Monday, June 24, 2013

Expat Cooking: A Spicy Mac and Cheese Success!

You guys. I cooked a real-live meal on Saturday night. This is quite unusual given a) my work schedule b) my laziness c) and my love for eating out. So it is big news that I cooked a meal! And it was rather delicious :) I thought I'd point out the ways I adjusted the recipe to accommodate a Senegalese taste pallet (C.) and the limited Senegalese grocery offerings. Cooking abroad, especially in Africa, takes creativity!

So I'm currently in a bit of a predicament. I've MISPLACED (refuse to admit its lost) my ATM card so I have no access to cash for the time being. Its unusual to pay for things with credit card here, so I've been resorting to only shopping and eating out at the expensive foreign stores and restaurants. But not that often, so it seems to be evening out. Friday I made a big trip to the expat grocery store and picked up all my usual expat-y goodies: prosciutto (I seriously miss pork, especially bacon!), grated swiss cheese, expensive goat cheese, pasta, crème fraiche, frozen veggies (that you can't get fresh here), and other items.

The Inspiration...

It has been taunting me on Pinterest for weeks.

I decided to recreate the Pioneer Woman's Fancy Mac and Cheese, since I had most of the ingredients readily available, and well, I love pasta and cheese... and fancy foods. Sidenote: I noticed my food board on Pinterest consists primarily of variations of "fig wrapped in prosciutto and stuffed with cheese" and similarly rich and cheesy recipes. What can I say........

And now for the expat-influenced changes made to this recipe, resulting in a deliciously different version of mac and cheese!

1. I did not have four cheeses or mushrooms. You can't find fresh mushrooms from Senegal (at least I haven't!)- sometimes imported from Morocco, but often moldy. I thought about buying some canned mushrooms, but yuck. Not worth it. I did have two cheeses, the standard Gruyère and a fancy schmancy mountain goat cheese that I graciously donated to the recipe ;)

2. In my experience, the Senegalese do not like food that isn't spicy. So by a stroke of fate, I decided to appease C.'s affinity for spice. In looking over the recipe, I read "Next, beat a couple of eggs and grab 1/4 cup of the hot sauce" as HOT SAUCE (like tabasco sauce). "How perfect for C.!" In went the sauce, tinting the mixture pink. Strangely, I couldn't find hot sauce on the list of ingredients. Whelp, she meant add the sauce, that was hot... not hotsauce. But guess what?!? The hot sauce was a PERFECT addition to kick the recipe up a notch for my African lovahhh.

3. I've never found bacon I like here, so instead I buy prosciutto to get my salty, cured pork fix. (I really think this is the food I miss the most! Along good parmesan.) The expat grocery store sells the "bacon bits" version of prosciutto, already diced up. Bingo bango, perfect bacon substitute, though its definitely more crispy than bacon when cooked.

4. I went for crème fraiche (pretty much my favorite ingredient) rather than half and half. Actually, I really winged it on the white sauce as I dislike overly creamy mac and cheese so I cut back the flour and increased the crème fraiche (and I didn't melt the cheese prior to baking, I just put it in layers in the oven dish).

5. Another expat quirk- our gas oven lights on the top or the bottom, but not both at the same time. So I baked the mac and cheese for 20 minutes on the top, and then turned off the oven and lit the bottom burner for the last 10 minutes (I normally would have done it in the opposite order but it took me awhile to figure out the bottom burner).

And I followed pretty much all the other instructions, minus the measurements which I just eye balled for a smaller serving. For a "healthy" side, I sautéed some frozen green beans, my favorite vegetable that you can't find fresh in Senegal. The only vegetables I like frozen are green beans and potatoes. The only canned vegetables I like are beans and corn.

Does it look as good as it tasted?! I don't think I've mastered iPhone food photography quite yet...

There you have it - Fancy Mac and Cheese, with Hot Sauce, à la Sénégalaise!

And it passed the spicy-taste-test with flying colors ;)

Sami's Shenanigans

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