You can never have too many mac and cheese recipes.
Sometimes you might be in the mood for a sharp cheddar or a nutty Gruyere or even a little blue, but you just about always want a creamy texture, not one that separates, leaving an oily trail and little curds of cheese—well, I would eat that, too. The following recipe starts out with this one from Kraft and adds whipped ricotta to the sauce, so that it’s extra creamy. I am not adding any cheddar to the top of the casserole, just a panko topping. I like to get a little crust on my mac and cheese, but sometimes you just want to eat it out of the pan, so skip the crumb topping and baking if you like.
The base recipe starts out with a very thick white sauce, into which cubes of Velveeta® are stirred. I usually make my white sauce with 2 tablespoons of flour per cup of milk, but this one uses 4 tablespoons per cup. Like any other cheese sauce, you need this flour base to keep the cheese from separating. I’ve tried that recipe making the rounds, where you use only evaporated milk and cheese, and it does not hold up—beware fads.
Notice the whipped ricotta
Stir in Velveeta
Stir in whipped ricotta
Thick and creamy sauce
Just eat it like this…
…or bake it
Ricotta-Velveeta® Mac 'n Cheese
Preheat oven to 350°; butter a 2-quart casserole dish.
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk
- 8 oz. original Velveeta® cheese, cut into cubes
- 8 oz. whole milk ricotta, whipped in a food processor until smooth and fluffy
- 8 oz. macaroni or other pasta shape—I used whole wheat fusilli
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- Boil the pasta according to the package directions while making the sauce. Drain the pasta and place in casserole dish.
- In a small saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Stir in flour until fully combined. Stir in milk and continue stirring until smooth and thickened.
- Stir cheese cubes into thickened white sauce until all the cheese is melted. This takes a few minutes.
- Stir whipped ricotta into cheese sauce until combined.
- Pour sauce over pasta and stir to combine. You could serve it at this point without baking, or go to the next step.
- Combine panko crumbs and 2 tablespoons butter. Sprinkle over macaroni. Bake for 20 minutes until lightly browned and bubbly.
I’ve tried many methods for fried chicken. The ones that use only flour, or the three stage flour–egg–breadcrumb process, or the buttermilk marinade followed by breading, but it seems like the crispness doesn’t hold up for more than a minute or two past frying. They all taste good, but I really expect a crisp coating if I’m going to go to the trouble of frying. This recipe—Crispy Fried Chicken from Taste of Home—delivers. The name says it all.
What they do differently than most recipes is add flour to the egg wash, so that you are really dipping it in a batter before adding a final coating of seasoned flour. The final coating makes a shaggy layer that crisps up all over the chicken. Sometimes you get that shaggy look when you start with a buttermilk soak, but I find this egg–water–flour batter works even better than buttermilk.
I usually use an electric deep fryer, but I only made four pieces today, so I used a high-sided stock pot with a couple inches of oil. Unlike the original recipe, I did not use bone-in chicken; I used boneless thighs, which cook more quickly, about a total of five minutes in 375° oil for each piece.
Battered and breaded chicken
on fried chicken
Crispy Fried Chicken
- 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons garlic salt or garlic powder plus 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 2 teaspoons white or black pepper
- 2 1/2 teaspoons poultry seasoning—I used a combination of sage and celery seed
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- up to 4 lbs chicken pieces, with or without skin. I used boneless thighs.
- cooking oil for frying
- Combine the first five ingredients in a large bowl for the final coating and set aside. The original recipe suggests a plastic bag, but I find patting on the flour works better, creating a shaggier coating that has lots of crispy edges.
- In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs and water, then whisk in the second amount of flour and salt, until the batter is smooth.
- Coat chicken pieces in batter then dredge in seasoned flour, patting the flour on until all the batter is covered and the coating is dry enough to handle and set aside.
- Heat cooking oil to 375° not allowing it to fall below 350° between batches. Fry chicken in small batches, depending on the size of your fryer, so that you keep the oil temperature high throughout. My boneless thighs cooked in 5 minutes, one piece at a time. The original recipe suggests that bone-in pieces would take about 5-6 minutes per side. My oil was deep enough that I didn’t need to turn my pieces over.
★★★★★ = Five Stars
This recipe makes eight large empanadas—I’m freezing four for later—but you could easily make smaller, snack-sized empanadas. I used half venison and half ground beef in the filling, but you could substitute any other ground meat combination, or even a filling with no meat. Because you need a cool filling, you should make it early in the day or the day before, so it has time to cool before filling the dough—this also cuts down on the commotion of rolling and filling dough at dinnertime.
For the dough, I’m using the one from Martha Stewart’s “Basic Empanadas” recipe. I recommend this simple dough, which is buttery and tender and easy to handle, considering all the rolling and shaping you need to do. I recommend watching the video on the page, especially if you haven’t made this sort of a hand pie before. The one thing I did differently was to use the food processor instead of mixing by hand—even with that, the dough remained tender. I felt, though, that I had to add way more than the one cup of cold water in the recipe for the dough to come together, maybe as much as an extra half cup. The video tip to let the dough rest before rolling seemed like a good idea, keeping the dough from trying to shrink as you roll it. Here are the simple ingredients for that dough (follow instruction on the site):
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 stick butter
- 1 cup cold water
- egg wash for sealing and for brushing on tops
Herbs and spices
Cooled filling on dough
Filled and ready to bake
At least one always leaks
Time to eat!
Venison Empanada Filling
- 1 lb ground venison
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup garlic, minced
- 2-3 roasted red peppers, diced
- about 6 canned plum tomatoes, diced, plus enough of the juice (maybe 1/2 cup) to moisten the meat
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed or ground dried juniper berries
- 1 teaspoon ground chipotle chile
- 1 teaspoon ground smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup dried cilantro
- Brown the venison and beef in a large skillet over medium heat. Use oil if you think you need it, but the beef should provide plenty of fat. Remove any excess fat, so the final mixture is not greasy.
- Add the onions and garlic and cook until they begin to soften.
- Stir in spices, red peppers, and tomatoes. Bring to a low boil, then simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. Remove to a large low dish, like a 13″ x 9″ baking dish. If you think the mixture is too wet, remove it from the skillet with a slotted spoon. Most of my liquid cooked off.
- Cool the filling, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to fill the empanadas.
Baking: The filled empanadas bake for 30 minutes at 400° on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Frozen ones will take about 40 minutes and do not need to be thawed first.