Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Friday, October 18, 2013

Food Trivia

Let us imitate Our Heroine and take a (belated) moment to discuss macaroni and cheese. Macaroni and cheese is a rather personal thing. It is a child-friendly dish and many of us tend to prefer the type of mac and cheese we had as kids. So when Megan McArdle, in her continuing quest to confer upon her self an elite Foodie status, states that she just adores macaroni and cheese that has been baked until most of the sauce has dried up and the macaroni dries out, we will just chalk it up to different tastes. However, a few items are worthy of note.

Back in 2008, McArdle had a little cooking contest with her friends and made macaroni and cheese. She later published the recipe. For one pound of pasta, it included:

12 tablespoons butter, softened
6 tablespoons of flour
2 cups of whole milk
1-2 cups of heavy cream (you may replace one cup of the cream with 1 small container of sour cream)
2 pounds of good sharp cheddar, grated
1/2 pound of gruyere, grated
3 Kraft American singles
2 slices of Kraft provolone

The blogosphere was left to wonder if McArdle was attempting to block arteries to gin up more revenue for drug companies. After a while the laughing died down and more bland and badly designed recipes followed.

Which brings us to her new macaroni and cheese recipe.

First, I made one box of elbow macaroni, cooked according to instructions. Then, I prepared the standard white sauce that is the base for all my macaroni and cheese creations:
At some point McArdle quietly sought out a new recipe; her standard changed into a new standard. Foodies weigh their ingredients so the new recipe is metric and has much less fat.

80 grams butter  
120 grams flour  
1/2 teaspoon salt  
1 kilogram milk (Yes, I weighed it, because that’s how my recipe works. It comes out to something over 1 liter.)
Heh. One kilogram of milk, because that's just the way she rolls. Without a kilogram of milk, the recipe just wouldn't work. It's not like you can measure out a liter of milk! Only some ignorant lower class person, the type who doesn't even make her own white sauce, would measure a liquid using liquid measurements!

Does she tell P. Suderman to bring home a pound of milk after work?

So what would this recipe look like to a non-Foodie? Several helpful conversion sites helped translate McArdle's recipe into American.
about 5 1/2 Tablespoons butter  
about 3/4 cup flour  
about 4 cups milk  
about 20-22 ounces (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lb.) cheese
Which is very heavy on flour and will result in an extremely thick sauce. The better to evaporate away, I guess. Twelve ounces of that cheese is mild white cheese, unlike most recipes, which mostly use cheddar cheese because they actually want their mac and cheese to have some flavor.

But the elite know best, and no doubt young libertarian hostesses will rush to provide their guests with the latest taste sensation, straight from the kitchen of the hostess with the most-ess.

17 comments:

fish said...

1 kilogram milk (Yes, I weighed it, because that’s how my recipe works. It comes out to something over 1 liter.)

This is so dumb I can't stand it.

She must have an amazing scale since the density of milk is almost identical to the density of water and since the whole point of the metric system is interconvertibility of weight and volume of H2O, 1l=1kg. The "something over 1 liter" she is talking about is 3ml (or 3g for our hapless McArdle), or alternatively: within normal measurement error. I am guessing she cut and pasted the recipe from a European cookbook and was too dumb to do the conversions (i.e. she has the flu and can't currently operate a calculator).
Her pretenses to internationalism only underscores how tiny her world really is.

Susan of Texas said...

If you use our usual measurements, then you can't tell everyone that they should be weighing their ingredients and she just happens to own the very best scale which is for sale at Amazon.

Quicksand said...

It's worse than that.

The density of milk is somewhere around 1.03 g/mL, dependent on a few factors as fish's link points out. Note that it's HEAVIER than water, by about 3%.

So a kilogram of milk is actually about 3% LESS than a liter, unless she uses some different kind of milk from the rest of us (which wouldn't surprise me - maybe milk mixed with vokda?). It's closer to a quart.

And I'd say 3% is well outside the realm of measurement error, especially if you're cooking by weight.

I agree with Susan, that's about 3x as much flour as I would use in a bechamel with that much liquid. It will thicken, of course, when the cheese is added. This sounds more like mortar than "white sauce."

Gah, why am I doing this?

Susan of Texas said...

That's what I said, but who could resist the nuttiness?

The amusing thing is that people who cook a lot learn what happens when the ratios of fat/flour/liquid change. I guess buying a Thermomix means never having to learn anything.

mew said...

I love how she switches from grams to ounces halfway through the recipe.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Damn.

I can hardly wait for her quarter-pounder with cheese.
~

Clever Pseudonym said...

Except Megan will call it Royale avec Fromage and post a needlessly complicated recipe for a friggin' cheeseburger, complete with truffle oil-brushed gluten-free buns.

I'm still pining for more cooking videos, though. Those are almost Sandra Lee Kwanzaa Cake epic.

Mr. Wonderful said...

Megan's anglophilia has always been that of a smart 8th grader, along the lines of "I parked the lorry and rode the lift to my flat." Why shouldn't her recipe pretensions be the same?

There's something show-offy and playing-dress-up about all her cooking schtik. In any decent demo of something, the sub-text is, "Isn't this cool?" With her, the sub-text is, "Aren't I cool?"

Anonymous said...

Perfect bechamel is hard to make even with a Thermomix if you get the measurements wrong.

fish said...

Note that it's HEAVIER than water, by about 3%.

Oh of course. I made the mistake of not assuming she would even have the directionality wrong so I didn't even think about it. Milk would definitely be less volume than water.

fish said...

Note that it's HEAVIER than water, by about 3%.

Oh of course. I made the mistake of not assuming she would even have the directionality wrong so I didn't even think about it. Milk would definitely be less volume than water.

Landru said...

Oh, good, I'm not too late here:

I blame fish.

Anonymous said...

In any decent demo of something, the sub-text is, "Isn't this cool?" With her, the sub-text is, "Aren't I cool?"?

this, a thousand times this!

Susan of Texas said...

Which seems to be the way they differentiate themselves from Republicans--they are cool and the old fogies are not.

bulbul said...

"I weigh milk". This needs to be the next internet fad*.

Also, that original recipe had 2.5 pounds (1.13 kg) and this one has 22 oz (0.62 kg) of cheese. I'm holding in my hand all the cheese currently in my posession: 2 pieces @ 250 grams of Grana Padano and about half a piece of Peccorino Romano, which comes down to about 0.62 kg. To apply what amounts to a month's rations of cheese to a half a kilo (much less one pound) of pasta is simply unthinkable. I guess what I'm trying to say is ain't know way she got this from a European cookbook and not only because a kilogram of milk is as ridiculous in Germany as it is in the US.


* No, not a meme. If you mean that picture with text over it, it's an effing image macro.

Anonymous said...

Im laughing too hard to comment.--aimai

KWillow said...

Bulbul: Yes, I like just sprinkling some grated cheese (I admit I like English cheese) to just-drained macaroni. Yummm. The only time I tried to make sauce, it called for mustard, and tasted kind of strange.