15 February 2007

The Wondra of It All

Anonymous said...

Seriously, how can the some guy who prepares rabbit from scratch use Wondra to make macaroni and cheese?

A Disappointed Reader

So, I've ruffled a feather by recommending Wondra flour as a method for equaling the convenience of Annie's or Kraft mac 'n' cheese while using whole and wholesome ingredients. I wasn't clear, Disappointed Reader, whether the quibble was with Wondra itself or using it for mac 'n' cheese.

If the problem is with Wondra flour, it's not processed with chemical additives. It's just pre-cooked. It's a shortcut, for sure, and not as good as real white sauce or bechamel, but it's no different than using instant oatmeal or cream of wheat. And not that this is the stamp of total legitimacy, but Jacques Pepin uses it liberally in his excellent series, "Fast Food My Way." And if it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me. (He also uses cream of wheat to thicken a soup, which I think is just cool.) If the quibble is with using shortcuts or non-authentic ingredients, I think I made clear in my post about Texas Crispers that I'm not above using processed food as part of a meal if it's convenient and helps to round out, complete, or speed up a wholesome, tasty meal made with whole foods.

If the problem was specifically using it for mac 'n' cheese, I do understand the pain I've caused. Mac 'n' cheese arouses strong feelings. Let me just be clear here that I was not putting "Wondra-mac" forward as my canonical mac 'n' cheese recipe, but as another option, easier for the cooking-challenged than making a white sauce. I'll do a real Macaroni and Cheese recipe someday when I have the time.

If we shadows have offended... and so on.

Just for the record, though, I did make mac 'n' cheese with Wondra last night and it was great. I prepared a Valentine's Day dinner for M. The main dish was Engagement Lamb, breaded using Wondra flour. The side dishes were creamed leeks and spinach, thickened with Wondra flour, and Vermont sage-flavored cheddar mac 'n' cheese, made with.... you guessed it!

Everything was good. I used bread crumbs from my home-baked, no-knead Lahey bread to bread the lamb, and I gotta say it was just a little disappointing. The breading just wasn't as good. I'm going to stick to the original recipe of ground rusks, semolina and butter.

The mac 'n' cheese was great. I made it with Barilla rotini, milk, butter, Wondra, salt & pepper, Dijon mustard, and a good amount of finely shredded sage-flavored cheddar from the Grafton Village Cheese Company in Vermont. I wouldn't have made it this way--indeed, I wouldn't have considered mac 'n' cheese at all--except for the recent post about Annie's, and the need to test out what I'd already put forward. The pasta soaked up all the sauce. It looked pretty much bare, but had a cheddary, sage-spiked richness to it. Was it Macaroni and Cheese? No, not really. If an Italian friend was visiting the country and wanted a representation of American macaroni and cheese, I'd definitely make a real cheese sauce. But, was it a good side dish? Absolutely.

I want to thank you, Disappointed Reader, for keeping me honest. In fact, getting this comment this morning has really made me look at my attitudes toward food and cooking and how I've communicated them. Maybe I haven't been clear enough as to what I'm about. I thought I could get away with just putting up the best and easiest of what I make and eat. There's a lot of stuff I make that doesn't make the blog. I guess I thought I could get away with not putting up a jeremiad, but I guess I was wrong.

Next: Tirade.

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