The moment always comes right after.
It sounded good at the time, right? You just needed a quick fix, and work's been absolutely insane this week, and really just this one time, it'll be fine, nobody has to know. I don't need it, I just can't continue without it.
I get it.
But with that "it" comes the second "it," the "oh god what have I done" it, the moment where you find yourself looking down at one of those magazines full of adult people wearing not-adult diapers or a recently heated and completely voided heroin spoon. In this case, the spoon was full of something far, far more sinister.
It was full of American cheese. Pre-sliced, individually wrapped, American cheese.
Yes, I needed the sweet, melty fix that is mac & cheese, and I needed it at a moment's notice. In a way it was worse than any of those other vices, because nobody's going to tell me mac & cheese is wrong. Nobody's going to bash down my door in the middle of the night or set up an intervention where I walk in a room to a pile of boxes of uncooked pasta and a couch full of disappointed faces. It's just me. Me and the cheese.
And yes, just like heroin, this will fill your veins with stuff that makes you feel fantastic while slowly inching you closer to death. I don't recommend actually injecting it, though.
Here's what you need:
- 1 pound penne or mini shell pasta (I used fun little Easter shape ones because I had them, but you want the two I mentioned. They're like little cheese traps for your mouth.)
- ¾ cups heavy cream
- 10 slices pre-sliced, individually wrapped, American cheese (I know. I know. Bear with me.)
- ¼ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- ¼ cup grated sharp cheddar
- 3/4 cup sundried tomatoes (or however much you want)
- 1 Vidalia onion, sliced thin
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Olive oil
- 2 heads broccoli
First, preheat your oven to 400.
Wash and cut the broccoli into individual heads (you know, how broccoli normally looks) and lay it out on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
Put a whole bunch of olive oil, salt, and pepper on the broccoli, toss it around a bit, and stick it in the oven for 20 minutes. Once the timer goes off, give 'em a stir and put them back in for another 20.
While that's happening, melt the butter in a pan over medium heat and throw the onions in there for 10 minutes, while stirring. Add some salt and a tablespoon of olive oil, and keep them in there until the broccoli comes out, stirring occasionally. You can't really over-caramelize onions unless you cook them for maybe ... a week. Just stir if you see anything starting to turn black and you'll be fine.
Cook the pasta, then drain it and set it aside.
Pour the cream into the pot you used for the pasta and heat it over medium-low. As soon as it looks like it's about to boil, add the American cheese and stir in. As shameful as you're going to feel unwrapping those squares of Kraft-brand sadness, there's a reason for it beyond sheer laziness: texture. Even though it's probably mostly chemicals, the fake stuff gives you a nice creaminess that holds all the other ingredients together. Just make sure nobody else sees you using it and you'll be fine.
Stir the rest of the cheese in until melted, then add the pasta, onions, tomatoes and broccoli, and stir together. That's all there is to it.
That, and this week's song from Dinosaur Jr. It's "Let it Ride":
Shame comes in many forms, folks. I'm not going to list them all here, because it would take me a long time and would probably cause this site to get banned from the Internet, but they're out there. Luckily, I can talk about the horrors of processed cheese and dangerously speedy pasta with reckless abandon. Maybe that's what makes it the most dangerous vice of them all.
... Probably not.
I'll see you next time.
(Recipe inspired by this other, less-exciting recipe.)
When Scott Greenberg isn't baking - which is pretty much never - he likes to obsess over music, play Street Fighter and yell at kids to get off of his lawn. You can find more of his recipes at Fresh Beats, Fresh Eats.