Please say it isn't so....but it is! Fried Mac & Cheese

Please say you didn'tFew menu items are as closely associated with comfort food as macaroni and cheese. It is a staple in stereotypical American homes. Quick, easy, and enjoyed by the fussiest children, it's a side item that's sure to please and one that can be a served as a meal should the meatloaf prove unpalatable. And while Kraft's Macaroni and Cheese dinner is certainly the most common choice when it comes to the stuff, there's no reason you should have to stick to yellow powder when there are freshly grated cheddar and parmesan cheeses waiting in your refrigerator. And if there aren't, why not go make some?

Macaroni and Cheese

  • 1 lb dry elbow macaroni
  • 1 table spoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk (use 2% at least)
  • 1/2 lb cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped elephant garlic (or other flavoring agents*)
    • *Macaroni and cheese is like a blank culinary canvas. It's waiting for you to fill it in with your own favorite flavors. I sautéd minced elephant garlic, but you could use any number of things: jalapeño pepper, paprika, truffle oil, oregano--you could even use milder cheeses and shave in dark chocolate for a more desserty approach.
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste (unless you're doing the chocolate thing)

The macaroni:
Cook the macaroni according to the directions on the box, though err on the side of under-done. You can always soften it up by heating in the oven or microwave, but over-done will end up rubbery.

The cheese sauce:

  1. Heat the butter over medium-high heat in a large pot
  2. Sauté the elephant garlic (1 - 2 minutes)
  3. Slowly add the flour, whisking while you do so (this will make your roux, which will thicken the sauce)
  4. Add the milk, and let the heat come back up
  5. Slowly add the cheeses, continuing to whisk
  6. Once the cheeses have melted, you can pour the sauce over the pasta and stir together
  7. Garnish with finely chopped oregano

But what if you want more? What if you've bored with plain macaroni and cheese and all its endless variety? What if the chocolate shavings didn't work out as well as you'd hoped?

Well, you could always fry it.

Fried Mac & Cheese
First, if that macaroni and cheese is fresh off the cooktop, forget about it. To fry it up, you need to let it chill. In the refrigerator, preferably overnight. Then you'll need a batter.

A simple beer batter:

  • 1 12-once can (or bottle) of light beer (I used Amstel; it worked fine)
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried oregano (or other flavoring agents)
  • 1 additional cup flour
    (You will keep the additional flour off to the side for dredging)

Put about three inches of canola or vegetable oil n a large, heavy, high-sided pot (you could also use peanut oil as it has a high smoke point, but it will lend flavor to your food, and you might not want that)
Heat the oil over medium-high heat to about 375 degrees (f)

While the oil's heating up,

  1. Mix 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 tsp salt and flavoring agents in a large bowl
  2. Slowly--slowly!--whisk in the beer. It'll bubble and foam, but just keep working it slowly. Eventually the ingredients will combine.
  3. Cut the chilled mac & cheese into bite-sized pieces and set them up, assembly line style

To fry:

  1. First, dust the mac & cheese bites in the flour, then dunk into the batter, coating evenly
  2. Gently ease the coated pieces into the oil and let them sizzle and fry to a delicious, golden brown
  3. Remove from oil and let dry on paper towels or some kind of rack

While the beer batter worked very well (and was wonderful for frying up some yucca fries), I would probably go with a breadcrumb dredge in the future:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs (I'm a huge fan of panko, Japanese breadcrumbs, which are usually available in the ethnic food isle of your local grocery store)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano (or, again, other flavoring agents--garlic powder, cayenne pepper, paprika--whatever suits your flavor sensibilities)
  1. Season the flour with the salt, pepper and flavoring agents
  2. Beat together the egg and water
  3. Dredge each mac & cheese piece through the flour and sake gently to remove any excess flour
  4. Dip into the egg wash and then coat with the breadcrumbs
  5. Set the dredged pieces on a plat and let them rest for about five minutes so the crust has time to set up a bit
  6. Gently ease the pieces into the oil, a few at a time and fry until golden brown
  7. Let drain on a rack or paper towels

What to pair it with:
You have to be kidding, right? Actually, the wine pairing for fried macaroni and cheese--like normal, un-abominated mac & cheese--will depend heavily on your flavoring agents. Paprika or hot sauce calls for a beer, I would think. But with garlic and oregano, you could go in almost any direction. One recommendation I might make is the 2004 Barnwood Tempranillo.

Tempranillo is one of my favoriate varietals, and while this varietal from San Luis Opispo County in California lacked some of the minerality and subtleties normally associated with old-world wines, it was still a nice representation of the Spanish grape

Color: a deep, deep inky red, barely lightening at the edges

Nose: A massive wine with red fruits, blackberry and other berries, currants (?) and a cocoa spiciness

Palate: A bold wine, but with nice structure, good tannins and acidity, and fruit flavors that are not unsurprising

Finish: A long finish, but one that surprisingly understated. The tannins and acidity balance nicely with the fruits and leave the palate prepped and ready for another mouthful of delicious food.


