It’s MAC & CHEESE, The French Version


New Year's Eve Fireworks in Aspen, 8:00p.m.     photo:Aspen Daily News

New Year’s Eve Fireworks in Aspen, 8:00p.m. photo:Aspen Daily News

Last week-end Trevor Kensey who posts at Sis.Boom.Blog. and I were exchanging holiday e-mails. He asked what I was doing on New Year’s Eve. I didn’t respond. While I’m the first to celebrate holidays and special  occasions with gusto, Auld Lang Syne at midnight, not so much.

After 9:00pm the world turns without me. If that means turning the page of another year, so be it. My plan, as always, was to have a nice, rather late dinner (that’s 7:00pm) and crawl into bed with my favorite book. Presently it’s Lawrence in Arabia by Scott Anderson. But that rascal, Father Time, is full of surprises. Trevor, my evening was a blast. So, listen up, my friend, this Post’s for you.


This week's FFWD recipe choice, Dressy Pasta Risotto. In America we call this Macaroni & Cheese.

This week’s FFWD recipe choice is Dressy Pasta Risotto. In America we call this Macaroni & Cheese.


This week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe choice is Dressy Pasta “Risotto”. As Dorie admits, there is nothing risotto-ish about this dish. It’s a fancy French version of the American classic, mac & cheese. Now, in truth, creamy pasta dishes originated in northern Europe and caught the palate of Thomas Jefferson when he made his Grand Tour (1784-1789). In 1802, as president, he served mac & cheese at a state dinner. In 1937 Kraft introduced it in a box. At our house my mother made the most fabulous m&c with Velveeta. Ohhhh, that yummy toasty crust on top.

Dorie’s version adds chicken broth, heavy cream, mascarpone, and freshly grated Parmesan (ya gotta love the French) to the traditional chopped onions and elbow macaroni. It’s easily tossed together and made in a skillet over medium heat on the stove top in 30 minutes. Delicious. I paired it with my favorite Old-fashioned Meat Loaf, a recipe from the April 1994 Gourmet, and homemade corn bread. Be still my heart.




Just as I finished dinner at 8 pm, the traditional NYE fireworks over Aspen Mountain began. Since I live directly east, under the mountain, my balcony was prime real estate for viewing. The display was spectacular and very, very loud. But The Gant’s balconies were jammed, the children, squealing, the adults, whooping and hollering. It was a celebration.

I went to bed, thanked God for a great 2013, asked that 2014 be more of the same, and soon fell asleep. Suddenly……… all hell breaks loose. That bombs-blasting-in-air thing.  By the time I got fully awake, pulled my heart back into my chest, I realized it was Midnight. In Aspen, where EXCESS is spelled in capital letters, we now do fireworks twice. Since I’d been gone a decade, I was unprepared for “twice”.  But, once again, the balconies were full, the kids, some, frightened, squealing, the adults, whooping and hollering and tooting their horns. And, Trevor, since sleep did not come easily after that, it was one heck of a New Year’s Eve for me. Thanks for asking.


This coming week I am going to California to spend the winter.  The only negative about moving home to Aspen? My family lives in Calli. I dearly miss the monthly visits, being present for all the girls’ performances and activities that I enjoyed while living in Nevada. The solution, we decided, was to rent a family hang-out on the central coast of California.


On our last visit to Cambria, Stephen considers the possibilities. Our rental house is located nearby.

On our last visit to Cambria, Stephen considers the possibilities. Our rental house is located nearby.


We picked Cambria, a picturesque little village located on Highway 1 near the spectacular Hearst Castle in San Simeon. If the area is good enough for William Randolph, it’s good enough for me. I first visited Cambria in 2007 when I attended a week-long seminar on the Four Migrations (whales, birds, butterflies and elephant seals). My kids soon joined me and we’ve been enjoying annual visits ever since.


Melissa:  "This works."

Melissa: “This works.”


They will come to Cambria. I will go to Bishop. Next week, I’ll be posting from California. If you’d like to track where my colleagues are posting from this week, go here.


Our last family visit to Cambria.........anticipating manmy more.

Our last family visit to Cambria………anticipating many more.


  1. says

    The Dressy Pasta Risotto looks amazing! I can’t wait to try that one (although mine might not make it up until the weekend). Have a great time in California 🙂

  2. says

    Happy New Year, Mary!!! Safe travels! I can’t wait to see you in Cambria! Also hoping to host a dinner party for Trevor, Sina, and you in Oxnard!

  3. says

    It would be hard to pull me away from a winter in Aspen, but I do I understand the draw of family. Cambria, it sounds like you’re renting a villa in Italy. Lovely beach… enjoy. Your musings of mac n cheese as a kid sound wonderful. I on the other hand didn’t know that pasta can have anything on it other than red sauce until I was about 15. Love the choice of meatloaf… now that is an American classic I love.

  4. says

    Who knew that down south in DM, you were dining on the Velveeta version…I think we only had Kraft Deluxe in Ames 🙂 I love the fireworks displays in Aspen…we always stayed at Lift One and saw the 4th of July version from our balcony. Safe travels to Calli…sounds like the perfect spot for you to winter. xo

  5. says

    How fun that you now migrate to Cambria along with the whales, birds, butterflies and elephant seals. And I love Bishop too and remember it from our family drives to go skiing each year. For some reason or another my dear Mary 2014 has decided that it was important for you to mark the occassion of its arrival and I could not be more pleased for you! If your CA travels take you down south to my neck of the woods I hope you will look me up. As for this dish…I just did mac and cheese and couldn’t muster the enthusiasm this week to do it once again. Even for this intriguingly Not French French Mac and Cheese. Honestly, what our Dorie gets away with all in the name of French cuisine! I will make it this weekend, take a taste, and throw it out or force Sina to take it to the office as I won’t be tempted. I have resolutions to keep!

