Story last updated at 2/26/2014 - 1:50 pm
A few years ago, I wrote a blog about macaroni and cheese. The overall story was about how Grant crushed me with his critique of my first attempt at homemade mac-n-cheese. "It's sour and grainy. Tastes terrible," he declared.
This moment has forever been known as the Mac-n-Cheese Incident of 2009. He made me cry and I ran to the store and bought a frozen mac-n-cheese, threw it in the oven and told him that dinner would be ready in one hour. I then jumped back into my car and went to a local eatery for dinner alone to pout and eat my emotions.
The subsequent result of the Incident was that I took a cooking class on sauces and specifically asked how to make a good cheese sauce. It really isn't very hard; I had made a simple mistake - adding the cheese while the pot was still on the heat. This overcooks the sauce and breaks down the cheese, resulting in sour and grainy sauce.
From that moment on, I made mac-n-cheese like a pro. I add fresh thyme and sometimes roasted garlic, and every time I make it, Grant compliments me, "It's delicious!" he proclaims.
That was until last week when I decided to kick it up a notch. I added sautéed mushroom and a splash of white wine to an already pretty darn good recipe. I used aged white cheddar cheese and rather than simple bread crumbs for the topping I made a combination of bread crumbs, fresh chopped parsley, finely grated aged white cheddar cheese and parmesan cheese. I was in one of those go big or go home kinds of moods.
I have to say that the best part of the meal was when Grant helped me. He shredded nearly four cups of cheese and even helped boil the pasta. He did ask if I was sure about him boiling water - the last time he tried that he almost set the kitchen on fire. I assured him that it was fine, as he was properly supervised this time.
What a fun night. We watched our favorite shows on television, cooked together and shared some great laughs. The best part was that he had no idea mac-n-cheese could be kicked up in flavor and that it was so easy even he could do it.
We made enough for two 8"x8" pans and ate all of it over the course of two days. It reheated very well in the oven. When we sat down for dinner, Grant dug in to a mound of cheesy pasta on his plate, took one bite, rolled his eyes and said it was truly the best mac-n-cheese he's ever had and that it was definitely the best on the planet and beyond. I don't know about it being extraterrestrial, but it's sure nice to know that in our little world it met his criteria.
Taking an old tried and true recipe and spicing it up with a few new ingredients keeps flavors new and interesting. This week I present a recipe that is not only a go to dish in our home, it's now apparently worthy of feeding to E.T. should he drop by: Updated Mac-n-Cheese.
Until next time...
Eat and enjoy,
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon separated
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups finely shredded aged white-cheddar cheese, ¼ cup separated
4 cups chicken broth
¼ cup dry white wine (not sweet)
1 cup heavy cream
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
¼ teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1 package cavatapi pasta
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup bread crumbs
¼ cup fresh chopped parsley
Combine parmesan cheese, ¼ cup cheddar cheese, bread crumbs and parsley in small bowl. Set aside.
Bring large pot of water to boil. Season well with salt. Add pasta and cook until almost al dente. About 7 minutes. Once pasta is cooked, drain and set aside.
Pre-heat small skillet to medium-high heat. Add butter and melt. Reduce heat to medium and add minced garlic; cook for about 30 seconds until garlic is no longer raw. Add mushrooms and sauté until soft and tender.
Meanwhile, in medium-sized heavy saucepan melt butter and flour together over medium heat. Allow to cook at least 1 minute or so to cook out the raw flour.
Once the roux turns golden, gently add 1 cup of the broth and whisk until well incorporated. Add wine and continue to stir. Continue to add broth one cup at a time, consistently stirring to ensure there are no lumps. After all the broth is added, season with salt and pepper and add thyme and bay leaves. Bring to light simmer and cook about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.
Slowly add cream and continue to stir. Add nutmeg and cook additional 5 - 7 minutes to allow sauce to thicken. This is called a béchamel sauce or white sauce. It can be used for many different recipes.
Remove from heat. Let cook about 3 - 5 minutes. Slowly, one handful at a time, add the cheese. Stir well until each handful is well blended and melted into the sauce. Continue until all the cheese is used. Taste and season with salt and pepper. I tend to like a lot of pepper.
Combine pasta and cheese sauce until well incorporated. I used a large bowl to make for easy stirring. Be sure to remove the bay leaves. Add mushrooms and stir. Place in baking pan or pans, top with cheese and bread crumb mixture and bake in 350¿ oven for 20 minutes, until topping is bubbling and golden brown.
Let cool a few minutes before serving.