Thursday, August 19, 2010

Updating a favorite – Creamy, Tangy Mac n Cheese

I know it’s only been a few weeks since I posted my macaroni and cheese recipe but as fate would have it, I came across a magnificent example of my favorite dish just down the street from me, inspiring some tweaking of my standard go to recipe. For this round I have decreased a touch of each of my trio of cheeses to make room for a fourth player – GOAT CHEESE! I know there are folks out there who are not fans of goat cheese and that is just fine (even though y’all crazy!) I will reiterate my pledge that goat cheese when warm is a whole other breed of delicious, creamy, mind blowing goodness. Adding just a few ounces of goat cheese to the sauce for this is genius…and I can say that perfectly honestly because it totally was not my idea, bias completely avoided. The goat cheese adds a very subtle tang and boosts the creamy factor without being overly goaty (yes, I definitely made that word up), which by the by I wouldn’t mind at all, but it’s just not the case here.

I really love this new cheese combination. The instigator of the goat cheese idea, though I know it’s not novel, was 2223 Restaurant in San Francisco. They combine a luscious mixture of goat, gruyere and parmesan into a gooey, over the top, decadent, heart stopping dish. And I do mean heart stopping. I felt my arteries clogging even more with every bite and it was f.a.n.t.a.s.t.i.c! I will try my hand at recreating their version one of these days. For now, check out this new twist on a classic that never gets old and always makes you a member of the clean plate club. My only trouble with this recipe is once it comes out of the oven I get so excited to eat it that I without fail forget to take a final picture of the dish before diving in. I guess you’ll just have to make it to find out what the fuss is all about.

And a special shout out to my girl Sierra, for whom I made a tray of my revamped Mac n Cheese for her going away party. She’s leaving the foggy city for the wonders of Seattle. Good luck girl! We’ll miss you!

Revamped Amazeballs Macaroni and Cheese
(A Girl and Her Kitchen, Adapted from Cooking for Engineers)

1 lb. (450 g) elbow macaroni (whole wheat pasta works well here)
1 c reserved pasta cooking liquid (may only use a small portion)
5 Tbs. (45 g) all-purpose flour
4 Tbs. melted butter (or left over bacon grease/fat….mmmm bacon grease)
3 12-oz. cans (1 L) evaporated milk
5 oz. American cheese, broken into bits (or shredded)
8 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
3 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
3 oz. Goat cheese, broken into chunks
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground mustard seed
2 tsp. table salt (plus more to taste)
1 teaspoon hot sauce (plus more to taste)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
1 tsp white pepper
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
a splash of beer (a full ¼ cup, in fact a 1/2 cup would be just fine)
crumbled bacon

Bread crumb topping:
3/4 c panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Crumbled bacon (optional but highly recommended, at least 4 strips, more, again, highly recommended)

Preheat the oven to 400°F

Bring four quarts of water to a hard boil. Dissolve at least 3 Tbs. salt into the water and add the macaroni. Cook until very al dente (about 3 minutes less then package instructions say to cook). You are looking for a toothsome, slightly chewy texture. Definitely undercooked the pasts from what you would usually serve, but the pasta will continue to cook in the oven with the cheese sauce. Once it's ready, ladle out 2/3 cup water to be reserved for the cheese sauce later just in case you need it. Immediately drain the macaroni and rinse it thoroughly in cold water to stop the cooking. This is one of the few times I advocate using a colander and rinsing pasta with cold water (in most cases, pasta used in casseroles benefits from this procedure). It makes all the difference in the world.

While the water is coming to a boil, prepare a roux by heating (over medium heat) 4 tbsp butter (or bacon grease) until it foams over medium heat in a large, heavy bottom sauce pan. Then whisk in the 5 tbsp of flour and cook while stirring until light brown (about 1-2 minutes). Slowly add beer and evaporated milk while whisking and then continue to add evaporated milk and beer until all the evaporated milk has been added to the pot and no clumps of roux remain. Using a sifter to avoid clumps of seasoning, sift in freshly grated nutmeg, ground mustard, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, paprika,and white pepper. Add the hot sauce and Worcestershire. Stir to combine well.

Cook the mixture for about 4-6 more minutes on medium heat. The mixture (a béchamel sauce) should have thickened up. You know it is done when it coats the back of a spoon and you can run your finger down the back leaving a trail.
 Move the pot off the heat source and stir in the cheeses and, if needed, some of the reserved pasta cooking water (only if mixture gets too thick). Keep stirring until the cheese completely melts into the béchamel. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
 (Please note that I was making two batches at one time, hence the monsterous amount of cheese and sauce.)

Stir in the cooked macaroni and bacon so that the sauce completely coats all the pasta.
Pour the macaroni and cheese into a lightly buttered 9x13-in. baking pan.
 Combine the breads crumbs and parmesan cheese (and bacon if using). Lightly cover the top of the macaroni and cheese with the bread crumb mixture. (Cooks tip: melt some bacon fat and butter in a pan, mix in the panko and pre-toast the breadcrumbs before cooking mac. Toss the toasted panko with cheese and bacon before topping mac and baking. Can skip broiling step as i think this gives it a more ever crunch.)
 Bake for 10-15 minutes (when the edges begin to bubble). Place the casserole under the broiler for 3-5 minutes to lightly brown the topping. Remove from the oven and let the casserole sit for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting into it to serve.

Note: You could also stir in crumbled bacon into the actual mac if u r feeling extra decadent. Add some peas if you like as well. You could also very well skip the baking step and just eat the totally awesome goopy version, though you might want to cook your pasta to true al dente in this case. Laslty, there is nothing remotely redeeming health wise about this dish so don't try and healthy it up by using light cheese and the like. Just put aside your worries for your arteries for a moment and dig in with a big smile.

1 comment:

  1. Worries for your arteries -- I like that. There's no such thing as a healthy mac n' cheese. And somehow I think of you in your best Homer Simpson impression when you're fawning over the cheese!

    Btw love smitten kitchen too.