I make: Bacon and Chicken Mac n’ Cheese

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Can you believe this is May?????

We usually pack up our snowboards and gear in April, but this year, the stars aligned (MVP12 season pass + cheap condo) and we spent this past weekend in Mammoth with a couple of friends.

Henry and I wanted to shop for groceries before we left for Mammoth so we had to make a game time decision on what to make for dinner (breakfast is so much more simple!). Our friends suggested pasta and the first thing that popped into my head was spaghetti bolognese. I totally would have went with that if I hadn’t made it for lunch earlier in the week; my stomach just can’t handle that much acidity 😦 So, we went with mac n’ cheese instead. You can’t go wrong with mac n’ cheese, am I right??

(yields 4 servings)
Ingredients:
8 oz uncooked Cavatappi (do NOT substitute elbow macaroni!!!!)
3 slices maple bacon
8 oz boneless, skinless chicken thighs – cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 can of cream of mushroom soup
1 cup shredded four-cheese Italian blend
1 cup shredded Parmesan
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Cooking spray
1 cup shredded Colby-Jack cheese

Directions:
1. Cook pasta in large pot; drain.
2. While pasta cooks, cut bacon into small pieces and cook in large non-stick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan and place onto paper towel covered plate. Reserve about half of bacon drippings.
3. Increase heat to medium-high. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to bacon drippings and cook until browned and done (about 5-6 minutes).
4. In medium size bowl, combine milk and cream of mushroom soup. Set aside.
5. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook for 2 minutes.
6. Gradually add milk/soup mixture and stir with whisk. Bring to a boil and cook until thick. Turn heat down to low and let sit for a few minutes.
7. Add Italian cheese blend and Parmesan cheese, onion powder, garlic powder and salt. Stir until cheese is melted.
8. Preheat boiler.
9. Coat baking dish with cooking spray. Pour in the pasta, chicken, bacon and cheese sauce. Mix together so that the sauce is well incorporated. Sprinkle evenly Colby-Jack.
10. Broil for 3 minutes or until the Colby-Jack cheese is melted.

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DEVOURED

We made two containers full and that was all that was left. Proof that you can never go wrong with mac n’ cheese… especially when bacon is involved.

I’ve also made this recipe with chicken breast and it tasted just as good. If you want a more high-end mac n’ cheese, substitute the Italian cheese blend with a combination of smoked Fontina and smoked Gouda – they’ll definitely take the mac n’ cheese to another level of deliciousness!!!!

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Official beauty shot

Bon appetit!

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Great Escape

A weekend in Mammoth is never enough. It’s always depressing when we have to pack up and go home. I wish I won the lottery so I could stay up here for the whole winter!

The conditions were spring-like this weekend: hard-packed surfaces in the early mornings that turned into slushiness in the afternoon. This was due to temperatures reaching 40-50 degrees during the day (which is super HOT!) and cooling down to 20s at night for the past week or so. Despite dying from the heat while waiting in the lift lines, I was more than pleased with the beautiful clear blue skies and low winds. You win some, you lose some, right?

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Us at the top with Henry’s friends that we met up

We stayed in the Bradley building of Summit Condominums (#246), which is about a 5 minute walk from Eagle Lodge. We found a pretty good deal and booked our 1 bedroom/1 bath condo through 101 Great Escapes. While this was definitely a better experience than the one I had two weeks ago, there were still a few issues with the condo. Being on the 2nd floor, we had to walk up three flights of stairs from the underground parking garage to get to our condo. When you’re exhausted from a full day of boarding and fueled by only a few hours of sleep (or about half an hour in Henry’s case), the last thing you want to do is climb stairs. It would have been nice if the website stated which floor the condo was located, though I’m not sure how much this would have swayed my decision at time of booking since this was the cheapest and best looking condo we found. Best looking was determined by the pictures provided and as I first walked through the condo, I realized that the pictures on the website made the condo look nicer than it really was. I didn’t mind this too much at first because everything seemed clean, but the kitchen was HORRIBLE! All the dishes/utensils/cookware were dirty, and by dirty I mean I found food particles and grease stains. I didn’t go on vacation to clean someone else’s mess!

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Despite the dirty kitchen, we still cooked our meals as usual. I used two recipes from the Cooking Light magazine that I recently bought. Both recipes happened to have bacon; bacon makes everything better, doesn’t it? I did change the recipes slightly, such as using 2% milk instead of non fat and adding more cheese, so I guess I wasn’t really “cooking light”. But hey, there’s nothing wrong with extra cheese. 🙂

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Spicy shrimp and grits

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Bacon, ranch and chicken mac and cheese

I eat: Cube Marketplace

For my 4th dineLA experience, I opted for lunch since we had just spent $$$$ on what will surely be one of the most memorable meals of 2010: Petrossian.

Since Cube was fresh in my mind after reading about it recently, I looked up their menu for dineLA and quickly began to salivate. Braised maple bacon and truffle burger? SOLD! We made reservations for a rainy Friday afternoon, which in retrospect, was a poor decision on my part since traffic is RIDICULOUS in all directions on Fridays + it was raining. We arrived at noon, 30 mins late for our reservation (we called to let them know), and the place was practically empty at that time. People began trickling in after we were seated and by the time we left, there weren’t any tables available.

