Comfort food education
Blogger, chef teach popular mac and cheese recipe
MARQUETTE — There’s a special way to make the ultimate comfort food — macaroni and cheese — that probably will come in handy now that colder weather is upon us.
However, considering “THE Mac and Cheese” recipe has been pinned nearly 500,000 times on Pinterest, blogger Alison Kirksey’s take on the food staple probably is being enjoyed the entire year.
The Pelkie-based Kirksey writes a blog, “That Which Nourishes,” which features the popular recipe as well as recipes for other dishes such as cheeseburger muffins, cream cheese-stuffed fried pickles and mango salsa.
“It’s a really fun thing to have in my life,” Kirksey said.
Kirksey and Alexandra Palzewicz, Upper Peninsula local food coordinator for the local food marketing agency Taste the Local Difference, on Sunday visited Barrel + Beam, a brewery focused on farmhouse and barrel-aged ale located on Northwoods Road in Marquette Township.
Their purpose? Sharing THE Mac and Cheese with the public.
So how did Kirksey develop this viral-on-social media recipe?
“I look at all different recipes and ideas from other people, or I come up with them on my own, but this one I happened to be experimenting with different recipes and then came up with this one, and for some reason, it just took off as a really great basic mac and cheese recipe,” Kirksey said.
The grocery list for THE Mac and Cheese includes pasta, butter, flour, milk, sharp or white cheddar cheese, kosher or sea salt, pepper and panko bread crumbs.
The recipe can be found on Kirksey’s blog at thatwhichnourishes.com.
“The only bummer is the tired hand you’ll have from grating all that cheese,” Kirksey wrote.
However, she stressed that although bagged cheese can be used, because of additives it melts differently. Thus, the best result can be achieved when an entire block of cheese is grated.
That means the tired hands might be worth it. She also suggested on her blog to “make it, bake it and eat it” for optimal good taste.
Although the pasta was pre-cooked and the cheese pre-grated to save time, the crowd at Sunday’s Barrel + Beam event tasted the hot dish as well as samples of cheese, breads and blueberry jam. They also had the option of adding ham, squash or caramelized onions to their mac and cheese.
Palzewicz is based in Marquette but travels throughout the Upper Peninsula to share her culinary skills and educate people.
Her role in Sunday’s demonstration involved marketing the event, but it went beyond that.
“We help to make sure that as many ingredients as possible that we could get locally we did,” Palzewicz said.
Those local ingredients included milk from the DeBacker Family Dairy in Daggett, cheese and butter from Jilbert Dairy in Marquette, bacon from Vollwerth’s in Hancock, and squash from Slagle’s Family Farm in Felch.
She even handled all the shopping right in the area at Econo Foods and the Marquette Food Co-op.
Palzewicz believes there are many reasons to eat locally sourced foods.
“I think the first one is economic,” Palzewicz said. “It’s the easiest one. You’re supporting your neighbor and you’re helping out your friends, and we’re putting money back into our own economy.”
She’s a chef, so she looks at the local angle from a culinary outlook.
“It’s taste, especially with some of the fresher foods,” Palzewicz said. “You can taste the difference. The fact that it hasn’t traveled a thousand or 2,000 miles, it hasn’t had certain chemicals to keep it fresh. You definitely taste that.”
Another plus is that local food items produced in small batches can have better quality, she said, and they have a higher nutritional value.
Then there’s the social aspect.
“It really brings people together, teaching kids to cook and helping them understand why vegetables are so important” Palzewicz said. “It’s probably my favorite part of it — the benefits of bringing people together around something that’s so easy to relate on, which is food.”
To learn more about Taste the Local Difference, visit localdifference.org.