24 January 2007

Using Macaroni to Cultivate Awesomeness in Your Children

When I have children, I am going to make this macaroni and cheese for them. But I’m going to make it real spicy so they can’t eat alot of it, and then there will be more for me and my husband.
Just to be nice, though, sometimes I’ll make it less spicy, and the kids will love it and crave it and beg me to make it, and then I will easily be able to get them to do things, like chores, homework, and my taxes. No macaroni and cheese for you until you do this and this and this.

The constant and obsessive hope for a nibble of this macaroni and cheese will hold the ultimate power over my children’s behavior. If they do their homework, it won’t be because they want to be smart, it will be because they know that if they get A’s, I will make this macaroni and cheese for them. If they practice the piano, it won’t be because of the inherent joy they find in making music, it will be because they know that for every Ligeti etude they master, there will be a plate of macaroni and cheese waiting for them when they get home from the recital. And if they turn out awesome all around, it won’t be because of awesome genes, or deluxe parenting skills, it will only because they want to be awesome for the sake of the macaroni.

Now, I know that you are not supposed to give children rewards for every little thing they do. It’s better to cultivate a healthy sense of intrinsic motivation, so your kids will do well for the sake of doing well, and not so they get stuff when they do well. Well, I used to agree with that perspective until I had this macaroni and cheese. Now it is clear to me that there is nothing wrong with extrinsic motivation, and I plan to use it accordingly to manipulate my children into turning out awesome.

I will say to my kids, “Hey kids, if you suck at anything, you don’t get any Bon Appétit macaroni. You just get Annie’s macaroni.” Annie’s is great, don’t get me wrong, but there are a lot of ‘great’ kids out there that don’t turn out to be anything special when they grow up. So don’t feed your kids Annie’s, unless you want them to turn out boring. Feed them Bon Appétit macaroni and cheese, and they will try harder to be awesome in general.

Macaroni and Cheese with Buffalo Chicken
~Bon Appétit Magazine, February 2007

For the Chicken:
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons ground coriander
2 cups whole milk
3 large eggs, beaten to blend
4 cups cornflakes, ground to crumbs in processor
1 pound chicken cutlets, cut crosswise into 1-inch-wide strips

Canola oil (for deep-frying)

1 pound small elbow macaroni
2 cups chopped green onions (about 8 large)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, divided
3 cups chopped onions
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup all purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
1 pound extra-sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
8 ounces provolone cheese, coarsely grated (I used monterey jack)
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup hot pepper sauce (be careful with this; I only used 1/4 cup and it was still very spicy)

For chicken:
Whisk first 6 ingredients in deep medium bowl to blend. Place milk in second bowl, eggs in third bowl, and ground cornflakes in fourth bowl. Working with 4 chicken strips at a time, place in flour mixture and toss to coat. Dip same chicken strips into milk, then eggs, then cornflake crumbs, coating with each; arrange on sheet of foil.

Pour oil into heavy medium saucepan to depth of 2 inches. Attach deep-fry thermometer to side of pan; heat oil to 335°F to 350°F. Working in batches, add coated chicken strips to hot oil and fry until golden and cooked through, turning occasionally, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer chicken strips to paper towels to drain. Cut strips into 1-inch-long pieces.

For macaroni:
Cook macaroni in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain; transfer to very large bowl. Mix in green onions and oregano.

Melt 6 tablespoons butter in same large pot over medium heat. Add 3 cups chopped onions and garlic. Cover; sauté until onions are soft but not brown, stirring often, about 6 minutes. Add flour; stir 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk. Bring to boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat and simmer sauce 2 minutes. Add all cheeses, paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Whisk until cheeses melt and sauce is smooth, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Season to taste with more salt and pepper, if desired. Mix cheese sauce into macaroni. Mix in chicken pieces. Mound mixture in 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish (I have used a baking dish for family style, and ramekins for single servings).

Preheat oven to 350°F. Stir hot pepper sauce and remaining 2 tablespoons butter in small saucepan over medium heat until butter melts; spoon 4 tablespoons over macaroni in dish. Bake macaroni uncovered until heated through, about 30 minutes, or 45 minutes if made ahead. Serve, passing remaining butter and hot-sauce mixture separately.

Makes 12 servings.


Patricia Scarpin said...


Would you mind if I "borrowed" you educating children technique? I think it will work perfectly for me in the future. ;D

Great post, great recipe.

s'kat said...

Holy all-that-is-good-in-the-world!! Buffalo chicken, lots of cheese, lots of pasta... this is definitely temptation worthy.

Rachel said...

This is a work of art!

Cherry said...

I totally didn't see that recipe in the magazine. I must go back and look now.

That looks and sounds so good! Thanks for pointing it out as how could my life be complete without combining two of my most favorite guilty pleasure foods into one?

Tammy said...

Speaking as a mother of two, you're definitely on the right track for parenting. Children must learn to choose between awesomeness and significantly-less-than-awesomeness at a very early age. Spicy mac 'n cheese may work for you. For me, it's a diet composed of 100% peanut butter, so I can continue to thumb my nose at the parenting books.

Kristen said...

I think I need to practice your parenting techniques. I have three kids that could use daily doses of this mac and cheese!

aria said...

i'll do whatever you want too. did you just hear a knock at the door? oh thats just me, heh something sure smells good, could i maybe be of service? my flashdance routine is still pretty awesome.

LEO said...

oh. my. god. It's so cold out and this macaroni sounds so delicious and warm!!! I want to warm up my whole apartment with macaroni! Then, I will both educate my babies AND heat my freezing cold Chicago apartment!

I just noticed I've used a lot of exclamation points...I get excited about things involving cheese.

Erielle said...

Patricia, sure you can borrow it! I don't know if it works yet, I need to wait several years.

S'kat, it really is temptation worthy. I could be motivated to achieve many things if someone was dangling a plate of this in front of my face.

Rachel, thanks!

Cherry, thank goodness you have the recipe now. Life will be complete once the spicy, cheesy, chickeny guilty pleasure is on a fork in front of your face.

Tammy, that's great that your kids can be bribed with peanut butter. All you have to do is spoon out it out and your will is done!

Kristen, try it and see if their behavior is altered by the deliciousness.

Aria, a dance is just what one would need to burn off the calories consumed in this meal.

Lauren, I like your phrase "educate my babies." Never heard that before, it has a nice ring to it! I feel like it should be lyrics to a song. A song about macaroni and cheese.

Toni said...

I saw this recipe in the mag. and thought it looked weird. Why would you want to corrupt your cheesy goodness with Buffalo chicken? But I must say, you have made it look positively delicious. I might have to give it a go. Perhaps, Superbowl Sunday...

Tokyoastrogirl said...

I love that you are planning to use food as a way to get your future kids to do chores. I'm right there with you- what a great idea!

Erielle said...

Toni, it does sound odd to have chicken in the macaroni and cheese, but it really really works.

Tokyoastrogirl, I'm sort of joking about the whole thing, but there will be times when I hope it works!