This is one of those posts where I really wish I could give you all one of those little sample tastes in a thimble cup you get at a grocery store. Once you go "real" Mac 'n' Cheese, you'll never go blue.
Double layers of cheese, a thick, rich, creamy 3-cheese sauce oozing throughout the dish, topped by a layer of cheese, cheese and yet another cheese on the top. "The larger Penni Pasta allows this chewy, cheesy casserole to linger on your taste buds that much longer. This ones a joy to eat". - Cleo Coyle author and recipe genius, ROAST MORTEM.
Yes, if you've been paying attention, yet another of the prolific six merry murderesses of the MYSTERY LOVERS' KITCHEN has written a new book!
At this point, you should hit the play button on the youTube clip below... I always like to have the soundtrack on in the background when I write up anything to do with the ladies of the mystery kitchen...
I have never met the ladies personally, but I envision a book tour with all 6 of them singing and dancing to the Cell Block Tango (bet it would be their most successful book signing event ever). Like notches on my kitchenAid, this is the third book from the ladies I have read and enjoyed. The completest in me wants to hit on (literary speaking) all 6. Stay tuned.
As an aside, whenever I put the Cell Block tango song together with the murderesses from the MYSTERY LOVERS' KITCHEN, I always picture Cleo in a bad cop movie with the swinging single bare light bulb above her head as she explains to the cop that "He ran into my knife 10 times".
But I digress.
If you have never been, the MYSTERY LOVERS' KITCHEN is a blog with alternating cozy mystery writers (all with book series centered around different foods) post a recipe and allow us to glimpse in on the life of a writer. A fun site, worth a look (actually 6 looks, as they alternate days, with a guest author on Sundays).
Cleo Coyle's specialty is coffee and coffee shop type foods. ROAST MORTEM is the 9th in her "Coffeeshop Mystery series. While it is 9th in the series, it is very accessible for new readers. I was able to find the first book in the series a few days ago, but have not read any of the books in between. While there are changes in the lives of the coffee shop folks, nothing that you have to know in order to enjoy the latest book.
The series, set in a NYC Coffee House, is among the best I have ever read. Roast Mortem is an homage to NYC Firefighters. The book starts out with a bang when cafes around town are being torched and firemen are being killed. Cleo walks the fine line between gruesome and disturbing; and fast paced and action packed perfectly. While this book will be pigeon holed as a cozy, in fact, it holds it's own as a Lawrence Block style thriller. I totally enjoyed the book. Lovers of New York, Coffee, cozy comfy escapist coffee shops and feisty heroines will love the series and this book in particular.
Like all of the books in the series, the recipes for the food that fits into the blot are included. Now, I have to walk a fine line here, because I know that the other murderesses are going to be reading this, but Cleo's recipes and instructions are hands down the best I have ever seen in a cozy (guess I stepped over that line). Her attention to detail, as well as the little "extras", hints that will make your efforts a success imply that she really wants to have her recipes made.
let me give you an example... In the recipe I am going to give in a minute, she gives two hints that will make your cream sauce not separate, and a hint to prevent the sauce from clumping at the bottom instead of clinging to the pasta. These hints could have been either left out, or just be included as instructions. By drawing attention to the "hints", she emphasizes the potential roadblocks to a success. Without the benefit of a photo of a dish, we are dependent on the instructions. Personally, I need and value all the hints I can get.
And this is a winner! Rich, thick, creamy, chewy and loaded with the flavors you would expect in a three-cheese dish. I knew I wanted to make this dish when I saw the ingredient list. Worcestershire sauce is a wonderful ingredient to add to a cheese sauce. Brings out the flavors that excite the buds. I LOVED every part of this recipe...
So, with thanks to Cleo who gave me permission to reprint her recipe, here's what I did (and this is one of those rare times I did not change a thing)...
TRIPLE-THREAT FIREHOUSE PENNE
MAC 'n' CHEESE
1 pound dry Penne Macaroni
2 cups grated sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 cup grated Monterey Jack Cheese
1 cup Queso Blanco Cheese
5 1/3 TBS Butter
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose Flour
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
2 cups Whole Milk
Step 1 - Cook the Penne Pasta: Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 3 quart baking dish with cooking spray (OK, I changed a bit, as I used individual serving dishes, but the same concept). Cook the pasta al dente, still chewy, not soft yet. Do not over cook. I cook mine about 8 minutes, turn off the heat and let it soak while the water cools down for about 5 more minutes. Works every time. Drain the penne , removing all water and transfer to the baking dish.
Step 2 - Make the Cheese Sauce: Mix the 3 grated cheese together in a large bowl and set aside. Melt the butter over a low heat in a large saucepan. When the butter is completely melted, remove from the heat. And here, Cleo inserts one of her should be universal in these type of books hints - (Note: to prevent the cheese sauce from breaking on you, make absolutely sure you remove the pan from the heat before adding the next ingredients!). Stir in the salt, pepper, flour and Worcestershire sauce until smooth. Gradually add in the milk. Now return the pan to the heat and simmer until thickened, Add in HALF the cheese a little at a time (only half, reserve the other half for the next step), stirring with each addition.
Step 3 - Assemble and Bake: After the cheese sauce is warm and well blended, pour it over the macaroni. (NOTE: (her second) Do not mix in the sauce, just pour on top. The sauce will slowly ooze down during cooking. If you mix it in at this stage, too much of the sauce will end up at the bottom of the dish instead of throughout). Cover with the remaining cheese. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
Cleo also gives a recipe for Caramelized Bacon Bits that I made as well to use as a topping. Sweet Pig candy!!! What a great addition, but you will need to follow this link to OUR KRAZY KITCHEN for that recipe. Today is my day to do my weekly posting and I am saving this gem of a recipe for their site. Come along, it is worth the read, the pig candy is TERRIFIC!
Oh, and not only did I make caramelized bacon, but I also wanted to see what Caramelized Pulled Pork would taste like...
Using Cleo's directions... it is candy hog heaven!
And here's where I do that legal thing... Cleo was nice enough to send me a FREE (yes free... bwahahahaha free I tell ya) signed copy of the book, as well as gave me permission to reprint her recipe. No promises of a positive review were made. I loved the book, and am happy to tell the world!
As an aside... Here's 2/5thss of my library... All mysteries and all are signed by the authors...
My enjoyment of mysteries is heartfelt, and my affection for authors has been a hobby.
Cleo's book will take a well deserved place of honor between Patricia Cornwell and Michael Crichton. Thanks Cleo, could not ask for a better gift.
Here's the other 2/5ths... (not counting the unsigned books in a different area of the house... upon my death, imagine the burden to my non-reading children, some days that thought delights me).
A library and a collection start with a single book (my first signed book was bought more than 40 years ago). You can do much worse by starting with this one...