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Thanksgiving menu always has room for cheese
By Times Staff Writer
Published November 18, 2007
Macaroni and cheese is a popular dish on the Southern Thanksgiving table. It's also a good take-along offering if you're going to a potluck.
This year, why not toss the box and try one from scratch? Yankee Doodle Dandy Baked Macaroni and Cheese, from cookbook author and food writer Marlena Spieler, is packed with flavor, thanks to the addition of blue cheese.
There are other ways to serve cheese at Thanksgiving, including in a spread for early hors d'oeuvres. It's best to make the cheese spread by Tuesday night to let the flavors meld.
Another good offering for the big feast is Harvest Squash and Cheddar Spoon Bread, which gets a head start from a boxed corn bread mix. Goat cheese and peppery arugula give mashed potatoes an unexpected kick.
SIDE DISH Harvest Squash and Cheddar Spoon Bread
2 medium butternut squash, halved and seeded 1 medium acorn squash, halved and seeded Cooking spray 1/2 cup sour cream 2 large eggs, lightly beaten 3 tablespoons brown sugar 11/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves 1/8 teaspoon ground sage 1 (6-ounce) package corn bread mix 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- Place squash halves, cut sides down, on a large baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.- Scoop pulp from squash and place in a colander. Allow liquid to drain from cooked squash (about 10 minutes).
- While squash drains, combine sour cream, eggs, brown sugar, salt, pepper, thyme and ground sage in a large bowl. Add cooled, drained squash. Mix on medium speed of an electric mixer until combined. Stir in dry corn bread mix and cheese.
- Coat a large casserole dish with cooking spray. Pour batter into dish. Bake at 425 degrees for 45 minutes or until golden brown.
Makes 12 to 16 servings. Source: Cabot Creamery
SIDE DISH Arugula and Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes
3 cups (about 5 large) russet potatoes, peeled, quartered 1/4 cups butter 1 1/4 cups whole milk 5 ounces soft fresh goat cheese, crumbled 1 cup (packed) chopped arugula leaves (about 2 large bunches) Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling, salted water until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain. Return potatoes to pot. Stir over low heat until excess moisture evaporates. Add butter; mash potatoes until smooth.
- Bring milk to simmer is saucepan. Remove from heat. Add goat cheese: whisk until melted.
- Add milk mixture to potatoes; whisk until smooth. Stir in arugula. Season with salt and pepper.
Serves 6 to 8. Source: Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese
APPETIZER Garlic-Cheddar Spread
1 pound garlic cheddar cheese (see note) 1/2 pound cream cheese 2 cloves minced garlic 1 teaspoon lemon juice 1/2 teaspoon sugar Salt and cayenne pepper to taste
- Grate garlic cheddar into bowl and mash cream cheese into it. Add minced garlic, lemon juice and sugar.
- Beat until smooth and fully blended. Add in salt and cayenne pepper to taste.
- Divide mixture into 4 equal parts and mold into uniform shapes. Wrap each separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate for two to three days to mature.
Note: If you can't find garlic cheese, add two cloves of finely minced garlic to the mix. Source: Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese
SIDE DISH Yankee Doodle Baked Macaroni and Cheese
12 ounces large elbow macaroni, bow-tie pasta or shells 3 tablespoons unsalted butter 3 tablespoons flour 3 cups hot, but not boiling, milk (low-fat is fine) 1 bay leaf Salt and pepper to taste 1/2 teaspoon paprika 1 tablespoon dry mustard 12 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 3 cups) 5 or 6 ounces mild white meltable cheese, such as Jack, Gouda or kasseri, shredded 4 to 5 ounces sharp blue cheese, crumbled 1/2 onion, finely chopped 1 clove garlic, chopped (optional) 1/2 to 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese
- Cook pasta in a large pot of rapidly boiling salted water until not quite tender - just shy of al dente. Drain and set aside.
- Make the sauce: Melt butter in a heavy nonstick saucepan and sprinkle with flour. Cook for a minute or two, then stir with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and add milk all at once, along with bay leaf. Cook, stirring, over medium-high heat until sauce thickens, about 5 to 7 minutes. If there are any lumps, remove bay leaf and whisk with a wire whisk or whirl in the food processor. Remove from heat and season with salt, pepper, paprika and dry mustard.
- Reserve 5 to 6 tablespoons of the sharp cheddar and mild white cheeses. Remove bay leaf from the bechamel if you haven't already, then stir in remaining cheddar, mild white cheese and blue cheese.
- In the bottom of a 11/2-quart baking dish with 4-inch sides, sprinkle 1 or 2 tablespoons of the reserved cheeses. Add onion and garlic to cheese sauce.
- Layer 1/3 of macaroni in bottom of the dish, top with a third of the cheese sauce, and repeat the layers two more times, ending with the cheese sauce. Sprinkle with remaining shredded cheeses, then with the Parmesan cheese. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven 20 to 25 minutes, or until cheese is melted and slightly browned in spots.
Makes 5 to 6 servings. Source: Macaroni & Cheese by Marlena Spieler (Chronicle Books, 2005)