After a long work week, it’s tempting to just pick up the smart phone and order take out on a Friday night. (especially during Lent when menu options are limited) But I am trying to make smarter choices about where our food budget goes, and how far it goes. And I’m always trying to develop new Cheftovers dishes. So when I was trolling the fridge for dinner ideas, I decided to start with some excellent mac n cheese in a Bechamel sauce (a doggy bag from a previous dinner out).
And I knew just what direction I wanted to go with it. Since I was craving “bar food,” I was going to turn this into Spinach and Artichoke Mac n Cheese.
I gathered the elements I would need to “refresh” these leftovers and beef up the portion to make it enough for dinner for two. I found a can of quartered artichoke hearts in my pantry, a bag of fresh spinach, and half a shallot and some garlic in the veggie drawer. I also grabbed some heavy cream and Parmesan cheese (two staples I always keep around) and Monterrey Jack (leftover from a white chicken chili recipe I made-happy to have use for it. Not something we eat much of regularly)
I started by chopping the shallots and garlic and tossing them in to a pan with some olive oil Once they softened I added the artichokes and let them do the same for a few minutes. Then I tossed in the spinach. And while that wilted I grated the cheeses.
Once the veggies were cooked, and seasoned, I poured in some heavy cream and tossed in the cheese. I stirred it around and let it thicken up and get bubbly, but not burn, so I kept the heat on medium/low. After tasting it, I remembered a spice that Italians like to put into some of their cream sauces…nutmeg. It doesn’t seem like a natural addition, but trust me, it works. I added a pinch of that and let the sauce thicken a tad.
It was time to toss in the original mac n cheese. I gave it a good stir with the supplemental sauce I made, to ensure it was totally coated. Then I transferred the mixture to a greased baking dish.
For a couple of final touches, I topped the mixture with buttered bread crumbs and drizzled some white truffle oil. A little goes a long way, so use it sparingly if you have it. I put the revamped mac n cheese in a 350* until the bread crumbs were golden brown, roughly 25 min.
The end result was a warm, satisfying main course made from what may’ve otherwise been thrown out, plus a few kitchen must-haves put to good use. I will certainly add this to a my go-to Lenten dishes. What are you making during Lent (besides a phone call to your local pizza shop?)