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I knew what I wanted to order off of the dineLA menu, but as I was browsing through the regular menu, I saw mac and cheese and I just couldn’t resist. What can I say… I’m such a sucker for mac and cheese! After we placed our order, the chef sent out an amuse bouche of adelegger cheese, from Germany. Bold with a similar nutty flavor like parmigiano-reggiano. Our first courses were braised maple bacon (of course!) and spicy tuscan bean and sausage soup. The bacon (pork belly) was cooked properly and the celery root puree provided a nice balance to the sweetness of the maple. The soup took on all the great flavors of the sausage and the greens made me feel like I was actually eating, (gasp), healthy. The soup was so comforting, perfect for a rainy day. Our appetizers made us really excited for the rest of the meal.

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For our entrees, we ordered the truffle burger and the lamb panini. When the waiter took our order, he asked if we wanted blue cheese on our burger. He didn’t give us an alternative and I figured why not just try the burger as it was originally prepared: with blue cheese. I’m not the biggest fan of blue cheese since it is so strong, but I can tolerate it. When I took my first bite, I immediately regretted my decision. The blue cheese totally overpowered the entire burger; all I could taste was blue cheese. I found myself trying to scrape off the blue cheese in attempt to save the burger. I don’t feel like I can give an accurate review of the burger since I was so overwhelmed by the blue cheese. The lamb panini was .. ok. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. It tasted like really dry roast beef. In fact, it was so dry, the au jus didn’t even help moisten it much.

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My first impression of the mac & cheese was that it looked like school cafeteria mac and cheese (except for the garlic on top). It didn’t taste much better either. Plain, boring and seriously lacking in flavor. Although, I have to say, the balsamic was a nice touch. This was not worth $7.

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Our desserts were more enjoyable. We had the seasonal fruit cobbler duo (cherry and rhubarb) and pots de creme duo (butterscotch and valhrona chocolate). The cobblers were too sweet for my taste, although the ice cream did help cut the sweetness somewhat. I absolutely LOVED the butterscotch creme, but the chocolate creme was extremely bitter; it must have been >70% cacao.

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Overall, I was disappointed. I can see how others would like this restaurant, but the food at Cube Marketplace just didn’t mesh well with my tastes/preferences.

Verdict: 2.5/5
Cube Marketplace
615 North La Brea Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036

I eat: Petrossian

Not being able to secure a reservation at The Bazaar during dineLA, I thought I was settling by going to Petrossian instead. Now, I think it was meant to be. Petrossian is a gourmet food boutique and restaurant located in West Hollywood, specializing in caviar. It first appeared on my radar when I heard about their infamous black truffle mac and cheese. Yes, I have a love affair with mac and cheese. Even though the mac and cheese wasn’t on their dineLA dinner menu, I decided to give Petrossian a try away .. with every intention of ordering the mac and cheese on the side.

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While waiting for the waiter to take our order, I browsed through the regular menu and “caviar pizza” caught my eye. That’s not something you can pass up, right? Right. So we ordered the caviar pizza AND mac and cheese IN ADDITION to the 3 course Dine-LA meal. I think the waiter thought we were crazy, or at least, fat asses.

Executive Chef Ben Bailly, who is very good looking by the way, sent out the classic cold borscht soup as amuse bouche. It was so refreshing and delicious!

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The mac and cheese and caviar pizza were brought out first and these two items totally blew the rest of the meal out of the water; everything else just paled in comparison. It was, HANDS DOWN, the best mac and cheese I’ve ever eaten! Rich and creamy, real truffle shavings, smokey bacon flavor – what more can you ask for from a mac and cheese? And the caviar pizza, wow. The creme fraiche as the pizza “sauce” was simply amazing and tied all the ingredients (chives, capers, red onions, caviar) together beautifully.

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With our bellies already filled with mac and cheese and caviar pizza, we began the Dine-LA meal. Our first courses were the shrimp “papillote” and the tsar cut salmon sampler. The shrimp “papillote” had easily recognizable flavors – the chili/ginger sauce was the sweet thai chili sauce you can find at most grocery stores (in asian/international section). The shrimp were perfectly tender, due to being cooked “en papillote” with wonton wrappers. I found it very surprising that I didn’t like the salmon sampler, since I love salmon in all forms (smoked, cured, baked, broiled, fried).

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For entrees, we had the halibut brandade and the braised pork belly (of course!). Brandade is traditionally a puree consisting of salt cod, olive oil, and milk/cream, and Chef Bailly’s twist with halibut was wonderful! I think the substitution of halibut was a great choice since cod and halibut are both texturally firm and dense. Since the halibut is a mild flavor fish, the addition of piquillo peppers really stood out in a good way. The only thing I didn’t like was the black olive oil surrounding the brandade. I couldn’t figure out what it was at first. It sort of tasted a little bit like rust with a hint of fruitiness in the back end. YUCK! As for the pork belly, it was a little too overcooked. It did, however, have great flavor.

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The desserts were both enjoyable. The pistachios used in the Sicilian pistachio creme brulee are probably Bronte pistachios from Sicily, which would explain the vague floral note. The vanilla panna cotta was creamy and delicious; it was basically a high end yogurt parfait.

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My meal at Petrossian was the best Dine-LA experience I’ve had so far. I would have rated the meal highly even if I hadn’t ordered the mac and cheese and caviar pizza. I can’t wait to come back and try the other dishes on the menu. I have my eyes set on the foie gras salad 🙂

Verdict: 4/5
Petrossian Restaurant & Boutique
321 North Robertson Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90048