January 27, 2018
It seems the Journal is turning into a cooking blog! There will be more diverse posts, I promise, but right now, I’m enjoying my time in the kitchen, especially since winter is my favorite season to cook. I love being inside when it’s cold outside and making something warm and yummy, preferably in one pot!
This recipe for macaroni and cheese comes from The Animal Farm Buttermilk Cookbook; Recipes and Reflections from a Small Vermont Dairy. The author, Diane St. Clair, is well-known for the butter she makes from the herd of Jersey cows on her farm in Orwell, Vermont. The majority of her butter is sold to Thomas Keller, chef extraordinaire at French Laundry and Per Se. A limited supply of butter occasionally makes it to Saxelby Cheesemongers in NYC; I wanted to try it but after finding out it sells for $50 a pound I thought, well, maybe not. They do offer her buttermilk at the shop in the winter months, and in comparison, $10 a bottle feels like a steal!
Last week when I was in the city, I picked up a bottle at the Chelsea Market outpost of Saxelby. It’s nearly impossible to find farmstead buttermilk so I was happy to cart it home on the train. It really does live up to the hype; it’s tangy and fresh and you can see yellow flecks of butter floating throughout. What else could I do with it but make something from Diane St. Clair’s book?
Buttermilk Macaroni and Cheese
Now that I’ve gone on about how fabulous the Animal Farm buttermilk is, you might be thinking “why bother making this recipe when the only buttermilk I can get a hold of is the usual stuff from the grocery store?” I’ll make the case it’s still worth trying because it’s so quick and easy to make; no precooking the pasta or making a white sauce. The buttermilk and cottage cheese (yes, cottage cheese!) make it creamy and flavorful. I’ll add a little more cheese next time and at some point, it'll be fun to play with the seasonings. It’s a good base to work from so give it a try and see what you think. Oh, and if anyone knows where I can get fresh buttermilk in New Jersey, please let me know!
Unsalted butter, for the baking dish
1 cup cottage cheese
2 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon mustard powder
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1 pound sharp cheddar, shredded
8 ounces small pasta (I used cavatappi)
¼ cup grated Parmesan
½ cup fresh bread crumbs
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly butter a 2-quart baking dish.
Put the cottage cheese in a blender with 1 cup of the buttermilk and blend on high speed for a minute or two, until completely smooth. Add the remaining 1 cup of buttermilk, the mustard powder, nutmeg, cayenne, and salt to the blender and blend till smooth.
Pour the sauce into the baking dish and add the cheddar and uncooked pasta. Stir gently to combine, and then cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for 35 minutes.
Remove the foil and stir again. Top with the Parmesan and bread crumbs and bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until golden and bubbling. Serve hot.
Makes 8 - 10 servings
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