February 10, 2015
My friend Laurie Becklund passed away the night before last, after a heroic struggle with cancer. I admired her so much; she refused to accept the definition of herself as "a sick person," doing more in these last few years than most people manage in a lifetime. She outlived the experts' predictions by so long that those of us who loved her kept expecting one more miracle.
Alas, even miracles come to an end.
People react to death in different ways. I cook. And so last night, as people gathered to remember Laurie, I made a meal.
It was a very last minute decision. How do you feed a crowd on the spur of the moment? You go for easy. You go for comfort. You go for a big piece of meat and a heavy load of carbs.
Macaroni and Cheese
Macaroni and Cheese to Feed Twenty
1/2 pound butter, melted
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons salt
7 cups to 2 quarts milk, warmed
1 pound sharp Cheddar, grated
1/2 pound grated Pecorino Romano
2 pounds elbow macaroni
1 1/2 cups panko
Make a bechamel by whisking the flour and salt into the melted butter, over low heat, and slowly whisking in the warm milk. Keep whisking until you have a thick white sauce.
Meanwhile, cook the macaroni until just al dente, about 6 minutes. Drain.
Stir the cheeses into the bechamel. Add pepper to taste. Stir the macaroni into the cheese sauce.
Butter a large flat casserole or baking dish and spill the macaroni mixture into it. Top with panko, dot with a bit of butter and bake in a 400 degree oven for about half an hour.
This is very American, comforting and rather bland. Which seems like perfect funeral food to me. But should you want to jazz it up, you could add any of the following:
thyme, sage, rosemary, chile flakes, chives, bottled horseradish
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