Today’s Food Memory comes to you courtesy of moi. This is my story and I’m sticking to it.
There is one dish that sums up all that was good for me as a kid – Frizzled Beef and Macaroni. Its cheesy, beefy, creamy goodness is a favorite, not for any particular moment it recalls, but because it recalls so many.
Digging into a steaming bowl of Frizzled Beef and Mac is like looking through a kaleidoscope. The far edges are a little blurred but the center is clear and bright. Each bite turns the end of the kaleidoscope, changing the pattern. One moment, I see my grandmother at the stove with her cast iron skillet. The next, I’m in the backyard learning to ride a bike without training wheels. Or I’m in the dining room practicing to become a famous Opera singer.
I see old lady glasses and braided ponytails. Hot summer days running through the sprinkler replay in my mind. As do muggy nights of baton twirling and catching lightning bugs. Hogan’s Heroes and Fantasy Island are on the television at night. Captain Chesapeake, Mondy the Seamonster, Lancelot Chimp, and Speed Racer great me on the screen after school.
I recall sitting on the front porch in the dark when a thunderstorm would knock out the power. And bundling up to go out at midnight on New Year’s Eve and make some noise. I dig through the cedar chest and buffet drawers looking for hidden treasures and I pet the leopard spotted coat and fur stole in the closet.
I feel fingers pruned and wrinkly from long afternoons spent in my best friend’s pool. I smell Tinkerbell powder and Love’s Baby Soft. I go to SkateLand on Sunday and circle the rink in my pristine white leather roller skates with baby blue pompoms. I Etch-A-Sketch and Spirograph. I Mad Lib and play Barbies.
Swimming lesson, May Festivals, and sips of Pabst Blue Ribbon all come into sharp focus. I read letters from Santa on Christmas morning and watch Saturday morning cartoons. I catch the Orioles magic and for once it snows enough to close Baltimore City Schools.
I’d like to thank my Grandmother for her Frizzled Beef and Macaroni. I had no idea at the time that it would come to mean so much. I just thought it tasted good.
MamMom’s Frizzled Beef and Macaroni
BAH Note: There’s no easy way to say this, except to just say it. This recipe starts with a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. And it uses real butter, whole milk, and sliced American Cheese. Yes, you could use low fat this or skim that. But I beg you, please don’t. Because Frizzled Beef and Macaroni, as The Mistah said when he tried it for the first time, is simple and unassuming. And good. Enjoy hon.
- 1 Family Size box Kraft Macaroni and Cheese
- 1 stick of butter
- 3/4 to 1 cup whole milk
- 2 to 4 slices American cheese, torn into small pieces
- 1 pound 85/15 ground beef
Set a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and slowly cook the ground beef, breaking it up into small pieces (frizzles), until it is browned and just cooked through. Transfer the ground beef to a mesh strainer.
While the ground beef cooks, combine 3/4 cups of milk and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, stir in the cheese sauce powder and whisk to combine. Gradually add two slices of American cheese, allowing them to melt completely. Taste the sauce and add additional milk and cheese to taste. The sauce should not be thick. Keep the sauce warm over low heat while you cook the macaroni.
Add pasta to the boiling water and cook for approximately 8 minutes, until done. Drain pasta in a colander and return to the empty pot. Add frizzled beef and cheese sauce to pasta and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning, you may need a very small pinch of kosher salt.
Leftovers can be reheated on low power in the microwave. Add a tablespoon or so of milk to smooth out the sauce when reheating.