So just who was the first person to decide we should be drinking cow’s milk? My family and I have often joked about it-picturing the farmer with his bucket of milk fresh from the cow and deciding that it looked good enough to drink. When I think about all the dairy foods I love, like cheese, ice cream, butter and your typical cold glass of milk I easily dismiss who was first to drink it and am just grateful.
Once at home, I stacked a plate with Oreos and poured myself a tall one. I could not help but notice that the skim milk’s appearance was not as watery as I was accustomed to. The milk had the creamy silky texture of whole or 2%. Not quite milkshake creamy, but delicious nevertheless. The 1% version was creamier still.
The Farmers Cow milk is a premium milk brand that is marketed and produced by a cooperative of Connecticut family owned dairy farms. It boasts no growth hormones (I like that) and was created in response to consumers like me who are interested in buying local, fresh natural products. It’s currently available only in Connecticut. But perhaps if you ask them nicely your local dairy farmers will do the same.
I decided to test how the milk holds up in one of our family favorites: macaroni and cheese. I used the fat free milk and was really pleased at the consistency (full fat cheeses and quite a bit of butter probably helped with that). For good measure, I served the mac and cheese over spinach-it’s quite a nice combination. Feel free to toss in some sliced fresh garlic with the spinach if you would like, I didn’t have any on hand, but I think it would probably be a good addition.
Three Cheese Penne with Frizzled Shallots and Peppered Spinach
Two shallots, peeled, very thinly sliced and separated into rings
2 teaspoons flour
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons butter
Mac and Cheese:
1 (16-ounce) box Mezze Penne
2 tablespoons butter, plus additional to butter the dish
1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 2/3 cups fat free milk
1 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I used Cabot Reserve Cheddar)
1/2 cup shredded mild provolone cheese (I used Boar’s Head)
1/4 cup freshly grated good quality parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 (8-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Butter the bottom and sides of a 2-quart baking dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
To prepare the frizzled shallots, place the shallots in a small bowl and sprinkle with flour, cayenne pepper and kosher salt; toss gently to coat the shallots. Melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium high heat. When the butter is very hot, but not brown, add the shallots. Cook the shallots, turning frequently until lightly browned. Transfer shallots to a paper towel lined plate to drain; reserve the sauce pan with the drippings.
For the penne, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and stir in the penne; cook penne for one minute less than the directions on the box indicate. In the same saucepan used to cook the shallots, melt the two tablespoons of butter over medium high heat. Whisk in the flour and salt then cook, stirring, for one minute. Gradually whisk in the milk and cook, stirring, until smooth and thickened. Stir in the cheeses.
Drain the pasta and transfer to the buttered baking dish. Stir in the cheese sauce. Sprinkle with the frizzled shallots and the parmesan cheese and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly.
While the penne and cheese is baking, heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the spinach a handful at a time and cook, stirring, until wilted. Stir in the red pepper and the salt.
To serve, spoon a portion of the spinach onto each serving plate. Top the spinach with the penne; serve with an icy cold glass of Farmer’s Cow milk. Mmmm!