Since there's so much food, I tend to be inclined to skip hors d'oeuvres. I mean, really folks, just sit down and eat! But every year, somebody comes in search of just a little nosh before we eat. Even if we're ten minutes from eating. Even if the turkey is already on the counter, beautifully done. I guess that makes me sound like a Thanksgiving Scrooge, which I'm not – really!
So it's always a dilemma. I don't want anything that will tie up the oven. I'll be busy making gravy and juggling all those other dishes, so I really don't want to have to make anything time-consuming. No one wants anything heavy. I know you're thinking so put out a cheese platter and be done with it. Um, yes, that's what I usually do. A quick platter that everyone ignores!
This year, as I perused recipe ideas that ran from odd (balsamic drizzled radicchio) to weird (whipped ricotta with chilies and green olives) to too plain (popcorn), I stumbled across this brilliant idea in Food and Wine. Mini mac and cheese!
It does tie up the oven for 10 minutes, but I can live with that. Best of all, it can be made a day ahead, so when chaos reigns in the kitchen, all you have to do is pop them in the oven. Unless someone eats a lot more than one or two, they won't spoil their appetite for dinner, and there are very few people who won't eat mac and cheese.
The recipe from Food and Wine by Grace Parisi had a couple of great features. She used Parmesan to line mini-muffin tins, which adds a lovely little salty crunch to the sides. And she tossed in an egg yolk to keep everything together. Very clever.
Now, to be honest, I think you could make this with your favorite mac and cheese recipe. Just cut it in half and be sure to add an egg yolk. I used an extra sharp cheddar and cream cheese, just to give it that creamy texture I like so much. When it comes out of the oven, turn a deaf ear to pleas to eat it (they smell divine!) for five minutes. They have to cool a little bit to set, otherwise you'll have a big mess.
Three-Cheese Mini Macs
by Grace Parisi in Food & Wine
tweaked by moi
1/2 pound elbow macaroni
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for brushing
2 tablespoons plus two tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 ounces soft cheese (brie or cream)
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
2 tablespoons Panko bread crumbs
Use a 24 cupcake mini-cupcake pan or two 12 cupcake mini-cupcake pans
Cook the macaroni according to package and drain.
Preheat oven to 425. Brush each well of the pan with butter. Sprinkle the wells with a total of two tablespoons Parmesan cheese. Over the sink, turn the pan to distribute, much as you would to flour a cake pan.
Melt the butter in a pot and whisk in the flour. Cook about two minutes and whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil and cook five minutes. Add the cheeses and whisk until melted. Remove from heat and whisk in the egg yolk and the paprika.
Fold in the macaroni. Use a measuring spoon to add a heaping tablespoon to each well. Mix the remaining two tablespoons of Parmesan with the Panko bread crumbs and sprinkle over each well.
*At this point you can can cover and refrigerate overnight.*
Bake at 425 for 10 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Use a thin knife to loosen and remove.
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