Reinventing the Classics

Make homemade macaroni and cheese and hot chocolate topped with marshmallows that are rich - and grown-up enough - for everyone.

Tim Flannery
"I grew up eating macaroni and cheese out of a box like every other kid," says Tim Flannery, a creative director with Neiman Marcus advertising, who hails from Plano. "I’m a suburban kid. The idea of making macaroni and cheese from scratch just wasn’t done. But I loved it out of the box."

If instant was good, then scratch had to be even better. "When I got older, I started looking for the origins of some of the foods I loved like macaroni and cheese," Flannery says. He found a delicious variation on the Kraft classic on Martha Stewart’s web site. Flannery’s adaptation of the recipe includes Grure, Pecorino Romano, white cheddar, nutmeg, and a crust of buttered and toasted breadcrumbs.

Heidi Black sips a glass of Sofia blanc de blancs, one of Tim Flannery’s favorites to serve with appetizers.
For a winter dinner for friends, which we’ve photographed here, Flannery was inspired by other foods from his childhood. "When I was a kid, mom would always make Eckrich sausages. The grown-up version I make is lamb and veal sausages with cilantro and basil, which I buy at Whole Foods," he says. It’s an easy dish with a lot of taste and pairs well with the cheesiness of the homemade macaroni.

While young Flannery was passionate for salads of iceberg lettuce drenched in Catalina dressing - he says he was dazzled by the fluorescent orange color - he’s now heavy into mache drizzled with vinegar and olive oil. In his winter salad, he tosses mache with fresh blackberries and pumpkin seeds. "The nuttiness of the mache goes well with the tangy sweetness of the berries, and the seeds provide a salty crunch. I always try to put some kind of seeds or nuts in a salad," he says.

You don’t need a drink cart to have a chic bar - set one up under a window or anywhere you have space.
For dessert, he pours cups of steaming hot chocolate made from Valrhona chocolate and warm milk steeped with orange peel, for an aromatic infusion of citrus. The chocolate is topped with homemade marshmallows. It’s a charming take on dessert, and even though it’s rich, it feels like you’re skipping dessert and going straight to the after-dinner drinks. Pour in a little rum or Grand Marnier, and you will be.

Flannery’s hot chocolate recipe was inspired by some of his favorite cups of hot chocolate, tasted recently during a frenzied "hot chocolate tour" of New York that included Pastis, Marie Bell, La Maison du Chocolat, City Bakery, and Balthazar. "That inspired me to make my own marshmallows. I had not even ever thought about what was in one," he says. You probably don’t want to know what’s in the packaged versions you ate as a child; Flannery’s recipe includes more wholesome ingredients like egg whites, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Childhood, reinvented.

 

Flannery infuses milk with orange rind for scrumptious hot chocolate.
Tim Flannery’s Orange Hot Chocolate
(serves 6)

 6  serving cups whole milk
 1  peel of an orange
 6  tablespoons of unsweetened chocolate powder, Valrhona suggested
 6  tablespoons of granulated sugar, or to taste
     Rum optional

Measure whole milk into a saucepan with a cup you’ll use to serve. Bring milk to a boil, remove from heat. Add the peel of one orange, cover, and let set for a few minutes. Uncover, remove peel, and heat up again. Add a tablespoon of good, unsweetened chocolate powder, such as Valrhona, for each cup with a tablespoon (or to taste) of sugar, then pour the milk into the serving cups and stir (a mini whisk comes in handy). Add a dash of rum and a few homemade marshmallows to taste.


Kelly Smith savors Flannery’s rich, homemade hot chocolate and homemade marshmallows for dessert (with a dash of liquor). A grown-up twist on a childhood favorite.
Marshmallows (courtesy of Gourmet)
(makes about 96 marshmallows)

 1        cup confectioners’ sugar (approximately)
 3 1/2  envelopes (2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
 1/2     cup cold water
 2        cups granulated sugar
 1/2     cup light corn syrup
 1/2     cup hot water (about 115 degrees)
 1/4     teaspoon salt
 2        large egg whites
 1        teaspoon vanilla

Oil bottom and sides of a 13- by 9- by 2-inch rectangular metal baking pan, and dust bottom and sides with confectioners’ sugar. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer or in a large bowl, sprinkle gelatin over cold water and let stand to soften. In a 3-quart heavy saucepan, cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, hot water, and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Increase to moderate heat and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240 degrees (about 12 minutes). Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved. With standing or hand-held electric mixer, beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume (about 6 minutes if using a standing mixer or about 10 minutes if using a hand-held mixer). In a large bowl with cleaned beaters, beat whites (or reconstituted powdered whites) until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla (I use twice the recommended amount) into sugar mixture until combined. Pour mixture into baking pan and sift 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallow, uncovered, until firm (at least three hours, and up to one day). Run a thin knife around edges of the pan and invert it onto a large cutting board. Lifting up one corner of the pan, loosen marshmallow with your fingers and let it drop onto cutting board. With a large knife, trim the edges of the marshmallow and cut into roughly 1-inch cubes. Sift remaining confectioners’ sugar into a large bowl and add marshmallows in batches, tossing to evenly coat. They will keep in an airtight container at cool room temperature for about a week. The process takes about 45 minutes.

WINTER SALAD

"Look for a cool leaf - I’m crazy for mache at the moment," Flannery says. "It’s nutty and seems fresher than radicchio or arugula. But feel free to wander around the produce department and see what’s fresh you don’t need a lot in a salad, just try to balance flavors. I used blackberries, because they just looked amazing and, this late in the season, seemed like a treat. I balanced their sweetness with some salted pepitas, or pumpkin seeds, that I found at Fiesta Mart. Paul Newman’s classic olive oil and vinegar is a terrific, easy dressing."