Have you been to Loch Ness?
I haven’t been there. I am not sure why I didn’t visit there on my trip to Scotland some time ago. I suppose it might have something to do with a monster. I hear there is one living there deep in the depths of the lake. I don’t care much for monsters particularly those who live in murky waters and are elusive to the public. Perhaps this is the reason, whether subconscious or not, I never visited. It does seem like a place, however, one should visit during a lifetime. There are so many places like this. These are the places we check off the list as we get older. Some of them are historic and most of the places are downright gorgeous and inspiring. This is likely why places like Loch Ness make it to the top of many people’s lists.
Monster or not, this was going to be the year I checked this Scottish landmark off my list. K and I planned to go to Paris and Inverness next week. We planned the trip ages ago as K is scheduled to shoot a wedding at a Loch Ness castle on Thanksgiving. Of course, we were terribly excited, albeit a little nervous, to travel so far with Maeve. We talked a great deal about how she might handle the time change, what we would bring for her comfort, and whether her bizarre sleep schedule might allow us to eat at a cosmopolitan dinner hour in Paris. We really focused our attentions on the Paris leg of our journey and, with stars in our eyes and pain au chocolat on our minds, we fantasized about jaunts down old alleyways and drinking frothy cappuccinos as Maeve sampled her first madeleine cookies.
And then the trip got closer and more real. There was no more fantasizing and, down to the wire, we began researching our journey from Paris to Loch Ness. The odds seemed stacked against us at every turn. The buses were slow. The car rides daunting and long. And, the flight? No direct flight exists to Inverness. As we sat before our computer last week going over and over these options, I looked at K and told him to go without us. I was earnest. I was tired. I could not imagine taking Maeve on a cross-atlantic flight and turning around and traveling another 12 hours with her to Scotland only to return to Paris days later. Sure, it’s possible, but it didn’t look fun. It looked hard. Hard on Maeve and hard on her parents.
I know I should be disappointed. I should be truly melancholic right now as my Parisian fantasy slips through my fingers. But, truthfully, I’m not one bit sad. The decision was so very easy once I realized how difficult it was going to be for Maeve. It’s strange, really. I felt more like a mama at that moment than at any other point during these past 10 months. Little else matters these days apart from Maeve’s comfort and well-being. I fully embrace it.
We are celebrating much smaller pleasures around here. There are milestones to celebrate and good food to eat as the holidays near. We visited family in San Francisco last week where Maeve was in absolute heaven. She loved the beach and the sunshine. We ate my mother’s pot roast and Maeve discovered mashed potatoes. Life will never be the same.
This week is another time to celebrate small pleasures together as a family before K travels to Europe. I discovered my new car has heated seats and that was an absolutely wonderful moment. However, something even more miraculous happened on a casual trip to the grocery store last night. I found both chanterelles and leeks were on sale! This never happens and, thus, I considered it a sign. It was a glaring sign, really. Who would pass up such offerings? I can’t imagine anyone would. So, I brought the goods home and crafted them into the most toasty comforting dish I could envision. I made leek and chanterelle macaroni and cheese. It was absolutely mouth-watering. Nutty and rich, this macaroni and cheese was the perfect way to celebrate our little life here.
The meal is perfect for showcasing these fall edible treats and for enjoying on a rainy night with your loved ones. It’s not Paris, I know. However, Maeve loved it. She doesn’t know the difference. Those madeleines will surely wait until she does.
Macaroni & Cheese
1 lb. macaroni pasta (large elbows)
4 cups whole milk 6 tblsp. flour
4 tblsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 tsp. sweet or smoked paprika
1 and 1/2 cups chopped chanterelle mushrooms
2 cups thinly sliced leeks (green part only)
kosher salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
8 oz. mild raw milk white cheddar cheese
Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook at a rolling boil until just tender. Drain. Rinse. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Bring the milk to just a boil in a heavy saucepan. Set aside.
Melt the butter in another pan. Add the flour and whisk over low heat for about 5 minutes. Do not brown. Remove from the heat.
Add the butter mixture to the milk and whisk well to get rid of lumps. Add 1/2 tsp of paprika. Season with salt and pepper. Return to heat. Cook the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly until it’s smooth and it thickens. About 5 minutes.
Add mixture, chanterelles, and leeks to the pasta and stir until well coated and mixed. Spread the grated cheese over the top of the pasta. Sprinkle the top with the remaining paprika.
Cover the dish in foil and bake for 25 minutes. Then, remove the foil, place dish under the broiler (about 4 inches away from heat) and cook for another 3-4 minutes until slightly golden.