Chef's comfort food
When staying in is on the agenda, Alexa Lemley has the perfect home recipe.
The weather outside is frightful, and it seems you have no other option than staying inside for the evening. But it may seem challenging to prepare a meal in the comfort of your home. Columbus chef Alexa Lemley agrees, which is why she’s here to help.
Lemley co-owns both Artisan Foodworks and 240sweet, a bakery specializing in multi-flavored marshmallows. Lemley saves a potentially dreary dinnertime with one of her favorite home recipes for mac and cheese.
And boy, is it a favorite. She recently won the Grand Champion of Cheese award at this year’s American Dairy Association Ultimate Mac and Cheese Cook-off at the Indiana State Fair. She owes her award to use of multiple cheeses throughout her recipe.
As a caterer, she travels throughout Indiana and neighboring states where her macaroni and cheese is a customer favorite. “We go anywhere someone wants us to go,” she says. Her decadent dish is also a favorite at home, and she she often makes it on “meatless Mondays.”
To prepare for those wintry-nights at home where the fire is so delightful, Alexa recommends keeping things like heavy cream, butter, cheese and other basics in stock. “I like to keep staples in the house like pasta and rice,” she says. “I usually like to make things quick and simple.
She suggests planning what you’re going to eat for the week and hitting the store once. That way, you don't have to make return trips out into the cold.
Award-winning Decadent Macaroni and Cheese
½ lb. elbow macaroni noodles
8 oz. sour cream
8 oz. cottage cheese
1 pint heavy whipping cream
¼ lb. butter
¼ lb. cream cheese
1 lb. sharp cheddar, shredded (reserve 1/4 cup)
1 lb. queso chihuahua, shredded (reserve 1/4 cup)
1 sleeve Ritz crackers
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a stock pot, boil one gallon of water.
3. Add noodles and cook for five minutes. Drain and rinse under cool water.
4. In sauce pan, whisk together heavy whipping cream, butter and cream cheese until smooth.
5. Remove the cream mixture from heat. In a large bowl, stir together noodles, cream mixture, sour cream, cottage cheese, salt, pepper, ¾ lb. sharp Cheddar, ¾ lb. queso Chihuahua
6. In a food processor, pulse crackers and remaining cheeses until crumbly.
7. Place macaroni mixture into a 9x13 casserole dish and top with cracker/cheese crumbs. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until bubbly.