I suppose I should preface this post by stating the obvious, given the meal: I’m pregnant. Four months pregnant, to be exact. (For those who’ve seen me in person and wondered how I managed to get quite a beer belly* from eating bread, fruit and mostly vegetarian meals, now you know.) Am I still making it on $35 a week? For the most part, yes. I’m still espousing the principles, baking all my own bread, growing my own food, and making all my own meals, I’m just eating a little more of them, and occasionally making things like this. It basically takes care of all the pregnancy cravings in one go: pie, macaroni and cheese, caramelized onions, and, to top it all off, goat cheese. (As anyone who’s been pregnant recently knows, listeria danger precludes you from having soft cheeses like goat, blue or brie unless they’re heated, leaving very few opportunities for one to get her fix.) In a way, I’m a little sorry I brought something like this into existence because, pregnant or not, I could eat it every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner and never get tired of it. I’m sorry I brought it to your attention as well, because once you try it, your life will never be the same.
Recipe adapted from Food52. It makes 6 normal-person servings or 4 pregnancy servings, and is terrific as leftovers. Also, the herbed topping really makes the dish, so don’t omit it if you don’t have the herbs; used dried if you have to. (In about a 1-to-3 ratio, since dried herbs are stronger).
-9-inch pie pan
For the crust:
• 1 1/2 cups flour: 15 cents
• 6 T cold butter, cut up into cubes: 36 cents
• 6 T cold milk: 10 cents
• 1/2 tsp salt: 1 cent
For the topping and filling:
• 2 cups sharp cheddar, grated: $2.20
• 4 oz. goat cheese: $2.49
• 1/4 cup grated Parmesan: 50 cents
• 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs: 50 cents
• 2 tsp chopped fresh sage (garden): $0
• 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary (garden): $0
• 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves (garden): $0
• 2 T fresh chopped parsley (garden): $0
• 1 large onion, thinly sliced pole-to-pole: 20 cents
• 6 T butter: 36 cents
• 8 oz. small macaroni (this is cheapest in the Mexican-foods section): 30 cents
• 2 cups milk: 32 cents
• 1 tsp dry mustard: 3 cents
• 4 T flour: 3 cents
• Salt and pepper: 2 cents
TOTAL: $7.57/6 = $1.26/slice
Mix together the flour and salt for the crust. Add the cold butter and cut into the flour with a pastry cutter (or two knives) until evenly distributed and the texture is pebbly. Add milk just until a cohesive dough forms. Turn out onto a floured cutting board and pat into a disc.
Wrap in plastic wrap and put in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
When the time is up, put it back on the floured cutting board and roll it into a large circle big enough to fit a 9-inch pie pan. Carefully move the dough to the pie pan (you can wrap it around the rolling pin, lift it, and drop it over the pan, as I do) and press it in gently. Flute the edges as best you can.
At this point, if you want a crisper crust, I recommend blind-baking it: Preheat the oven to 425 F. Prick the bottom with a fork, line with parchment paper, and fill with pie weights or old beans (I have a bag of designated “pie beans” I use and reuse for this very purpose). Bake for 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 375 F, and cook for a few more minutes until golden. Remove and set aside.
If you don’t care about a crisp crust and/or don’t want to blind-bake, put the pie pan and the dough in the freezer. (This will keep the crust from shrinking when it does bake with the filling in it.) This is what I did, but in hindsight I wish I had blind-baked it.
For the topping: Mix the panko bread crumbs, herbs, Parmesan, and a pinch of salt together in a small bowl. Set aside.
For the onions: Heat 2 T butter in a medium skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and a pinch of salt and cook until translucent.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until light brown and fully caramelized, about 30 minutes. (Deglaze the pan with water if the onion starts to stick at any point.) Set aside.
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Cook the macaroni in boiling salted water a few minutes before the package directions say to (mine said 9 minutes; I cooked for about 6). Drain, rinse, and set aside.
To make the cheese sauce, melt the 4 T butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the flour and cook until a medium-brown roux has formed. Slowly stir in the milk. Add the mustard powder and salt and pepper to taste, cook until simmering and thickened.
Remove from heat and stir in the cheddar cheese. Fold in the macaroni.
Pour half the macaroni and cheese in the bottom of the pie shell (blind-baked or not). Spread the caramelized onions over the top…
…followed by the goat cheese (crumbled).
Pour the other half of the macaroni and cheese over the top, followed by the crisp topping.
Bake at 375 F for 15-20 minutes until filling is bubbly and topping is browned if you already-blind baked the crust, taking care to ensure the crust edges don’t burn. (Cover them with foil or pie shields if you’re worried.)
If you didn’t blind-bake the crust (as I didn’t), bake at 375 F for 30-40 minutes, until edges of crust are cooked and lightly browned. You may have to cover the top with foil to keep the topping from burning.
Let sit for a few minutes before slicing.