Robots Are Coming! (To Take Our Jobs)

I love optimistic futurism, and, frankly, I think it’s generally correct. Technology makes things better (well, everything except the human ability to greet tremendous, global improvements with bitter disappointment, because they still aren’t haaaappppyyyyy). Andrew MacAffee has it right, I think. Robots are coming to take our jobs, but the net result is it’s a good thing.

For a counter point, I direct you to The Android Sisters 1984 song, “Robots are Coming”.

“Robots are coming. Give us your jobs.”

Bites and Pieces: Macaroni and Cheese

Comfort food doesn’t get any more comforting than macaroni and cheese. Millions of harried parents crack open a box of Kraft Mac & Cheese and have an easy dinner that they know will be gobbled. I once ran into a financial emergency in graduate school. I miscalculated my expenses and ran out of money before I ran out of month. [How quaint. Someone in his mid-20s without a credit card.] I sold a text book and made plans to eat mac & cheese for a week. Not content with boxes, I bought a pound of dry macraoni, a block of Velveeta, and a few additions such as a can of diced green chiles.

Fifteen years later, I was introduced to a better approach. My girlfriend’s room mate used to work at the New England Conservatory of music. There would often been left-over (good) cheese from receptions, which she would use to make the mac and cheese recipe from Best Recipe, a complication of favorites from Cooks Illustrated. Their recipe is adapted from John Thorne’s book Simple Cooking. I’ve been making a slightly tweaked version of it ever since.

Home made macaroni and cheese usually consists of pouring a Mornay sauce (white sauce with cheese) over cooked macaroni, possibly topped with toasted bread crumbs. Good, but not necessarily rich. I like rich. This one is akin to a custard, so it is thickened with eggs, not flour. Here is the base recipe:

Ingredients

2 large eggs

1 can of evaporated milk (or 1 ½ cups of milk)

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground pepper (black is fine, though white is nice for color)

¼ teaspoon hot sauce

1 teaspoon dried mustard, dissolved in 1 teaspoon of water

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces (half an inch or so is fine)

12 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

8 ounces of dry macaroni

Method

  1. Bring two quarts of water to a boil, add macroni and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook until not quite done (it finishes cooking later).
  2. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and combine with one cup of milk, salt, pepper, hot sauce and mustard. Shred the cheese.
  3. Pour macaroni into a colander to drain. Return to pot and toss with butter. Turn burn to medium and add the egg & milk mixture and 8 ounces of cheese. Stir until the cheese melts. Gradually add the remaining milk and cheese, stirring until the mixture thickens.
  4. Top with bread crumbs if you like. Did I forget to mention the bread crumbs?

The original recipe calls for evaporated milk, which makes a terrific sauce, but one very high in fat. I think whole milk works fine. You could probably use 2%, but I wouldn’t go lower in fat content. When I first used regular milk, my sauce took ages to thicken. I’ve found that I can obtain the right texture by undercooking the macaroni and stirring under medium high heat. You can also get away with dropping down to two or three tablespoons of butter. Don’t go underboard, though. CI later published a low fat version of the recipe, which just goes to prove that some things don’t work.

Variations

I’ve recently started varying the recipe a bit, mainly with the spicing. I was at my brother’s lake house in July and spotted some KC Masterpiece barbeque sauce. I replaced the spices with BBQ sauce to taste, probably about about a quarter cup. It was a hit. Another time, I tried using a teaspoon five spice powder instead of the mustard. It gave the dish a subtle twist.

The Competition

Post your favorite recipe in the comments section or email me and I’ll add it to the main post. Perhaps we can do a mac and cheese cook-off!

BB


Michigoose’s contributions:

Stove-Top Mac-n-Cheese

from Alton Brown

Ingredients

1/2 lb elbow macaroni

4 T butter

2 eggs

6 oz evaporated milk

1/2 t hot sauce (I like to use Cholulu Sauce)

1 t kosher salt

3/4 t dry mustard

10 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (I usually use a mixture of cheeses here, much like FB’s girlfriend’s roommate)

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente and drain.  return to the pot and melt in the butter.  Toss to coat.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt, pepper to taste and mustard.  Stir into the pasta and add the cheese.  Over low heat continue to stir until creamy, about 3 minutes.

Very, Very Bad for you Baked Macaroni and Cheese

from Giada De Laurentiis

Ingredients

12 oz wide egg noodles

2 cups heavy cream

2 1/2 cups whole milk

2 t flour

2 cups grated Fontina cheese (packed)

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (packed)

3/4 cup shredded mozarella

4 oz pancetta, diced and cooked crisp

2 T Italian parsley, chopped

Italian bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and butter a 13 x 9″ baking dish and set aside.

