Hi there! Welcome to Devil’s Apricot!!

Like some good things, this started with a misunderstanding.

Like most good things, it took forever to germinate.

Like all my favorite things, it involves my favorite things – creative friends, food, music and alcohol.

Welcome to Devil’s Apricot, “A Spirited Guide To Living!”

The misunderstanding came courtesy of a collectively hungover mis-hearing of a British commentator’s statement about playing devil’s advocate.  Somehow, my mind instantly turned “devil’s apricot” into a magazine dedicated to food, music and alcohol and scrawled a graphic.

Nine years later, here we are.  Hope it was worth the wait…

I’m assuming you’re reading this because we know each other – but here’s something you might not know about me.  I owe my culinary chops to one Kurt B. Reighley, aka Senor/DJ El Toro.

Kurt and I moved to Seattle together way back in ’96 – he from NYC, me from LA.  I found us the house, and he helped me get over my perfectionist tendencies and the accompanying paralyzing fear when it came to cooking. He showed me how to freestyle (after learning the basics) and that salt was not my enemy.

Kurt’s teaching method started with walking me through what I wanted to cook, helping me find a recipe and then kicking it on the couch watching “The Simpsons” while I battled it out in the kitchen, him at the ready in case anything went terribly awry.  Knowing that the guy who would occasionally meander down to my basement office to ask if I was hungry – because he’d noticed there were some things that were about to go off in the fridge and he’d happened to casually construct a gourmet meal out of them – was there for me gave me the confidence to go outside my comfort zone and become a pretty good cook.  If not for him, I’d probably still be subsisting on a steady diet of pasta and burritos.

In addition to being a great cook, Mr. Reighley is an amazing writer.  Seriously.  If you think getting over my inferior cooking abilities was an obstacle, you should’ve been in my head when I wrote my first music preview for The Stranger, where Kurt was a contributor.  He has an unbelievable wit and an amazing way of synthesizing diverse information into a pithy, entertaining and awesome read, and he’s done that in spades with his fab new book “United States of Americana.”

Nepotism aside, if you’re at all curious about DIY culture in America, you should buy it.  From music to crochet, canning to burlesque, he’s managed to spin a web (or build an arc – and yes, I meant “arc”) that explains and illuminates the current crafty scene, and done it in a way that’s a thoroughly engaging (and sometimes hilarious) read, even if you’re like me and still harboring severe childhood macramé trauma.

And have I mentioned that he’s awesome and hilarious?  You can also catch him on KEXP (www.kexp.org), where, as DJ El Toro (a persona birthed in our old house in Wallingford – if you’ve never had your roommate suddenly announce that he’s a bull, well, I pity you…), he spins a beautifully eclectic mix of tunes both old and new and offers witty and intelligent commentary.

He published a version of his mac n’ cheese recipe when he was writing a column for the Seattle Weekly, but he’s since updated it.  It was created when my pals in the band Stanford Prison Experiment were staying with us on a night off on tour.  When he told us what he was making, we all reflexively flashed back to the Kraft version and secretly talked about sneaking out to dinner. To say we were pleasantly surprised is an understatement. I’d like to believe  those guys loved coming to Seattle because they enjoyed hanging out with me, but I think my place in their hearts was usurped by the mac n’ cheese’s place in their stomachs.

I’m going to let Kurt tell his side of the story in his inimitable style. I highly recommend that you a) make this mac n’ cheese; b) buy his book; c) listen to him on KEXP (Weds from 9 pm – 1 am ); and d) read anything that has his byline on it. (That was in no particular order, btw.)

 

I started baking my own macaroni and cheese in 1989, the year I moved to New York City. I’d purchased the cookbook Square Meals, Jane and Michael Stern’s celebration of American comfort food from the 1920s through the 1950s, and was really taken with the dishes from high school cafeterias. Which is odd, since I dreaded lunchtime in the cafeteria when I was actually in high school. But I digress. Anyway, I worked at this upscale deli and catering company at the time, and odds and ends of gourmet cheese and bulk dried pasta were two of the easiest items to steal from the pantry when nobody was watching, so I experimented a lot with macaroni and cheese to stretch my meager budget. I have modified my recipe over the years (and will no doubt continue to do so, as I have commitment issues). This one is slightly different from the version previously published in Seattle Weekly and Carolyn Mark’s cooking zine Terrible Hostess: Recipes for Disaster. I am still a big fan of Kraft dinner and other boxed macaroni and cheese mixes, but this is a completely different animal. Add a green salad or steamed vegetable—seriously, you want some roughage with this baby—and a loaf of whole grain bread, and you can easily feed you, your roommate, and whatever band is crashing in your living room that evening.

 

El Toro’s Macaroni & Cheese

(Serves 6 to 8)

 

12 oz. uncooked macaroni

6 Tbsp butter

4 cups grated cheese[1]

1 ½ cups milk

1 small yellow onion, diced

1 10 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained

cooking oil

flour

salt & pepper to taste

breadcrumbs

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

 

1. Cook macaroni in boiling salted water until just al dente (still firm to the teeth). Drain but do not rinse.

 

2. Sautee onion in a tablespoon of cooking oil until translucent. Set aside.

 

3. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add a couple tablespoons of flour and mix, to make a roux.

 

4. Slowly add milk, whisking it in to the roux. At first mixture will be very thick and pasty, but should gradually make a white sauce.

 

5. Set aside ½ cup of shredded cheese. Slowly add remaining cheese by the handful to white sauce, stirring until cheese is melted. Now your white sauce is a cheese sauce.[2]

 

6. In a large bowl, combined cooked macaroni with sautéed onions and diced tomatoes. Then add warm cheese sauce. Stir until all ingredients are combined.

 

7. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

8. Pour into a two-liter casserole or other suitable baking dish.

 

9. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until cheese is set and casserole is bubbling.[3]

 

10. Remove casserole from oven. Sprinkle on a generous layer of breadcrumbs and reserved ½ cup of shredded cheese.

 

11. Return casserole to oven and broil for a minute, or until top is brown and toasted.

 

 


[1] This is a good way to use up odds and ends lying around the fridge. Personally, I usually go with mostly sharp or medium cheddar, mixed with some smoked gouda for added panache. Use your imagination!

 

[2] Of course, if you’re using all white cheeses, your cheese sauce will also still be a sauce that is white—just not a classic white sauce. Let’s not argue about semantics, okay?

[3] If you prefer a moister, creamier casserole, cover the dish with a lid for the bulk of the baking time, and remove after 15-20 minutes.

 

More info on Kurt and his various endeavors below.

Also, here’s what Kurt’s been listening to recently.  He has exquisite tastes – and he thinks he’s a bull, so you should definitely listen to what he tells you to!

Various Artists, “Bossa Nova: Bossa Nova and the Rise of Brazilian Music in the 1960s (Soul Jazz UK)
Beat Connection, “Surf Noir” (Moshi Moshi/Tender Age)
The Chills, “Kaleidoscope World” (Flying Nun)
J. Rocc, “Some Cold Rock Stuf” (Stones Throw)  (not as spelling error: “Stuf,” not “Stuff”)
*Half Japanese, “Sing No Evil” (Drag City)

http://twitter.com/kurtbreighley

www.kurtbreighley.com

http://kexp.org/dj/DJElToro

xo-

babs

p.s. -you can now follow devil’s apricot on twitter – @mydevilsapricot.com (sorry – don’t know how to link it.  it’s either a miracle or a sign of the apocalypse that i was able to post this in the first place!)

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