Leek Macaroni and Cheese | Small Pleasures

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.

Serve.

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26 Comments

  • November 16, 2011 - | Permalink

    Sorry to hear about your trip not working out :( Another silver lining is that you have a very talented husband that will bring back beautiful photos for you! I love the sound of this mac n’ cheese with mushrooms and leeks. I get excited when great ingredients go on sale!

  • November 16, 2011 - | Permalink

    Oooh, I can see that such a long trip would be a little bit of serious crazy. I think mac and cheese sounds way more comforting but a little less fun. But leeks! And chanterelles! That I can get behind.

  • November 16, 2011 - | Permalink

    Sorry to hear about your trip! You could always have your Mr bring back some madeleines for you, or make your own!!

  • Eva
    November 16, 2011 - | Permalink

    Sorry to hear about the trip! There will be another chance :) This recipe looks delish, I think this might be dinner tonight! xoxo

  • November 16, 2011 - | Permalink

    I totally understand “little else matters these days”. My little one is in a phase of going to bed at 6:30PM right now-all dinners with anyone are out the window. And that’s okay-it’s just the phase of life we’re in right now.

  • November 16, 2011 - | Permalink

    Paris is not going anywhere, I am sure you will get there soon, with better terms.
    I am glad you found a comforting dish to make up for the trip.:)

  • November 16, 2011 - | Permalink

    I’d love to go to Scotland and see Loch Ness! That macaroni & cheese looks so comforting and delicious. Just what I would need today.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  • November 17, 2011 - | Permalink

    Hi Robin,

    It’s very understandable to opt out of such a big journey. As we discussed, it is a lot of work and tiring. If it weren’t for my family I am not sure I would’ve taken such a big trip already. Paris and Loch Ness and time for travel will always be there. And it might be more enjoyable when Maeve is a bit bigger (for her and for you).

    Best,
    Julia

    P.S. might have to try this yummy looking dish!

  • November 17, 2011 - | Permalink

    Love your blog. I’ve followed it for a while, but never left a comment. Last summer, I had a trip planned to Vienna and Amsterdam and everywhere in between, and in the end had to cancel it, too. The only solace I took in it was knowing I’d just have to make it back there some other day. Hope you do, too. cheers!

    • redmenace
      November 17, 2011 - | Permalink

      Hi Katie,
      I’m so glad you commented! It’s lovely to meet you. I’m sorry to hear about your trip as well. We spend so much time planning our adventures that it can really be crushing when they don’t pan out properly. I’m glad you kept a good attitude about your European adventures. You will be back and, by the looks of it, you’ll have gorgeous pictures to share!
      xo
      Robin

  • November 17, 2011 - | Permalink

    Sorry to hear about Paris not pushing through but I do understand where you are coming from…and yes there are so many little pleasures and treasure to still enjoy :) I consider you immensely blessed to have fresh chanterelles!! We cannot get them fresh here ever!

  • November 17, 2011 - | Permalink

    What a nice mama moment.

  • November 17, 2011 - | Permalink

    Leeks and chanterelles on sale at the same time! That sounds like heaven! Last time I tried to buy chanterelles they were $40/lb! But I may have to make an exception for this recipe, which looks so amazing! Thanks for sharing, and keep enjoying those small pleasures ;)

  • November 17, 2011 - | Permalink

    Sorry to hear that your trip to Europe is not going to work out! I’m sure you’ll have another opportunity in the future though.

    Your leek and chanterelle macaroni and cheese truly does look mouth-watering! I’ll have to give it a try!

  • November 17, 2011 - | Permalink

    This looks absolutely AMAZING! It would be even better if it were to show up cooked on my dinner table tonight ;)

    Travel with kids is hard, and whirlwind trips are hard, too. You’ll get there…in good time.

  • November 17, 2011 - | Permalink

    Robin, I’m truly sorry that you won’t be visiting Europe this month, but I truly 100% understand where you are coming from. It’s hard to look forward to something and truly enjoy it if you are exhausted and know you are putting your child through something exhausting. As my mom says, Europe will always be there, go another time when you (and she) can enjoy it.

  • November 18, 2011 - | Permalink

    Raw milk white cheddar! Chanterelles! Leeks! And that paprika on top! I shouldn’t even be reading this at work, but somehow it makes breaking the rules seem okay…

    Cheers,

    *Heather*

  • November 18, 2011 - | Permalink

    Looks delicious! Enjoy your time at home with Maeve…I would have done the same!

  • November 19, 2011 - | Permalink

    I love love love pasta with leeks!. Thanks for sharing. Maeve eating potatoes already!, God time flies!.
    Kisses from across the Atlantic
    Marialuisa

  • November 19, 2011 - | Permalink

    This really made me crave for some mac…. I’ve never been to Loch Ness and discovering your car seat has heating made me laugh out loud… :)

  • November 20, 2011 - | Permalink

    You, my dear Robin, are one wise, wise woman. Travel with weary kids is no fun at all. Extensive, exhausting-to-adults travel with weary kids is memorable. In all the wrong ways.

    Maeve, you’ve picked one swell mama.

    Happy turkey day to you all!

    xo,
    M

  • Pingback: Thanksgiving Ideas and Recipes | A Chow Life | Foodie recipes and stories from a Seattle kitchen

  • November 21, 2011 - | Permalink

    How lovely! I wish you a happy Thanksgiving!

  • November 23, 2011 - | Permalink

    So sorry about your trip. It is hard to travel with little ones like that. In a few years…she can have her madeleines.

  • November 27, 2011 - | Permalink

    This mac n’ cheese is beautiful! My 2 favorites things: leeks and mac n’ cheese! I can’t wait to make this. By the way, this is my first time on your blog and it is beautiful. I can’t wait to read more.

  • November 28, 2011 - | Permalink

    What great looking mac & cheese! I made some with brie, gruyere and sharp cheddar this past week–SO good.

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