Thursday, September 16, 2010

Firehouse Mac 'N' Cheese - 3 Cheese Macaroni and Cheese from Roast Mortem Ala Cleo Coyle

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)...



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...



  1. Dave, I think I've found my new favorite blog! The recipes look fantastic, and I appreciate the pictures. I'm a visual person. I also thank you for your review of Roast Mortum. It's nice to know it's a thriller type book that might get a little gruesome! Thanks for the heads up.

  2. I loved this. The review of the book , the recipes, and your bookshelves, with your collectibles. Thanks for sharing. Have a great weekend. Happy Autumn.

  3. Dave,
    My aspiring chef of a son Connor, made this for supper tonight and it is terrific! I wholeheartedly agree with you also about this series...they are wonderful!!! I'm now enjoying your blog as well.

  4. I've drooled, I've been amazed ... now I best get out there and get the ingredients!

  5. This looks so good. Makes me hungry and it's 11PM here. :-)


  6. Wow I am drooling over here! Mostly at your book collection but at the Mac n Cheese too. ;)

  7. My favorite part of "Chicago" is the Cell Block Tango and my very favorite part is "He ran into my knife. He ran into my knife 10 times!" Sort of like "He shot himself 10 times in the front and 3 times in the back, just to make sure!" I've got to try the pig candy on top of my next batch of mac and cheese.

  8. Great to see your enthusiasm for one of my favorite authors. Cleo's a marvel - not only does she manage to keep creating one solidly readable book after another - in multiple series! - but the woman can COOK. I don't think I've ever tasted anything better than this mac-and-cheese recipe.

    And Dave, you had me at "Mastering The Art of Cul-de-Sac Cuisine".

  9. Now I am hungry. Those look so good. I am a new follower. Love your bookshelves. Signed books are my most cherished books. Thanks for the review and recipes.
    Sue B

  10. Thanks for the recipe. I love a good mac 'n' cheese :-)

  11. My son loves Mac N Cheese. I've got to try this recipe for him.

  12. Thanks for sharing the recipe.... I'll have to follow your blog since many of the recipes look great!

  13. I need that macaroni, NOW! Yes, it is 9 a.m., but that just looks too good! I know my husband, Rudy, would love it; especially with the bacon! Have a great weekend!

  14. OMG - sorry couldn't help it! The photos alone made my mouth water. Can't wait to try it out on the family. I bet it will be the dish I'm to bring from now on! Thanks for the fantastic blog, Dave!

  15. Nothing beats "real" mac n cheese! I'll definitely be making this recipe, and I'd love to get my hands on a copy of that book as well!

  16. Wow...awesome recipe!

    littleone AT shaw DOT ca

  17. Ok..Cell Block Tango made my entire week-end. It may even seep into next week. The recipe has me salivating in a most undignified way. Yummy !!!

  18. OMG that looks amazing! I'll definitely be trying this recipe. :-)

  19. Sometimes my mouth waters at the grocery store so you know how it was when I read about the Macroni and Cheese and then saw the pictures. Your books look delicious too!


  20. Aw, man...You should post in big block letters across the top of this column, DANGER, DO NOT READ IF HUNGRY! Now I've got to see how much pasta and cheese I can round up in the kitchen!

  21. Just the other day I was complaining that I didn't have a good recipe for Mac 'n Cheese. Now I do. Thanks!!!

  22. Well even though I do not yet a copy of Rast Mortem I know with this blog post that I have to make this mac and cheese.

    Love the pics of your library.

  23. LOL at linking Cleo with the Cell Block Tango! What a yummy looking mac and cheese!

  24. Awesome job! I have to admit I wouldn't have linked the lovely ladies at Mystery Lover's Kitchen with the Cell Block Tango..but I love the line about the knife! And the mac & cheese sounds pretty darn good too!

  25. OMG you got to have two recipes from Cleo Coyle? I love it! Looking at the picture of that mac and cheese I am drooling here and want some. Grocery trip tomorrow for some ingredients.

    I love her books BTW.

  26. WOW! I was looking for the recipe to see if I would want to try it but had decided that I would LOVE it just from the pictures! Thanks for sharing Dave I can't wait to try this.

  27. I am glad that you liked reading one of The Coffeehouse Mystery books. I have been sucked into the coffee world by this series. What's not to love with coffee and mac n cheese?

  28. Everything looks so yummy and I must get busy in the kitchen. Hopefully we will get some cooler weather so that I can fire up the oven.

  29. I am loving the addition of queso in this recipe...and the worcestershire sauce! Gotta try it.

  30. Thank you to everyone who left such wonderful comments for Dave right here, as well as his post at OUR KRAZY KICHEN, and my own post at MYSTERY LOVERS' KITCHEN. Now it's time for me to randomly select a winner of my new mystery from all the comments on all three blogs. Stay tuned. I'll post the winning name right here shortly.

    ~ Cleo

  31. This is a very old post, I know... but I found your page doing a search for Cleo Coyle's Penne Mac 'n Cheese. It's my go-to recipe for homemade mac n cheese! And they're even better with the caramelized bacon bits... delicioso! I love this author and this series, plus all the recipes and hints in the books. And I'm totally jealous of your mystery collection!