Comfort Food is the Most Important Food Group

A perfect loaf of challah. What's a few carbs among friends?
A perfect loaf of challah. What’s a few carbs among friends?

I spend a lot of time thinking about ways to eat healthy, avoid carbs and lose weight, and let me tell you: it is exhausting. Sometimes a big bowl of comfort food, like mac and cheese is just what a person needs. As it turns out, it is not that hard to make. 

We also had a little wine...
We also had a little wine…

This weekend I made Ina Garten’s truffle mac and cheese. (You didn’t think I was talking about that orange stuff in a box, did you?) This dish has mushrooms, truffle oil and two kinds of cheese all baked into one giant, gooey bowl of yumminess. Shockingly, there was some extra, so I have enjoyed the leftovers several times.

Although I do like to experiment, there have been several cooking episodes in the past few weeks that have me leaping far outside my comfort zone. The first was challah. I no longer fear the yeast, and in fact, have made the recipe again, improving upon it a bit. This time it was perfect, with just the right amount of sugar and salt, it was fluffy, egg-y and addicting. (It was also good the next day with a pat of butter.)

The pastry cream was divine. It was all so good, I neglected to photograph the mac and cheese. Next time.

This time, I was making pastry cream (for fruit tarts) and mac and cheese. Both require a lot of whisking, and scalding milk. I have had limited success in the past making a roux, and I was certain if I screwed this up I could still manage to make pasta and cheese taste good, so I was not too concerned. I have taken one for the team, learned a few things from this experiment, so feel free to use my shortcuts. I melted the butter, added the flour and whisked. It should all come together in one big clump. I know it seems wrong – and no recipe will ever tell you that your flour/butter situation will be a big clumpy mess – but it is what it is. Also, the milk doesn’t actually have to be piping hot. Warm milk will do. Basically, it just shouldn’t be cold. Then whisk the crap out of it until it is smooth, and gets thick and creamy.

Pro tip: you may want to do some arm workouts for several days before attempting a mac and cheese, or pastry cream, as there is a lot of whisking involved. Don’t hurt yourself.

While I could subsist on pasta, bread and cheese for all eternity, it seems that is not a particularly good way to go if I have any hopes of maintaining a decent weight (or, gasp, losing a few pounds). But that should not stop any of us from enjoying the things we love. In my case, that may mean shoving leftover challah in my mouth on the way out the door to play tennis. After all, the exercise counteracts the carbs, right?