finely minced

Directions:
Place the yogurt in a tea towel, gather up the edges, suspend over a bowl, and drain for 2 hours in the refrigerator. (We actually didn’t do this as the yogurt we purchased had already separated so we just drained it off). Place the chopped cucumber in a tea towel and squeeze to remove the liquid; discard liquid. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the drained yogurt, cucumber, salt, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and mint. Serve as a sauce for gyros. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week. (We just used the original container.)

My opinion:
This is good as a dip too! I’ve eaten it with pita chips and tortilla chips. Where it really makes a difference is on the gyro meat.