October is the fourth-annual Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delicious features, chef profiles, unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2010."
Everyone has favorites. Favorite color. Favorite number. Favorite magically delicious macaroni and cheese dish. The latter for me came from the now extinct restaurant, The Social.
Its version of this classic was something dreams are made of. Literally. I would dream about that dish. It was the sort of meal you wanted on your birthdays, anniversaries and Tuesdays ... just because you could, dang it.
When The Social closed in late 2008, it was a shock to my taste buds. How could a place that invented such an amazing plate of yum cease to exist? It seemed to go against the laws of foodie physics. What now? Where would I turn to experience my favorite food? It took some Googling. It took some trial and error. It took a lot of friggin' goat cheese. But it is finally perfect. Just as your taste buds will remember.
The Social's (RIP) Famous Mac and Cheese
About 8 sprigs of chopped fresh rosemary
1 rotisserie chicken (or a couple of chicken breasts, cooked)
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 box macaroni (or any noodle that suits your fancy)
2 cups chicken stock/broth
3 cups heavy whipping cream, divided (feel free to keep your girly figure by using half and half)
4 ounces goat cheese (one package)
Rosemary oil (see recipe)
Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. Salt your water, toss in the noodles and cook until pasta is a bit shy of al dente. Strain pasta and run under cold water. Add a smidge of olive oil and gently mix in to prevent sticking. Set aside.
Now onto the chicken. If you go the poaching route feel free to shake some dried rosemary into your poaching water. Not only will it flavor your chickens, it'll make your house smell ridiculously good. If you go the way of the lazy, a la me, grab your rotisserie chicken and open the container. Easy peasy.
Go to town on your cooked chicken: find your inner animal and rip off all the good meat. Be prepared, it's pretty gross and slimy. Have lots of paper towel on hand and a bottle wine (I find it helps. Sip slowly.) Cut up the meat into little chunks. PGt into a bowl and set aside. You want about a cereal bowl full.
Time to make the secret ingredient!
Fresh rosemary sprigs
1 cup olive oil
Remove rosemary needles from stems and roughly chop 'em. Put in food processor or blender. Add olive oil and blend a few minutes ... just let the sucker go. Pour yourself another glass of wine. Snack on your chicken chunks. After your oil starts to look cloudy and delicious, strain mixture through fine-mesh strainer. Save the solids for an extra flavor boost later.
TO ASSEMBLE: In very large sauté pan, combine cooked noodles with reserved chicken meat, chicken stock, 2 cups cream (or your half and half), crumble in all the goat cheese (it won't seem like enough, but it magically is), rosemary oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
Bring mixture to a gentle boil over high heat, then reduce to simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid begins to thicken and flavors start to come together. This step seems to take forever ... just keep checking it and stirring. Oh, and breathe deep ... it's starting to smell amazing!
While your dish is simmering away, grab some of that left over rosemary from your recently made rosemary oil. The oily bits left in the strainer. Chop it up super fine and toss it in the pan. Not only will it add loads of flavor, the little bits of green brighten up the dish. No one likes beige food! Add to taste, of course.
Once it looks like you remember it from days of ole at The Social, add remaining cream and stir. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.
Transfer to individual serving bowls and scarf it down with a smile.
To say Sara is a woman of many hats would be like saying sour gummy worms are delicious: an epic understatement. Besides blogging, vlogging, tweeting and designing, she is a gal about town. Hopping, skipping and jumping all over this fair city to seek out the latest and greatest.
Since moving to Milwaukee right after high school, Sara's ADD has led her to reside in nearly every ZIP code Milwaukee has to offer. She recently moved from the Third Ward to Shorewood, and though the quieter scene isn't sucking, she vows to prove the burbs' swagger is right up there with the city's.
The Milwaukee area is one of many hats. And Sara's determined to try on each and every one of 'em.