Mozzareally Good

“Life is great. Cheese makes it better.” ― Avery Aames, The Long Quiche Goodbye

I mentioned in my last post that I was forbidden to eat cheese, except for mozzarella, because aged cheeses can contribute to migraine. I was sad about it because I really love cheese. But since mozzarella was still allowed, I was comforted since I could still enjoy my favorite cheese snack. Mozzarella cheese sticks!

My first try of this treat was at Marciano’s in Greenbelt, Makati maybe more than eight years ago. The outside was crispy and golden. Inside, it was heavenly! I loved it so much that I started looking for other places that sold mozzarella cheese sticks after Marciano’s closed shop.

I discovered Fried Mozzarella by The Tea Republic back when I would fetch my sister from her work to bring her to her PT sessions. She had an MPFL reconstruction surgery at that time and she needed to regain her full use of her leg. The restaurant was situated at the ground floor of the building where she used to go to work. Their version of the mozzarella stick was also very yummy and I loved the salsa that went with it.

I have long decided I will make my own version at home. So, I searched for YouTube videos on how to do it. On the day I finally decided to make my favorite snack, I decided to just wing the recipe but follow the concept:

  1. Slice the mozzarella into sticks,
  2. Dredge the sticks in flour
  3. Dunk into beaten egg
  4. Roll into seasoned breadcrumbs
  5. Back to the beaten egg
  6. Roll again in seasoned breadcrumbs
  7. Freeze until very hard
  8. Deep fry until golden brown

For my attempt, I just seasoned my breadcrumbs with salt, white pepper and basil leaves. I froze the sticks overnight because I had to leave for work already after I prepared them.

Because I did not have a narrow but deep frying pan, I had to use more oil than necessary. I also had to flip the cheese sticks so the other side will also cook and brown. I had a few leaks because the cheese was melting faster than the coating was browning.

Regardless, I finally made my own favorite cheese treat!

I paired it with my favorite Tostitos Chunky Salsa for a little bit of heat.

I know I was taught not to play with my food but I tried splitting one stick in half and checking how long the cheese was going to stretch. That’s the best part of it all!

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1st Mac ‘n Cheese Attempt

“Its diamonds in your pockets one week, macaroni and cheese the next.” -Jolene Blalock

I have a love and hate relationship with mac ‘n cheese. I have never tasted mac ‘n cheese that I absolutely loved. It was always either too bland or too cheesy for my liking.

Recognizing my lack of culinary skills, I decided I will have to learn how to cook food. And by cook, I mean excluding the usual stuff that I bake like cookies and muffins. I have put off learning cooking for a long time because I hate having to peel, chop, dice, fillet, grind or mince. You know, all those “preparation” steps that take forever.

A friend recommended that I start with the simple stuff. He shared me a recipe of mac ‘n cheese he found online and told me to try it out. Then, I could venture into trying cheeses other than just cheddar.

So, what did I get?

img_7377400 grams of elbow macaroni | 200 grams of cheddar cheese | 26 grams of mozzarella | 2 cups of milk | 1/4 cup of unsalted butter | 1/4 cup of flour | 1/2 tsp salt | a dash of ground black pepper

I started by cooking the macaroni. Then, I proceeded making the roux by melting the butter and then adding the flour. Once the paste was thick, I added the milk a little at a time. I seasoned it with salt and pepper. I slowly stirred the milk to keep it from burning. Once simmering, I added the cheeses a little bit at a time, ensuring that they have melted well. Finally, I added the macaroni to the pan and made sure to coat everything evenly.

For one, it was too pale. It looked so sad so I transferred it to a baking dish. I melted some 2 tbsps of butter and added them to around 6 tbsps of panko breadcrumbs. I added some Parmesan cheese for added taste. Then, I sprinkled the breadcrumbs and cheese mixture on top of the mac ‘n cheese and baked it for 15 minutes until the top browned a little bit.

img_7363Despite the amount of cheese I put in, it was still too bland. Yet the recipe had rave reviews from people who tried making it for their friends and family.

I decided to just make it into a cheesy bacon and mushroom the following day. We added a can of Campbell’s cream of mushroom and a small can of milk (the macaroni has soaked up the cheese sauce) and bits of crispy bacon.

How did it go? I could distinguish the saltiness from the cream of mushroom but damn, it tasted too cheesy this time! Where did all the blandness from yesterday go?!

I guess I have not put an end to my love and hate relationship with mac ‘n cheese. Wonder when I’ll get to taste one that’s just right.

Just Cooked: My Creamy Bacon and Mushroom Pasta

“Not only are pasta dishes delicious, but they are also great, easy options for a quick dinner during a busy weekday.” -Marcus Samuelsson

I recently made chocolate no-machine ice cream and it was a success! I have even used some of the ice cream to make chocolate milk shakes because summer is just so hot in the Philippines. Still left over from that attempt though was 550 ml of cream that I had nothing to use for because I was not planning to make more ice cream that would not fit my freezer anyway.

Because the cream I got is kinda a multi-purpose cream (whipping, pouring, cooking, etc. type), I decided to make my bacon and mushroom creamy past for dinner that night. This is my go-to pasta when I feel like eating pasta or have visitors coming over and we did not want to cook anything too complicated.

I am by no means a chef and my recipe was just based on what I think and taste is just right. I also do not know how to make this in a smaller batch because I have been used to always making this for at least five or more people.

Ingredients:

250 grams of honeycured bacon (or more! The more, the better!)

1 can of Campbell’s Classic Cream of Mushroom (I have never used anything else)

550 ml of cream (you may use full cream milk if you do not want it very thick)

1 bouillon chicken cube

1 small can of pieces and stems mushroom (add more if desired)

A pinch of salt

A dash of white pepper

A dash of garlic powder (I do not want real garlic in my pasta)

A dash of onion powder (I also do NOT want real onion in my pasta)

Dried basil and dried parsley (I used about a half to a full tablespoon of each, depending on my mood)

1/2 tablespoon of sugar

If I feel a little more indulgent, I also add bits of ham in.

I basically boil the bacon and then wait for it to fry in its own oil. Once crispy, I add in the mushrooms (drained) and add a dash of garlic and onion powders. I don’t let the mushrooms fry so much. I just allow it to cook with the bacon for a few minutes before going in with the cream of mushroom.

The cream of mushroom will be thick, at times like jelly. But, the heat will allow it to get to a runnier (but not too much) consistency. Then I add the cream, a pinch of salt, and a dash of white pepper. I let it simmer for a few minutes before adding in the bouillon chicken cube. I keep on stirring so my cream will not burn at the bottom of the pan.

I don’t let it get to a roaring boil but once it’s bubbling into a hard simmer, I add in the dried basil and dried parsley. I cannot have creamy pasta without basil! Once it’s gotten to a boil and the sauce has thickened to my desired consistency, I turn the heat off and move on to cooking the noodles.

I do not prefer mixing my cooked noodles in the sauce for some reason. I like to get some noodles on my plate and to pour sauce over it rather than getting them on my plate already combined. There’s something enjoyable for me about the pasta with the sauce and seeing the bits of cheese I earlier grated on top combine with the sauce and the noodles until I could not see or distinguish the cheese anymore. This evening though, I used store-bought Parmesan cheese.

So, there I have it. My favorite pasta. I am sure there are more delicious recipes out there but this is the first pasta I learned to do. Hence, it’s close to my heart.

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How do you like your pasta?