Gourmet Macaroni and Cheese2010-02-07
Yesterday we were whacked by a huge snow storm here in the Washington DC area. The final totals tallied in at 25 inches of snow which is a lot regardless of where you live. Needless to say some comfort food was in order. The recent issue of Fine Cooking had two macaroni and cheese recipes with a beautiful picture of one of them on the front of the magazine. The picture had taunted us for a week so we preplanned the pantry with the ingredients waiting for the right time to cook it up.
Before we get started on the recipe, I have to say the word “Gourmet” translates into the flavors and the cost of this recipe. The Emmentaler cheese at our local grocer goes for 19.99/lb. Multiply that by four pricey cheeses and the cost for this macaroni and cheese would allow it be served at a five star restaurant. These are also four cheeses that are not found in a bag and needed to be grated. That lead to a response from my cooking partner with cheese in hand and box grater in the other; “Don’t we have something that will make this easier.” If you can stomach the price of this entree and a fair bit of effort keep reading, otherwise stay tuned and I will share our reasonably priced recipe in the near future. Also, suggestions on other grating methods are welcome.
Our changes to the recipe were only a few. The original recipe called for pulled pork to be mixed in with the macaroni and cheese. We had slow cooked the pork the day before and made the recipe with the pulled pork in it. In retrospect, we did not enjoy the texture of the meal with the pork. It also did not add anything to the flavor. Of course the BBQ pork sandwiches the night before were delicious. We also made fresh bread crumbs, added cayenne pepper and used ground sage instead of sage leaves. An adjustment to the Parmigiano-Reggiano quantities was required as the published recipe had an error. Finally, we changed the pasta type from radiatore to elbows. I had never heard of it before but thanks to Google I now know another pasta type to put on the need-to-try list.
The results were an amazing bouquet of cheese flavors. It was like fondue and pasta all mixed together. The white wine (we used Sauvignon blanc) really came out in the flavor and I may try adding that to my other recipes. The cheeses blended well together with a crunch of Parmesan on the top followed by a smooth nutty and sweet flavor of the Gruyere and piquant nature of the Emmentaler. So have some guests over and tell them the main entree is macaroni and cheese. It will be a taste treat they will not forget.
12 oz dried elbows or ridged pasta, preferably radiatore
4 Tbs (2 oz. ) unsalted butter
2 small yellow onions, chopped (1-1/2 cups)
1-1/8 oz (1/4 cup) all-purpose flour
3-1/2 cups whole milk
1-1/2 cups dry white wine
1 tsp ground sage
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
4 oz grated Gruyère (1-1/2 cups)
4 oz grated Emmentaler (11/2 cups)
4 oz grated fontina (1-1/2 cups)
2/3 cup fresh bread crumbs (about 4 quality white slices)
5 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1-1/4 cups)
2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbs thinly sliced fresh chives
1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of well-salted water according to package directions until just barely al dente. Drain and set aside.
2. Preheat the oven temperature to 350°F. Melt the butter in a large 8-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring frequently, until golden and very soft, about 20 minutes.
3. Place slices of bread in toaster oven at 300°F to dry out (approx 10 minutes. Remove crusts and cut into 1 inch squares. Place squares into a food processor and pulse until you have a coarse blend of bread crumbs. Set aside.
4. Whisk in the flour and cook for 30 seconds. Whisk in the milk in a slow, steady stream. Raise the heat to medium high and whisk constantly until the mixture begins to thicken and bubble, 3 to 5 minutes.
5. Whisk in the white wine, sage, and a 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a low simmer, whisking constantly.
6. Reduce the heat to low and use a wooden spoon to stir in the Gruyère, Emmentaler, and fontina. Stir in the reserved pork and pasta until well coated. Pour the mixture into a 12-inch oven safe skillet.
7. In a small bowl, mix the bread crumbs, Parmigiano, and olive oil. Sprinkle evenly over the mixture in the skillet.
8. Bake until the topping is browned and the cheese sauce is bubbling through the topping and around the edges of the skillet, 40 to 45 minutes. (If the topping begins to brown too deeply, tent loosely with foil.) Let the macaroni and cheese rest for at least 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the chives and serve.
Note: Swiss cheese can be a cheap alternative to the Emmentaler
Source: Adapted from Fine Cooking Feb/Mar 2010
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