To begin this week’s post, I will tell you that I am cooking and writing about this week’s recipe while also watching the Oscars. And as all John Wayne fans should know, he won an Oscar for his role as Rooster Cogburn in the movie True Grit. It has always been my favorite movie of his and I think everyone should see it at least once. A few years ago they made a new version of True Grit starring Jeff Bridges, but comparing the two films, I think the original is much better. You can watch them both and see what you think. Anyway, time to get back to cooking.
Other than my dad, I don’t think I can name another person who doesn’t like macaroni and cheese. My brothers, sisters and I grew up eating boxed macaroni with powdered cheese. Who didn’t? However, since then, I have discovered that there are (in my opinion) much better versions of macaroni and cheese, but I am still trying to find my favorite. So for this week’s recipe I am going to make Lone Star Skillet Mac & Cheese and see how it rates.
Right from the start, I can see this is not going to be too difficult. There are only seven ingredients and it looks like I can have it all completed in less than 20 minutes. First, I combine some pasta, salt and water in a large skillet over high heat. Once it comes to a boil, I let the pasta cook until the water is almost gone. Then I add a can of evaporated milk and a can of diced tomatoes with green chilis. When the sauce comes back to a boil, I lower the temperature and let it cook for about 5 minutes to let the sauce thicken. This is when the cheese finally enters the picture. I take a cup of mozzarella cheese and add it to the mix, stirring until it’s melted. Now the only thing left to do in the official recipe is to add some additional salt and pepper to taste. However, at the bottom of the page there is a ‘Wayne Family Tip’ that suggests adding other spices to make the recipe your own, so I did add a little bit of garlic powder and basil. Now it’s time to get the results.
My first thought is…this is not going to be my favorite macaroni and cheese recipe. I expected the tomatoes and chilis to make the macaroni a little spicy, but it really doesn’t. And I’ve never thought that mozzarella has a lot of flavor on its own (sorry mozzarella lovers) and this recipe is not going to change my mind. I think a little cheddar or parmesan cheese is needed to help boost the flavor. I also thought it was a little dry so I added some more milk. Overall, it’s not bad, but it does not move to the top of the macaroni and cheese recipe file for me. However, I don’t want to base this review on just my opinion so I’ll let my co-workers add their opinions tomorrow at work.
Fast forward to the next day and the reviews are mixed. Three of my co-workers thought it was tasty just as I made it. Two people thought it was too spicy and would prefer a different type of cheese. Two others wanted more spice and more cheese. Dane (who wanted me to quote him) thought it was good but definitely “came alive” with more salt and pepper. And last, but not least, one co-worker thought it was very bland and asked me if he even needed to finish it. That is never a good sign.
So in the end, it looks like this recipe needs a few small changes before I would serve it up for any occasion in the future, but it definitely has potential.
Now…what should I make next?
4 cups pasta (short cut such as spirals or bow ties)
1 tsp. kosher salt, to taste, plus more
3 cups water
1 (12-oz.) can evaporated milk
1 (10-oz.) can diced tomatoes and green chilis, undrained
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese.
Pepper, to taste
Recipe from the John Wayne Family Cookbook.