Coming on the dog days of summer

We've enjoyed a cool spring, we Floridians, but soon will be faced with scorching summer heat. We'll be challenged to find food that blends well with a wide variety of wines while still offering a hint of refreshing cool. As April rolls into May, and May rolls into June, that challenge will become harder and harder to meet. However, one food family offers a nice balance, providing a culinary adaptability coupled with ingredients designed to beat suffocating heat. And where do we go to find this food family? The answer is Mexico. Beef Carnitas This recipe blends hearty stew meat with flavors distinct to Mexican dishes: lime and cilantro. It also provides a solid base for many culinary creations, including empanadas, tacos, and beef salads. It appeared in its original version in Cooking Light magazine. Hardware: A medium-sized stew pot or large Dutch oven, with a tight-fitting lid Ingredients: 2 tablespoons olive oil (separated) 1 large Spanish onion, chopped (can substitute yellow or white onions, but not Vidalia. A red onion might add too much heat) 3 cloves garlic, crushed 2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into bite-sized pieces 1 cup beef broth 1 teaspoon light brown sugar 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper 1 large, unpeeled orange wedge
  1. Begin by heating 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat
  2. Add the chopped onion and sauté for about three minutes
  3. Add the garlic cloves and sauté for another minute
  4. Remove onions and garlic to a bowl on the side
  5. Begin adding the stew meat
    • The stew meat should be sautéd in batches. You want to add enough meat to cover the bottom of the pot, sauté for approximately five minutes or until brown on all sides. A crucial step here is to activate the Maillard process, so you get a nice crust on the meat and on the bottom of the pot. When the first batch is browned, pull it out and start on the second. It should only take two or three batches to get everything done
  6. Add the beef broth to deglaze the pot
    • When you add the broth, it should sizzle and begin to soften the crust that has formed on the pot's bottom. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, work the bottom of the pot to get all that good tasting stuff off and into solution in the broth
  7. Slide in the orange wedge
  8. Add the sugar and red pepper
  9. Re-add the onions, garlic and beef
  10. Bring the mixture up to a boil and then reduce the heat to low or medium-low (depending on you cook top)
  11. Cover and let simmer for 80 - 90 minutes
  12. After that time, uncover the pot and raise the heat some, allowing some of the water to evaporate and the sauce to concentrate
Variation: instead of the orange wedge, you could try putting in a half-cup of your pairing wine. The alcohol will burn off and the fruit flavors in the wine will concentrate during the reduction process. Don't be afraid to experiment! The beef carnitas mixture can be set aside, reheated and will keep in the freezer, wrapped tightly, for up to three months On to the tacos While the beef carnitas is simmering, you have plenty of time to prepare taco fixin's. Remember, when trying to beat the spring heat, eschew the heavier TexMex ingredients like cheese and go for more traditional ingredients like lime and cilantro. Beef carnita and taco fixin's For my table I used the following: Medium flour tortillas Traditional corn tortillas (to bring out some more flavor, you can heat these briefly in a skillet until they just begin to brown in places on one side, then wrap them in foil and keep them in a 200 degree (f) oven to keep them piping hot for your guests) Diced avocado Sliced tomato Sliced Spanish onion (to make the meal more wine friendly, I caramelized the onion to reduce its heat somewhat and to bring out some of its sweetness) Two limes, sliced into wedges Chopped cilantro Arrange all the ingredients on a plate and allow your guests to mix and match as they wish, making their own flavor combinations. What to pair it with? Dog Tail Vinyard's Fire Hydrant RedDog Tail Vinyard's Fire Hydrant Red California Red Wine Color: Deep, lustrous red with just a hint of translucence that forecasts it's lighter body Nose: Big fruit with a hint of spice. Fruit aromas included many of the brighter reds--strawberry and raspberry--and the wine exhibited a slight candied aroma, perhaps vanilla. Palate: Lithe, supple tannins and a hint of alcohol heat (13%, but not too bad). Flavors included the expected red fruits, including plum, but the wine also had a refreshing crispness due to its tannins and acidity--like biting into a ripe red apple. Finish: The wine had a drying finish because of its tannins, but left a hint of that red plum flavor. An excellent accompaniment to food of all sorts. This is a fine drinking wine that would pair well with all kinds of menus. You'll notice the photographed bottle is empty. I can think of no better endorsement.