  6. nana says

    Mary, Happy New Year, enjoy you time in California with the family. I am glad you
    enjoyed New Year’s Eve, I could not stay awake so ended up in bed at 11:15. Must be
    the age thingy…..

  7. says

    Happy New Year Mary! Your winter plans sound wonderful. I’m trying to not be envious! I thought this mac and cheese was great! My New Year’s Eve was very similar. It seems the fireworks get louder every year and I can no longer sleep through them!

  8. Marilyn Susman says

    A happy and healthy 2014 to you. The pic of the mac and cheese looks so yummy and is tempting to try to make, even with my resistance to whites. Your Cambria winter retreat looks lovely. Enjoy!

  9. says

    Nice fireworks! Italians go a little nuts with the fireworks on nye (and every other day of the year), so I know just how you feel about being bombed-awake. Have a safe trip to CA, and enjoy your time with your family!

  10. says

    My mom would get us the Velveeta mac and cheese! I think that boiling the pasta for those and making Jiffy cornbread muffins were some of my very first cooking experiences!

    I hope you have a wonderful time with your family in Cambria. The scenery is stunning!

  11. says

    Happy New Year! What a great pairing with the meatloaf. Aspen looks like a magical place to spend New Year’s Eve – even if you tuck in a bit early. Enjoy your trip to California – our weather is gorgeous right now!

  12. says

    Funny, this one didn’t even make me think of childhood mac&cheese. I have no idea why not. My mom made James Beard’s baked mac & cheese, with ziti instead of elbows. She made it in a special Dansk enamel baking dish. Coincidentally, when we moved into our house, I found an identical dish in the storage drawer under the oven. It was a auspicious sign. I’m glad you enjoyed New Year’s Eve in Aspen. Safe travels on your trip to Cambria. Did you get the photo I emailed you? Have a Happy New Year, Mary!!!!

    • Mary says

      OF COURSE you found an identical dish of your Mom’s in the storage drawer under your oven. You have all sorts of magical things that just appear in your kitchen when you need them!!! Yes, I received the pix and am going to use it (I didn’t even ask) in my next post. xoxoxoxo

  13. says

    how fantastic & fortunate you are to enjoy a sunny winter home with your family!! So glad you were able to enjoy the New Year too, even if you had to calm your heart a bit first! 🙂 Have a lovely 2014 Mary!!

  14. says

    Happy New Year! What a great story. And your dinner sounds delicious to me! I too had mine for NYE, but not quite as fancy! OK, some home made focaccia and champagne. Nothing wrong with that! Have a wonderful time in California. It will be so much fun to be with your family, and you’ll get to make some new memories too! Can’t wait to hear about your adventures.

  15. says

    Happy New Year Mary!! Hope your year holds all good things. Sounds as if you welcomed it in beautifully! That meat loaf looks so tempting…I so enjoy a good meat loaf! Your pasta also looks very good! Have a great time in California! Sounds like a great place to spend the winter.

  16. Donna Grauer says

    Mary, your courage in the face of comfort food (not to mention saturated fat) is admirable. The Mac&Cheese and the Meatloaf would not be something I would make for just me or even for Bernie and me. Hence, I am BEYOND WOEFULNESS that you didn’t share it with me, because in spite of my fears, I just want to dive right in. Give me a shovel and a place to stand near the pot and I will be VERY HAPPY.
    PS…Wish you were not leaving. I know you have to but I am hoping next year you will find life here doable n any season.

  17. says

    What a fun post. Even with the snow and low temperatures I have to say that your posts and photos always make me want to jump a plane to Aspen. Now I want to stop at Aspen before continuing on to that gorgeous California coast 🙂 What a fabulous way to deal with the logistics of family time. Really- just wonderful and I give you all bonus points for coming up with it. Sounds like you are going to have some very special times ahead, between the family and what I am sure will involve Dorista roadtrips. It is definitely going to be a fabulous 2014 !!

  18. says

    Oh, those fireworks sound like the way to force one into celebrating.

    Escaping Aspen to become WRH Jr., huh? Enjoy your time close to your peeps.

    Looking forward to 2014 – and you really do need to come visit those Presidential libraries out East. Ahem 🙂

  19. says

    Happy New Year Mary! Here in Germany the tradition is to buy fireworks and then set them off in the streets at midnight. It’s crazy loud and it goes on for hours, so I wouldn’t be able to sleep through new year if I tried. They are still cleaning up the streets around us. The banks of the river, where most of the action was, looks like a war zone.

    Looking forward to hearing about your adventures in California.

  20. says

    Happy 2014 Mary. We were in London on New Years Eve. Scott and I were keeping my daughter’s baby and the same thing happened to us. We had a nice dinner after putting the baby to bed and got in bed by 10. At twelve the whole city burst with fireworks. And it went on and on and on. We could see a bit of it from our window, quite spectacular! Your mac cheese looks amazing and sounds like it would be wonderful with the meatloaf, yum! Have a safe trip! How nice to be closer to your family.

  21. says

    Hi Mary,
    Well. thirty days past the ‘New Year,’ but in fact just into the ‘Lunar’ celebration, which by the way I am a rooster, I’ll take the opportunity to wish you a Happy, Happy both with many best wishes. Fireworks, on the other hand are much lovlier when viewed from afar rather than lining the streets of Chinatown- but the dragon costumes sure are magnificent. I love your dish and am happy you enjoyed a happy entry. I’m beginning here and working my way backward as I am able. Hope you are enjoying a wonderful time in California! Big Hugs and Much Love Your Way!

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