The Jew And The Carrot

Shabbat Meals: Grown-Up Macaroni and Cheese

By Emily Shire

  • Print
  • Share Share

Last week, I impulsively decided to host my first Shabbat diner. Like buying a far too expensive pair of black patent leather pumps, I had hastily decided to embark on this meal on a gutsy whim with little foresight into the physical and emotional ramifications. One cab ride after being defeated by four bags of Trader Joes groceries, four (or more) glasses of wine, and several dishwasher loads later, I am here to tell my tale.

Shabbat dinners in my twenties have been the perfect way to catch up with friends while providing an excuse to go through multiple bottles of wines. More intimate than a house party and with far better food, these meals have produced the funniest and richest conversations about jobs, families, relationships — and, most importantly, which character on Girls we each most resemble (I’m a cross between Hannah’s lack of professional commitment and Shoshanna’s innocent neuroticism, in case you were wondering).

I relish these evenings, so when I moved into my first apartment, hosting a Shabbat dinner was one of my first goals. But the limited space and number of chairs (five) in my humble abode, as well as my fear of cooking stymied my Shabbat meal plans. I love reading food blogs, watching cooking shows, and playing sous-chefs to my friends in the kitchen. But, I have an intense, panic attack-inducing fear that if I cook on my own for others, my food will be so bad, they will starve to death before my very eyes.

However, powered by the enthusiasm for the Ina Garten cookbook I had received for Hanukkah, I decided it was time to slip on my big girl pants and host my first Shabbat dinner. I nervously invited two of my close friends and their boyfriends to come to my house Friday night as I spent my last day of work before vacation copying and pasting dozens of recipes into an email, expecting to spend the next two days cooking non-stop to create a twelve-course meal. Somewhere in my head even then, I knew I was being too ambitious. Like Icarus flying too close to the sun, my extravagant plans for chicken, meatballs, three side dishes, and pear and chocolate scones would crash and burn.

And not-so-slowly but surely they did. Keeping kosher, I realized cooking meat wasn’t a feasible option in my all-dairy kitchen unless I wanted to spend a good chunk of my paycheck on new pots and pans. After getting a little too drunk at an office goodbye party, the day I was supposed to go food shopping was spent hung-over in bed. And after becoming emotionally belligerent from said party, some drunken phone calls and texts almost ended my relationship with the person who had promised to help me cook and bring the wine. So, a day before hosting my first Shabbat, the meal was in shambles; it was time to regroup.

On Friday morning, I decided the meal would be dairy. I hurriedly shopped at Trader Joes, even splurging on a cab ride to transport all of the groceries (this caused me an immense amount of guilt — if I can’t afford JDate, then how can I justify not taking the subway?).

I was stressed and unsure of how I’d get all the cooking and setting up done, so instead of trying something totally new, I am little embarrassed to admit I decided to go for macaroni and cheese. For me, it’s a double comfort food: not only is it soothingly delicious, but it’s one of the few recipes I know how to cook well.

I don’t make this out of the box. It’s from scratch, I use a whisk and broil, and I even make a roux. That’s right: a mother-flipping roux. The dish turns out more like a casserole with a slightly spicy sauce and buttery Panko breadcrumb topping that works perfectly with the melted shredded cheese. Never have I felt so grown-up and culinary as when I am making the homemade cheese sauce.

There are those moments where you need a little comfortable familiarity before you can embark on a new adventure, culinary or otherwise, and that’s exactly what making that macaroni and cheese did for me. Did I feel a little guilty relying on an oldie-but-a-goodie for my first Shabbat? Sure, but with less than an hour until my guests arrived and the realization one of us was going to need to sit on a bar stool and tower over the table, it was nice to have a dish in the oven I could rely.

Once my guests stepped in, the stress vanished. We poured wine, did a hodge-podge Kiddush, and took seconds and thirds of the macaroni and cheese-and everything else they brought, like avocado salad, hash browns, and teriyaki salmon. We had rich, intellectual discussions about the merits of Scoutmob over Groupon and how adorable James Deen and Joanna Angel are as a porn couple. It was a great evening, and although the food was delicious, I know it had nothing to do with why the night was a hit (or, at least, not a disaster). The people, the conversation, and the laughter were good enough that the food really didn’t matter.

When the guests had left and I was doing a rather time-intensive clean up for such a small apartment, the macaroni and cheese once again served as a source of comfort. At 1:30 in the morning. I loaded my dishwasher and wiped down countertops. I was standing and eating macaroni and cheese in my pajamas, but I did feel a little bit more grown-up.

(Grown-up) Macaroni and Cheese

Reprinted with permission from “The Gourmet Cookbook”


¼ stick (two tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1 cup coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar (about 4 ounces)

For cheese and macaroni sauce

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 ¾ cups whole milk
¾ cups heavy cream
4 cups coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar (about 1 pound)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¾ pound elbow macaroni

Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 3-quart shallow baking dish.

Make the topping: Stir together butter, panko, and cheese in a bowl until well combined.

Make the sauce: Melt butter in a 5-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat. Whisk in flour and red pepper flakes and cook, whisking, for 3 minutes to make a roux. Whisk in milk in a slow stream, then bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly. Simmer, whisking occasionally, for 3 minutes. Stir in cream, Cheddar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Remove pot from heat and cover surface of sauce with wax paper to prevent a skin from forming.

Cook the macaroni and assemble the dish: Cook macaroni in a 6-quart pot of boiling salted water (1 tablespoon salt per every 4 quarts of water) until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water and drain macaroni.

Stir together macaroni, reserved cooking water, and sauce in a large bowl, the transfer to baking dish (mixture will be loose).

Sprinkle topping evenly over macaroni. Bake until top is golden and bubbling, 25 to 35 minutes.

Cook’s Note: The topping can be made up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated, covered.

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Dairy Shabbat Recipes, Macaroni and Cheese, Shabbat Recipes, Shabbat Meals

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love.
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.