Sandwich Artist #5

Sandwich Artist: chicken, beef, peppers, onions, mushrooms in the middle of two potato skins, the classic bacon, cheese chives potato skins Sandwich Artist: huge potato skins from large baking potatoes Greg Turner: I am humbled, shocked and awed by your sandwich wizardry Sandwich Artist: could you imagine a menu with a potato skin sandwich on it Greg Turner: yes. yes I can Sandwich Artist: no low cal, no fat free, no low carb, no Atkins approved, Sandwich Artist: just straight up Fat Ass Sandwiches Sandwich Artist: oh, and on the menu, will have a Bitch Sandwich: one slice of wonderbread, folded over a slice of American cheese, slice of turkey and low fat mayo. Greg Turner: mayo on the side Sandwich Artist: nice touch Greg Turner: I try

Sandwich Artist #4

Sandwich Artist: here is a sandwich for you: Sandwich Artist: bagel, scrambled eggs with green pepper, onion and mushrooms, bacon, smoked sausage, Vermont sharp white cheddar Sandwich Artist: and the kicker, the inside of the bagel is scraped out, so the food kinda sits in a pocket Greg Turner: not bad at all Greg Turner: would be even better if you could wrap the two bagel halves in something so they wouldn't come apart Sandwich Artist: yes, was thinking of that Greg Turner: like, around the edges and through the hole Sandwich Artist: HAM!!!! Sandwich Artist: fucking ham steak Sandwich Artist: strip of ham steak, 4, wrapped around through bagel hole Sandwich Artist: like 4 spokes on wheel


Not your average game food

March Madness can take quite a toll on our culinary sensibilities. Night after night of nachos, hot dogs, burgers and pizza can build up (as can the cholesterol and fat), and even the most delicious of italian sausages, grilled and served with caramelized onions and sauteed peppers on a toasted--ok. That would probably never be old.

But March Madness also brackets the Spring Equinox, so I thought it might be an interesting exercise to make some lighter faire for the Gator's latest victory over UCLA.

Appetizer Plate

Finger food is a must. And while chips and dip are a crowd favorite, no one's going to turn down cheese and salami, especially if that cheese is a wonderfully flavorful, hearty goat's milk cheese, chevre.


  • Ciabatta bread
  • Hard salami
  • Chevré
  • Olives (I used large green olives stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes)

AntipastoThis is all about the cheese, so get a good serving dish or large dinner place and place a disc of cheese right in the center. Slice the bread and arrange in a flower pattern around the cheese (I toasted about half the slices and arranged them on one side of the plate) Finish up by arranging the hard salami and olives in small groups around the plate and serve.

Artichoke Nachos (Steamed artichokes with salsa verde)

I altered a recipe from this month's Bon Appètit magazine to make this dish.

Salsa Verde:

  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers, rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons chopped green onions
  • 1/2 clove elephant garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves
  • A pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar

Artichoke and salsa verdeToss the parsley, capers, green onions, garlic, tarragon leaves, red pepper and vinegar into a blender or food processor (I used a hand mixer with the chopping blade attachment) and give those ingredients a whirl. When you're done, scoop the mixture into a bowl and whisk in the olive oil and cream. Set aside.

Set up a steaming rig: Many are fortunate enough to have one of those flying-saucer streamer racks that fit into the bottom of a pot. But you could use anything that would allow steam to flow while keeping the artichoke out of the water, even aluminium foil rolled into a ring and set in the bottom of the pot.

Get the rack, pot and water on the stove and bring the water to a boil. When it's boiling, reduce the heat to medium and place the artichoke(s) on the rack. Cover and let steam for about 30 minutes. Remove from the rack and let cool for about 10 minutes. Serve with the salsa verde or melted garlic butter.

Fresh Papaya Salad with Kumquat Vinaigrette and Feta


  • A large handful of fresh kumquats (approx. 10. Substitute: the juice of two monroe lemons and 2 tablespoons of orange juice)
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • Balsamic vinegar to taste

PapayaJuice the kumquats into a small ramekin Stir in the brown sugar, a little bit at a time, until thoroughly mixed in (less can be used, depending on your taste)
Begin drizzling in the balsamic vinegar slowly. It is easy to mix in too much. The taste should be bright, citrusy, but also slightly sweet with an additional hint of the savory. Experiment! Find the combination that works best for you.

Peel and seed a medium red papaya, then cut into bite-sized pieces. Transfer those pieces to a bowl Sprinkle with feta (optional--the feta will give the dish an additional flavor profile that might not be top of everyone's list) Splash on the dressing. Can be served cold or at room temperature.

What to pair it with? A grazing meal as varied as this is going to need a wine that's is highly versatile, and I know of no other more versatile wine than pinot noir. For this weekend's eating I chose a non-vintage pinot, Pinot Evil.

Pinot Evil, non vintage Vin de Pays de I'lle de Baute

What to pair it with?Color: a dark, dusty ruby with none of the translucence or luminescence I normally associate with Pinot Noir

Nose: Absolute fruit. Very strong cherry and slight strawberry notes with a hint of some brightness--perhaps grass. Certainly had a green quality to it.

Palate: Light body and fairly high tannins given the rather lithe mouth feel. Definite fruit on the palate and some of the distinct minerality that comes with many old world wines.

Finish: very quick. Little lingering fruit, but does sweep the palate. One concern was the lingering alcohol heat I felt, something I don't normally associate with Pinot Noir.

While this wine was fair, it's probably not one I would buy again. Rather, I'd go to my old stand-by, the Rex Goliath NV Pinot Noir (California), a wine that consistently over-performs for its price point. I still haven't found a Pinot Noir that I would go to over my faithful Rex Goliath.