"Melissa Clark’s effervescent, inexhaustible enthusiasm for all things edible is wonderfully infectious. She really makes you want to drop everything, head for the kitchen and whip up an Upside-Down Polenta Plum Cake or Carroty Mac and Cheese."
That's what our BookPage cookbook columnist Sybil Pratt had to say about Cook This Now. These season-friendly recipes, arranged by Clark (food writer and columnist for the New York Times Dining Section), are the type of delicious meals you can't wait to make.
This is one of both our favorites. It’s comforting, crusty topped, soft centered, and very cheesy—but not at all sophisticated. Just simple, kid-friendly, homemade food with the added grown-up appeal of lots of healthful carrots tossed into the mix.
I got the idea from a chef’s recipe in a glossy food magazine. The chef called for cooking carrots in butter and orange juice, pureeing them, and using the puree as a sauce for mac and cheese. I tried the recipe as written and was disappointed. It was a lot of work, and I didn’t like the sweetness of the citrus fruit interfering with my cheesy goodness.
So I decided to come up with my own simplified and ultra-Cheddary version. It was a huge hit with the under-three crowd and their parents, too.
It’s a straightforward recipe that comes together without much fuss, other than having to grate some carrots. But to make up for that, I’ve eliminated the need to make a cheese sauce on the top of the stove. Instead, I toss the hot pasta with grated cheddar, butter, sour cream for creaminess, and eggs to hold it all together. The grated carrots get boiled along with the pasta, so cooking them isn’t an extra step. And the tiny orange shreds look so much like the cheddar that your kids might not even notice they are there. Dahlia certainly hasn’t, and while I’ve never lied to her about their inclusion, I might have left out the word carrot in the dish description—accidentally, of course.
Makes 6 servings
2. Cook macaroni according to package instructions in a large pot of salted boiling water; add carrot 3 minutes before pasta is finished cooking; drain well.
3. While pasta is hot, stir in all but 1/2 cup of the cheddar and the butter. In a bowl, whisk together the sour cream, milk, eggs, salt, mustard powder, and pepper. Fold mixture into the pasta.
4. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the remaining cheddar and the parmesan over the top. Bake until the casserole is firm to the touch and golden brown, about 30 minutes.
The American casserole is back on center stage "with a healthy helping of retro-chic and gourmet flair," thanks to The Casserole Queens Cookbook by Crystal Cook and Sandy Pollock! Featured in our September Cooking column, the cookbook by two Austin gals shares recipes for "one-dish wonders" for weeknight cooking.
2. In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the chicken, bell pepper, and shallots, and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Stir in the flour, salt, tarragon, and black pepper. Add the milk and cream, and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thick and bubbly, about 10 minutes. Add the wine, peas, carrots, and potatoes and stir until heated thoroughly, about 5 minutes.
3. Transfer the hot chicken mixture to a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish. Place the puff pastry over the top of the casserole dish. Brush the edges of the puff pastry with the egg wash and press against the side of the casserole dish, then cut slits in the pastry to allow steam to escape. Brush the top of the puff pastry with egg wash—this will help the puff pastry brown evenly. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Serve immediately.
Here are two other great ways to make our chicken pot pie:
Make individual pot pies! Portion out the filling into 6-ounce ramekins. Top each ramekin with some puff pastry and freeze. Cook at 425°F for 20 minutes or until puff pastry is golden brown. So cute!
Use store-bought pie dough and make empanadas! Using a 3-inch circle pastry cutter, cut 12 circles out of the dough. Place a large spoonful of filling on one half of each circle. Brush the edge of the pastry with egg wash, then fold in half to make a half-moon shape. Press the edges together firmly and crimp with a fork. Put the empanada on a baking sheet and bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.