Callie’s Mac & Cheese

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Last week a childhood friend Mary, unexpectedly lost one of her beloved dogs Callie. A beautiful chocolate lab everyone in our close knit circle of friends, had the pleasure to know. All our children adored Mary’s dogs Callie and Muggian both Labs who loved to play fetch at Good Harbor Beach.  Last week after hearing about Callie’s passing we all felt Marys heartache and reached out to comfort her, each in our own special way. There is never a right time for death, and there are endless ways to reach out to those who are dealing with it. For some, it is customary to reach out with fresh flowers, sympathy cards, and thoughtful notes. But for me growing up in a  Sicilian family,  I learned at a very young age, that our custom  in the wakes of death, was to nourish broken hearts with homemade food. Sicilians head straight to the kitchen to prepare a meal or dessert to nourish grieving families. My grandmother Felicia always preached, that the fastest way to someone heart was through their stomach. After a quick trip to the Cave Cheese Shop, I made and delivered a special comfort food dinner  to my grieving  friend Mary and her puppy Mulligan.

In honor of  Callie this old family comfort food recipe has been renamed ~ Callie’s Mac & Cheese

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muffin dog

Callie’s Mac & Cheese

Ingredients

1 stick salted butter; plus 1 tablespoon (used to butter baking dish)

¼ cup freshly chopped parsley

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons flour

1 ½ cup whole milk

2 heaping cups shredded Rat Cheddar Cheese~ The Cave’s House Cheddar

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon onion powder

1 lb. large elbows pasta

3 cups Cracker Crumb Topping( see recipe below)

Step-by-Step

1 cook elbows Pasta al dente; strain water in large colander; reserve pasta

2 in medium sauce pan ; melt 1 stick salted butter over medium/low heat; add parsley, pepper, and flour; stir; increase heat to high;stir 2-3 minutes (do not brown butter)

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2 add milk; stir 1 minute; add shredded cheese in small batches (I like to add ½ cup at a time, and allow cheese to completely melt before adding next batch of cheese); stir vigorously to prevent mixture from sticking to bottom of pan; stir until creamy thick cheese sauce is formed; remove from heat

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3 add garlic powder and onion powder; mix well; add  reserved pasta; mix well; add cheese sauce to reserved pasta; mix well

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4 butter one 13×11 baking dish or two 8×8  baking dishes

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5 transfer and evenly spread cheese mixture into baking dish; top with Cracker Crumb Topping( see recipe below)

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6 cover with foil; in preheated 350 degree oven bake 10 minutes; remove foil; bake 10 additional minutes until crumb topping is golden and cheese sauce is bubbling, serve warm

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Cracker Crumb Topping Ingredients & Step-by-Step Directions

4 stacks of original Ritz crackers, finely crushed in a large food processor

1 large onion, pureed in a mini chopper

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder

1 pound salted butter, melted

1 heaping large soup spoon of Cains Mayonnaise

2 tablespoon olive oil

1 package Good Seasons dry Italian Dressing mix

¾ cup Sicilian Breadcrumbs “Muddica Cunsata”, recipe in my cookbook (Gifts of Gold In A Sicilian Kitchen With Sista Felicia,Harvest Pg. 201) or click link for Sista Felicia’s Video tutorial

 http://tasteofnatchez.com/recipe-video/Mudica-Bread-Crumbs.html

Step-by-Step

1 Combine and mix all ingredients in large mixing bowl

Note~ will keep in airtight container refrigerated 7 days or  2 months in freezer… excellent topping for baked fish

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