Thursday, September 18, 2014

5-Minute Macaroni and Cheese with Tomatoes and a Panko Herb crust (Pressure Cooker Style)

Before I talk about this creamy, dreamy homemade Macaroni and Cheese that I made last night, I want to say that I am deeply touched, and encouraged, by all the supportive comments I received on my "Spaghetti Pie" post, and on my Facebook Fan Page. Thank you, thank you, thank you!  I shared some health issues I've been dealing with, and that I'm going to be a bit scarce. I'm still struggling with fatigue, but I'm starting to feel better.  Your encouragement really lifted my spirits and I'm starting to think a lot more about getting back into the kitchen.
So, with a slow resurgence of energy, I am wanting to make easy (but delicious) dinners for my wonderful husband, who is always appreciative of whatever I make. I do enjoy sharing a meal together, and talking about our day at work.

A while ago, I had bookmarked this recipe from one of my most used books on pressure cooking: "Pressure Cooking Perfection".  When my son was a little boy, he'd beg me to bring home those "Blue Boxes" of mac 'n cheese.  Now that he's all grown, he doesn't eat those any longer (thank goodness).  So, I don't make Mac 'N Cheese often. But this recipe got my attention because it looked so easy, and it sounded really good. I liked their variation of adding tomatoes, so I set my mind to making this for dinner.
NOTE: If you don't own a pressure cooker, please know you can still make this recipe on a stove top. It'll just take a bit more time, but it's worth it.  

I've written several recipe posts on pressure cooking, and I hope that I can convince more folks that there is nothing to fear about pressure cookers.  I wish I could hold your hand, and show you how easy it is to plug in an electric pressure cooker.  This macaroni and cheese recipe is the perfect "starter" way to personally learn how fool-proof pressure cooking is.

The first thing you do is measure out 8 ounces (two cups) of macaroni, and 2 cups of water.  There's no pot of salted water to bring to a cooked pasta to drain. No-siree!

I  added a can of drained petite diced tomatoes, with the uncooked pasta and water.  For seasoning, I added some dry mustard and a pinch of cayenne...gave it stir, locked on the lid to my electric pressure cooker and set the timer for 5 minutes at medium-low heat.  When the pressure cooker beeped, I simply pressed the "quick release" button and listen to the hiss of steam being released.  It's not the least bit scarey, believe me!   I was so amazed that the macaroni was perfectly cooked until "al dente".

Next, I poured in a 12 ounce can of evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed milk), and turned on the cook/brown cycle of my electric pressure cooker.  This quickly brought the pasta and cream to a gentle boil, for about 3 minutes.

The pasta and cream has thickened fairly well, so it's time to turn off the heat (simply unplug the pressure cooker)...

...then added a blend of four ounces each Sharp Cheddar and Monterey Jack Cheese, by the handfuls-- stirring the mixture, well, each time.

The total time to make this took about five minutes of prep (shredding the cheese with my food processor, for speed) and stirring in the evaporated milk and cheese.  This was nice and creamy!

Once I spooned the Mac 'N Cheese into serving dishes, the cheese began to thicken, and I was really pleased with the flavor.  But, I love to add a crunchy topping to my cheesy casseroles-- like my delicious Cheesy Cauliflower Bake with Crunchy Panko Crumbs.  So, while the pasta was pressure cooking, I melted 1/2 stick of unsalted butter and and then added about one cup of panko crumbs and fresh thyme.

Each serving dish got a nice coating of panko crumbs and then were placed under the preheated broiler.

Two minutes later, I pulled the Mac 'N Cheese from the broiler and took a nice big spoonful to taste... and I almost burned my tongue for life!  Wow, that gets hot!

