While the temperatures have been soaring here in Oregon, I've found myself craving the fall. The sound of rain pittering against the window, the crunch of fallen autumn leaves underfoot, the abundance of squash and apples and pears at the market; I unreasonably want it all and want it now. But that's not quite how the seasons work, I'm afraid, so I decided to make a comforting dish that would incorporate one of my favorite fall fruits and keep my craving for autumn at bay for a week or two. Hopefully until this heatwave subsides, anyway.
I caramelized some onions in the pan I used to cook the bacon for some extra flavor, and briefly cooked the pears in honey before incorporating everything into a white cheddar macaroni and cheese base with a sprinkling of blue cheese. Then into the oven it went for a bit of toasting, and when it came out it was golden, bubbling, and magnificent. There's something very special about the way pears, honey, bacon, and blue cheese all play off each other that borders on magical. And it looks pretty tasty to boot, especially when served alongside Stitch's handmade linen dinner napkins. Stitch is headed up by the lovely Blair Moore who started her little Brooklyn linen business as a way to fund her thesis, but I am hoping she continues to make these guys on the side after she finishes up school because I want to expand my collection of them. Quality linens will last you for years and years in the kitchen, much longer than the disposable paper napkin, and they just make every meal look that much nicer with a bit of beautiful fabric laid alongside it. Lucky for us, Blair is kindly giving away a set of 4 beige & white linen dinners napkins with beige stitching, exactly like those pictured here. To enter, use the rafflecopter widget later on in the post. The entry period ends at 11:59 pm PST on September 9th.
And now that my summer online food styling & photography course has ended, I wanted to take the time to thank everyone who participated. I had so much fun working with all of you and getting to know you, and am so incredibly proud of the leaps and bounds you've made in your photography. Getting to pour over all of your photos brought me much delight, but what I enjoyed most was gaining so many wonderful friends. Thank you, again. Because there were so many people in the course (31 this summer) I can't include everyone's photo in the post, but wanted to include a few of the photos that were submitted for the final assignment because I am so, so very proud of all of you.
If you're interested in participating in my next workshop, registration just opened for my Fall 2014 Food Styling & Photography Workshop in Upstate New York with Carey Nershi of Reclaiming Provincial, and I would absolutely love to see you there!
|Elenore Bendel Zahn of Earthsprout|
|Nikki Albertyn of Gathered|
|Aysegul Sanford of Foolproof Living|
|Adinda De Boer of Girl vs Woman|
|Devorak Amodeo of Metro Newspaper|
|Maryanne Cabrera of The Little Epicurian|
|Erica Wagner of The Beet Box|
|Julia Mueller of The Roasted Root|
|Amy Amato of Almost Satisfied|
a Rafflecopter giveaway
3 slices thick cut bacon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1/4 cup honey
2 large ripe pears, peeled cored and chopped
1 pound dry macaroni noodles
5 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons flour
2 and 1/4 cups whole milk
1 pound white cheddar, grated
2 ounces blue cheese, such as stilton, freshly crumbled
Begin by cooking the bacon. Grill them on a season cast iron skillet over medium heat until they just become crispy. Remove and place on a plate lined with paper towels. Set aside.
To caramelize the onions, place them in the cast iron skillet with the bacon grease. Cook over medium heat for 30-40 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until they have turned light gold and are fragrant. Remove them from the pan and set them aside. Add the honey and pears and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until the pear pieces deepen in hue slightly and the honey thins out, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare the pasta according to package directions and set it aside. In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. As soon as the butter is completely melted, whisk in the flour to form a paste. Add the milk and whisk constantly until the milk becomes hot but not boiling. Add the cheddar and blue cheese and stir until the cheese is evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
In a large bowl, gently stir together the cheese mixture, pasta, bacon, caramelized onions, and pears until the pasta is coated in the sauce and the toppings are evenly distributed. Empty the bowl into a large casserole dish and bake in the center rack of the oven for 25-35 minutes or until the pasta is just starting to get golden brown at the tips and sauce is nice and bubbly along the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.