Tag Archives: comfort food

Motormouth Gang Mac and Cheese

Printable PDF at the bottom of the page!

Knock knock knock.

Gentleman Caller.

Ladies and gentleman, I have made quite a reputation for myself…

…for making the best mac and cheese. Ha, you dirty skank, you thought I was talking about something else.

When I was playing Link Larkin in Hairspray, occasionally the “Motormouth Gang” would have functions or events without the “Nicest Kids in Town.” It was not some kind of slight or oversight, it was simply that particular group of friends having a hang. However, on one occasion, I, Austin Miller Link Larkin, was granted an invitation to hang at a potluck situation with the Motormouth kids. Here’s what I’m going to tell you as a sweeping racial generalization: black people know how to cook.

Las Vegas Production
Credit Photo: ©Paul Kolnik

I knew immediately what I was taking. Two pans of mac and cheese. I had mastered mac and cheese, and this was going to be an opportunity to prove myself.

To this day, in New York City, other people in the Broadway community ask me about my mac and cheese. It’s not that hard. I pray it’s not a technique / instinct thing.

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 cups half and half
  • 2 cups milk
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon season salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (or white pepper if you don’t want to see it)
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated white onion
  • 20 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese**, divided & grated
  • 1-16 ounce package elbow macaroni, cooked to package instructions

**A delicious option is 12 ounces extra sharp cheddar and 8 ounces Gruyere cheese. Up the nutmeg to 1/4 teaspoon.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spray a large and deep casserole dish with cooking spray such as PAM. Combine milk and half and half in something you can pour from.

In a large saute pan, melt the butter. Sift the flour into the melted butter and whisk together at medium heat. Cook the roux. It should get bubbly and really bind. Add all the seasonings and grated onion.

Whisk in the milk and half and half a little at a time. Keep whisking. Whisk. Whisk. Do not stop. Turn the heat up a little. It should bubble. It should start to obviously thicken to the consistency of runny pancake batter. Remove from heat.

Add all but 2 cups of cheese to the pan you’ve been whisking. Stir it all together to melt the cheese. Add all the cooked macaroni. Stir to combine.

Pour into casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

Put into the 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Depending on how hard you like your cheese topping, you may want to go another 5 minutes. Just don’t let it get too dry.

Don’t eat the whole thing or you’ll be sick!

I offered the gruyere option above and honestly that’s how I most often do it. But my sweetie Terry LaVelle Mercedes Tammy Spectra wanted the straight up recipe so that’s what this is!

All for now,



The Gentleman’s Spagheeeti & Meatballs – so comforting they can even get you through an election

Printable PDF at the bottom of the page!

Knock knock knock.

Gentleman Caller.

Mamma Mia, dear readers! It’s Spagheeeti & Meatball day! Why spagheeeti, you ask? Do you ever watch Giada DeLaurentis on TV? She’s perfectly American until she has to tell you about ingredients or the name of a dish. It tickles me endlessly. There was a newscaster in Houston that did it, too, and I can’t explain it but I find it hilarious. “Elma BaRRRRReRRRRa, Eyewitness News.”

Anyway, spaghetti and meatballs is one of my most favorite comfort foods. I’ve always known how to make the magic happen, but lately I have been “Italian-ized” based on the company I keep and I picked up some really good tricks. Mostly I’ve un-bastardized some of my old notions about this delicious dish.

This takes some time. It’s worth it. Andiamo! Facciamolo!

What you need for sauce:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 lb boneless pork shoulder
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 28 oz can tomato puree
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 5 or 6 basil leaves
  • 8-10 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp white pepper

Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven. While it is heating up, cut pork shoulder in an approximate half. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on both sides of one of the halves; the other half will be cubed for later and set aside. Put the seasoned pork shoulder in the oil and achieve a sear on both sides.

Smash your garlic cloves with a pastry scraper or a chef’s knife. There’s no need to mince it further unless you are REALLY averse to a piece of garlic in the sauce. This is going to cook forever and most of it will likely break up. Toss in the bay leaf, too. Allow the oil to kind of coat the garlic and bay leaf; keep things moving. Bruise or tear the basil leaves and throw them in. Immediately add the tomato products and stock. If there’s a lot of tomato mess still in the cans, add a little hot water to the can, swirl it a bit, and pour it in. A little water isn’t going to hurt anything. Add salt, sugar, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Keep it at a nice baby simmer for at least 6 hours. 8 is better. 10 is magic. If it starts looking thick, add a little water. You will very likely have to do this a couple of times.


What you need for the meatballs:

  • 1 lb cubed sirloin*
  • 1 lb cubed pork shoulder (the other half of the one you used to make the sauce)*
  • 5 garlic cloves*
  • Leaves of about 5 sprigs fresh oregano*
  • Leaves of about 5 sprigs fresh flat leaf parsley*
  • 1 cup of breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup of ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp white pepper
  • 1 tbsp ground Italian seasoning
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder

*If you aren’t grinding your own meat, 1 lb ground round, 1 lb ground pork, 5 minced garlic cloves, 1/4 cup minced fresh oregano, 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

Fire up your meat grinder! Alternate beef, pork, garlic, oregano and parsley. The grinder will bring the ingredients together. (video)

Once the meat is ground, gently add breadcrumbs, Worcestershire sauce, eggs, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, onion powder and garlic powder. Don’t over mix. Gently fold in ricotta. Don’t over mix.


Using a spoon or ice cream scoop (for perfect portions), form meatballs, careful not to squish them too much. You want the lightness to remain intact. Line them up on a piece of pan release sprayed foil on a sheet pan. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes. Check them. They might need  5 more minutes depending on size – BUT DO NOT OVERCOOK THEM.


In the final hour of the sauce simmering, add the meatballs to the pot. Try to avoid stirring too much and disturbing them. Allow the sauce to rest for about a half hour before you serve it, and be sure you taste it for salt. Differing brands of stock have different levels of sodium. You’ll probably be in good shape, but taste it.

While the sauce rests, cook your pasta. I chose a thin linguine. Don’t overcook it. When you turn it into the colander to drain, dress the pasta with a drizzle of olive oil. I like to micro plane a piece of garlic and toss fresh chopped basil, oregano and parsley in the pasta. It really gives it a pop. I know this is untraditional, but it’s delicious.

Plate as you like. If you like to toss your pasta with sauce, do it. I like to put the pasta in a bowl and then put the sauce and balls on top with more herbs and fresh grated parmeggiano.  Do it the way you like. You’re the one who has to eat it!

I hope you enjoy this dish because it reminds me of my sweet Mawmaw. One of those sentimental dishes that conjure beautiful memories of loved ones. Make this for your loved ones and they’ll always think of you when they eat it in the future.

And I am signing off!

Cioa for now – The Gentleman Caller