Growing up, when mom and dad would get dressed up on a Friday night, they’d leave us behind with a babysitter, a box of fusilli and a jar of Prego. I couldn’t have been happier because, as most of you know by now, pasta is my favorite food (next to dessert). Chicken or the egg-wise, it is possible that it is my favorite food because I grew up eating it; if mom had left us behind with a can of Spam and a pair of pliers, maybe I’d be gorging on canned meat to pep myself up. As it stands, though, when I’m down in the dumps, nothing puts a smile on my face like a big bowl of fusilli with a meaty tomato sauce. Here’s one I whipped up this weekend using some smoky bacon I had leftover.
The easiest mac and cheese is the one from the box. The next one up, though, may be this one: instead of making a béchamel with butter, flour and milk–an easy enough process, but a process nonetheless–you heat three cups of cream and dump a bunch of grated cheese into it. You flavor the resulting sauce with garlic, onion, mustard, Tabasco, and Worcestershire sauce until the flavors are bold and then mix it up with boiled macaroni. Pour into a baking dish, top with Parmesan and breadcrumbs, and into a hot oven it goes: 30 to 40 minutes later, you have a real deal mac and cheese that has dinner guests, like the ones you see above (that’s Michael and John), fighting for the first bite.
It’s not every day that you have a friend go into the food business, which is why I was so excited and exhilarated when my friend Hunter Hanger, the most charming Southerner that I know (when I just called him he answered: “As I live and breathe, if it isn’t Adam Roberts”), was opening up a food joint with his friends Betsy and John. But not just any food joint; a food joint dedicated to CASSEROLES. The inspiration came when Betsy’s mother was having surgery and “a dear friend from Macon” (to use Hunter’s phrasing) brought her a casserole from a casserole shop there. The gesture was so loving and kind that it really stuck with Betsy and when Betsy mentioned it to Hunter, they both realized that “nothing like that exists in Atlanta.”