Cook the noodles until tender but still firm; drain well.  Whisk the cream, milk, and flour in a large bowl, then stir in half of each of the cheeses, the pancetta and the parsley.  Add the noodles and toss to coat.

Pour the noodle mixture into the prepared baking dish, sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top, then dust with bread crumbs.

Bake until the sauce bubbles and the cheese and crumbs on top begin to brown, about 20 minutes.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Michigoose’s Dad’s Macaroni and Cheese Supreme

I never actually got to eat mac and cheese when I was growing up unless it was at somebody else’s house.  My Dad had developed a serious aversion to it after he and my Mom had to eat it for weeks on end when they were first married and still poor college students.  After working on his own recipe for several years he finally developed one he could eat.  And like all my Dad’s recipe’s, it’s very, very involved!

Ingredients

1 cup macaroni, cooked and drained

1 1/2 T butter

1/2 small onion, chopped

1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced

1 T flour

3/4 cup skim milk

3/4 cup ham, fully cooked and cubed

1/4 t dry mustard

1 dash ground black pepper

1/4 t salt (he uses table salt, so adjust if you use something else)

1/2 t Worcestershire sauce

1 dash hot sauce (here he undoubtedly means Tabasco)

1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed

1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese

1/2 cup bread crumbs

2 T butter

2 T green pepper, chopped (I think he means a jalapeno here)

Heat oven to 375 degrees; cook macaroni to al dente, drain and set aside.

Melt butter over medium heat and saute onions until light golden in color.  Add the mushrooms and saute another 4 minutes.  Add the flour and cook, whisking continuously, for 1 minute.  Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly.  Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute.  Remove from the heat.

Stir the ham, mustard, pepper,salt, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, peas and cheese into the milk mixture and stir until the cheese is melted.

Toss together the sauce and macaroni, then spoon into a buttered baking dish.  Bake covered for 20 minutes.  Uncover, dot the top of the casserole with the remaining 2 T of butter and cover with bread crumbs.  Bake another 10 minutes.

Garnish with the pepper and serve.


Morning Report 9/26/12

Vital Statistics:

  Last Change Percent
S&P Futures  1433.8 -3.4 -0.24%
Eurostoxx Index 2512.3 -56.2 -2.19%
Oil (WTI) 89.94 -1.4 -1.57%
LIBOR 0.362 -0.001 -0.34%
US Dollar Index (DXY) 79.93 0.376 0.47%
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 1.64% -0.03%  
RPX Composite Real Estate Index 194.5 0.0  

Markets are weaker this morning as Europe sells off and commodities weaken. Spanish bond yields are back above 6%.  Perhaps the late summer lull in European news is over and it will take center stage again.  If so, the markets didn’t have much time to bask in the glow of QE infinity. This is pushing yields down on the 10 year, and MBS are up slightly. Volumes should be light today for the Jewish holiday.

The FHFA House Price index increased 3.7% annually in July. This index focuses on Fan and Fred conforming loans, so it is more of a “core” index than Radar Logic or Case-Schiller which are affected by sales at the extremes of valuation.  This index is much more stable – the peak to trough drop for the FHFA index was only 20%, vs. something like 33% for the other indices.

 

Unsurprisingly, Philly Fed President Charles Plosser doesn’t think much of QE Infinity. Plosser hits at the Fed’s credibility in an unusual way – “Conveying the idea that such action will have a substantive impact on labor markets and the speed of the recovery risks the Fed’s credibility.”  It is unusual in that we typically mean “inflation fighting” when we mention credibility.  Plosser is one of the most hawkish members of the Fed. He forecasts the economy will expand by 3% in 2013 and 2014, which is an aggressive forecast, to say the least. 

If noted that actual borrowing rates have not been affected by GE Infinity, even though MBS have moved, you would not be alone. This has been a continuing theme in the press, which brings with it the predictable questions of price gouging.  Part of the problem is that so much capacity has been taken out of the banking sector in the last 5 years that they cannot handle the volume.  Since most of these loans are refis, the banks view this boomlet as temporary and are reluctant to hire for fear that they will end up being overstaffed when rates start rising. 

Real “inside baseball” stuff, but University of Chicago professor Casey Mulligan discusses how our redistributive social safety net is skewing incentives to work, and also challenges Paul Krugman’s “Its the demand, stupid” argument.  

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