Catagory: Side Dish
Difficulty Rating: Medium-Hard (lots of pans)
Not Healthy At All!
Recently, I helped out at Lindsay Stover's wedding and had the best Macaroni and Cheese I have ever tasted. Pam, the caterer, served a variation of Wolfgang Puck's CUT steakhouse version. I couldn't stop eating it. There I was, supposed to be helping and I was EATING instead. After I recovered from my carbo high, I asked Lindsay and her mom Cindy to ask for the recipe. Pam was nice enough to share it.
Well, I have to tell 'ya this recipe was a flop the first time I made it. Why? I just didn't have the right cheese combination. I had used a pricey Irish cheddar that was just ...too mild. I needed a fierce cheddar. My daughter (bless her) suggested Cracker Barrel Aged Cheddar in the black packaging. If you use this cheese, unlike many gourmet Mac N' Cheese recipes, it's not horribly expensive. Hurray! I did add half cup of shredded mozzerella at the end to create a little more gooey instead of silky texture. I also used Panko instead of brioche bread crumbs...but you can use what you want! Yield: 4- 5 servings of Mac N' Cheese. Double or quadruple this recipe to feed more people! Freezes well!
8 oz. elbow macaroni (you can also use a small-size penne or cavatappi)
3 T unsalted butter--plus more for greasing the baking dish
3 T all-purpose flour (or a gluten-free blend if you use GF pasta)
1 small bay leaf
1/2 medium white onion (sliced)
3 1/2 C whole milk
1 t sea salt or table salt (add more to adjust to taste after you add the cheese)
1 t. black pepper ( I used 1/2 t)
10 oz. shredded Cracker Barrel Aged Cheddar (black label)
3 oz.shredded Gruyere
Optional: 1/2 C shredded mozzerella cheese (add at the last minute)
1 C Panko bread crumbs or brioche crumbs (smashed Saltine cracker crumbs work in a pinch)
Optional: Truffle oil
Preheat an oven to 375 degrees. In a large pot cook elbow or penne macaroni following directions on the package until al dente. While pasta is cooking use a 2 quart saucepan over medium heat to melt the 3 T butter. Stir in the flour until blended --about 1 minute. Add the bay leaf and sliced onion. Slowly whisk in the milk until smooth. Simmer whisking occasionally until the mixture starts to thicken for about 7 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and onion at this point--or you will be SORRY. Bay leaf has a very strong taste! Simmer and whisk for another 7 minutes until mixture is as thick. Sauce should be creamy...not grainy. If it's grainy, throw it all out and do it again! Whisk it more often on the second try. Remove from the heat and stir in 3/4 C of the aged Cheddar, Gruyere and Parmesan until melted. Season with more salt and pepper to taste. At this point the pasta is probably done. Drain the water by putting it in a colander run cool water through it and set aside.
Put the drained macaroni back into the pot you boiled it in... fold the cheese sauce into it then add the 1/2 C mozzarella if you decide you want to use it. It's not good for the mozzerella to completely melt into the sauce like the other cheeses at this point. But if it does...it's OK. Transfer to a 9X12" or 1 qt. greased baking dish. Sprinkle with Panko or brioche bread crumbs and remaining cheddar cheese. Drizzle (optional) truffle oil over the top. Bake until the crumbs are golden and the cheese is bubbly--about 30 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.