This past week has not been what we had expected.
Last weekend, Toronto was hit with a major ice storm and 300,000 homes were left without heat or power. Many homes did not have power for the holidays, forcing some families to make other arrangements for accommodations and meals. Some families lost all of their food and could not cook Christmas dinner as planned. Since hundreds of flights were cancelled, others never made it home to see their families.
It made me think about what is really important at Christmas. Is it really the turkey dinner with all of the trimmings? Is it the presents under the tree? Or, is it a time for helping others?
Hydro-electric linesmen from across the country left their homes to come to Toronto and have been working all through the holidays to fix the problems. Emergency workers put in extra shifts, while hospital staff were working on generator power trying to keep patients safe and warm. These people all gave, selflessly, to help others in a time of crisis.
Families had to adapt and find ways to keeps warm and fed. Communities pulled together to help one another through a difficult time.
I think we all learned a lesson on what is truly important this Christmas. We learned it is not the presents or the Boxing Day sales. We learned that it is more important to help one another and to give help to those who are in need.
Now that most of the lights are back on and we are toasty and warm, all I want to eat is comfort food.
I have always loved macaroni and cheese, but as a grown up I prefer a more interesting version of this classic dish. I found this one on Saveur.com and it has a perfect blend of Swiss and Italian cheeses that creates a wonderful flavour experience, suitable for the grown up or the kid in all of us.
Artisanal Macaroni and Cheese
Makes 6-8 servings
12 oz. hollow pasta, like cavatelli or penne
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups grated Gruyère cheese
1 1/2 cups grated Comté cheese
1 1/2 cups grated Fontina cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
Bring a 4-qt. saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until not quite al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain pasta, transfer to a bowl, and set aside.
Melt 3 tbsp. of the butter in a 4-qt. saucepan over low heat. Add the bread crumbs and Parmesan, toss to combine, and transfer to a small bowl.
Wipe out the saucepan and set over medium heat. Melt the remaining butter and whisk in the flour until smooth. Whisk in the milk and cook, continuing to whisk often, until the sauce coats the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Stir in the Gruyère, 1 cup of the Comté, and 1 cup of the Fontina and whisk until the cheese is melted and incorporated. Season with salt and pepper. Remove pan from heat and stir in the reserved pasta.
Pour the mixture into a 2-qt. baking dish and top with the remaining Comté and Fontina. Sprinkle bread crumb mixture over the top and bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Recipe from Saveur.com