TASTING NOTES:  The ease of the recipe is off the charts simple!  With a more traditional Mac 'N Cheese, one usually has the boil the pasta, build the sauce (usually with a "roux" of flour and milk), combining everything and then baking it.  Using the pressure cooker, this was one of the quickest comfort food dinners I've ever made.  My husband thought it seemed odd to add tomatoes, but I reminded him grilled cheese sandwiches go great with tomato soup.  I liked the flavor of tomatoes a lot. I also loved the crunch of panko on top.  I can think of so many variations-- such as using Rotel for a more Southwestern twist. Or using Pepper Jack for more spice (and heat).  There's even a variation of adding Ham and Peas or adding Kielbasa and whole grain Dijon Mustard. Or, just leave the Mac 'N Cheese a more traditional plain and your family will eat it up.  This is so much better than that boxed stuff with the cheese powder.

As for pressure cooking, I can't say it often enough about how great it is. Do not be afraid!  Many people love their stove top pressure cooker.  Good for them!  Personally, when I switched from a stove top model, to an electric model, I found that pressure cooking became even simpler.  I've been asked what model I recommend.  The model that I've owned is about 15 years old, and is still going strong. Unfortunately, it is no longer made. So, if mine should break I would buy this pressure cooker.

I like that both of these pressure cookers have a non-stick, removable pot.  This makes cleanup so much easier.  I have never had to scrub off  stuck food... because food just doesn't stick!

One more advantage to pressure cooking is that on a hot day (like last night, when I made this), the pressure cooker doesn't heat up the kitchen.  Sure, I turned on the broiler, but it was only for a few minutes.  I do hope that you give pressure cooking a try.  You will love it, and become as hooked on finding ways to cook recipe in 1/4 of the time it would take on a stove or in the oven.  With Winter coming (I sound like "Game of Thrones), I can make stews and soups in 20 minutes. Seriously!

27 more days until surgery. I hope to get in a few more recipes before I disappear for a while.


Here's the recipe card:

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Anonymous said...

Hi Debby,
Just this morning saw your two most posts. So sorry to hear about the health problems, especially all apparently coming at the same time. Then today's note that you are mending, if slowly. Thoughts and prayers are with you. Once the adjustments are made you'll feel a LOT better. Been there and yes, it does take a little time.)
Now, about FOOD! I'm not sure that the 'getti pie would sell well in my house, but I might try it when I'm abandoned for a few days. The Mac&Cheese (PC Edition) looks like a winner and - don't you it; I've been looking for a new variation on the subject. I'm amused to see the evaporated milk as a major component. I don't think I've ever had Mac&Cheese made without it - a t home. Trivia: from the '20s through the early 60s, BOTH of my long-late grandfathers worked in marketing for *That* company. Never could drink the stuff, but all of us learned to cook/bake with it from the 50s on. Even though it is too hot to use the broiler, I'm going to make a batch this evening. Sadly (ha-ha!) my PCs are ancient rattle-tops and they work just fine. I love your many and varied ideas and those pix are world-class. Toward a speedy recovery... you write and we shall cook and eat with pleasure.

Debby Foodiewife said...

Craig, you always make me smile. Maybe it's because you share the same name as my beloved husband?! I learned to pressure cook on a Presto rattle trap with that noisy regular that hissed and rattled back and forth. My new electric pressure cooker (if you want to call 15 years new) is like cooking with a Ferrari. Right now, I have a pork tenderloin in the PC with some apples and cranberries. I hope you enjoy your mac 'n cheese!

Anonymous said...

Hi Debby,
Thanks for the note.
I DID Make you Mac&cheese last evening, 'almost' exactly as you suggested. Hmm? Perfection? It is a grand improvement over my former standard and oh, so much easier.
Be well and best wishes to my name-sake as well as your 'always hungry' son. -Craig

JanetFCTC said...

I have been wanting a pressure cooker for ages, but it's not been in the budget. Maybe this delicious looking post will inspire me to save for one! Yummy!

Bill said...

You're inspiring me to drag out my pressure cooker, Debby! I love how easy this recipe is and the crunchy topping...YUM!! Great post!