macaroni and cheese, barley lentil stew

I’m not going to count last night’s dinner as part of my 40 for 40, as both things are riffs on recipes I’ve made several times before.  Lolo came over, needing to dispose of a lot of heavy cream and cheese, and I was immediately reminded of Sauveur’s Southern-Style macaroni and cheese, mostly because when my fridge crapped out (the first time), I needed a good way to use up a lot of the dairy in a hurry.  This recipe hits on all the big ones- heavy cream, half and half, sour cream, cheese, and eggs added for good measure.  It is the macaroni and cheese I remember from foil pans in church basements, the kind of food that people bring over after a funeral.

It is decidedly different from my (and my mother’s version) – al dente noodles swimming in a luxuriously creamy custard, dotted with pockets of cheese.  Lactards (I use the term with endearment!) in the audience, avert your eyes!  My recipe is more of a traditional casserole, denser, peppery, and despite copious amounts of butter, whole milk (really, is there any other kind?) and cheese, healthier than the Sauveur version.  That version is especially adaptable last night I used smoked Gruyère and aged cheddar (that’s what Lolo provided), and added milk to the half and half, as I only had about a third of the required amount.  And, because I am me, I forgot the flour.  Oops.

The second recipe was a barley and lentil stew.  Late one night last week, I decided to get rid of all the sundry bags in my cabinet and organize things in mason jars- lentils, oats, beans…and barley, leftover from a fourth of July party two years ago.  I’ve recently traded my rolled oats for steel-cut oats, and have been exploring the bulk bins at my store with a little more interest.  I always have lentils around, as they cook faster than beans, and can be salad or stew or dal or anything, really.  I paired this with pork meatballs from the kitchn, and the meatballs contributed something that led Lolo to remark “the ginger in this is great!”

What she doesn’t know is that it’s not ginger.  I have a bad habit of getting a beer, climbing the stairs to my bedroom, and immediately falling asleep before I’ve had more than a few sips of beer.  I am loathe to throw it away, so stale beer usually makes it into whatever I cook later in the week- tonight, that meant lentils and barley with Abita Jockamo IPA.

Lentil Stew with Pork Meatballs

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 bottle of beer (I used Abita Jockamo IPA, but use whatever you have on hand)
3/4 cup barley
3/4 cup green lentils
3/4 cup red lentils
1 large or 2 small bay leaves
1 teaspoon savory
1 teaspoon majoram
1/2 teaspoon ground rosemary
1/4 teaspoon sage
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon worchestshire sauce
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
2-3 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon good balsamic vinegar

Pork meatballs, cooked

Place olive oil in a 3 quart Dutch oven (this is mine) or saucepan.  Heat on high.  Once the oil is hot and becomes fragrant, add onions.  Cook for 3 minutes, on high, until onions just begin to brown.  Add carrots, barley and lentils and cook for another minute.

Add garlic, and beer, and allow beer to almost cook off completely.  Add spices, worchesshire sauce and water/stock.  Simmer on medium or medium low heat until grains are cooked thorugh (approximately 30-45 mintes).  You might need to add more liquid, depending on your lentils and barley.  Add in meatballs and heat through (10 minutes).  Just before serving, remove from heat (or turn off flame) and stir in balsamic vinegar- be sure to use decent aged vinegar (Trader Joe’s is a good source)

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