Monday, April 20, 2015

Cheesemonger's Mac & Cheese

This is the last mac and cheese recipe for a while, I promise. That’s what happens when you try to find your go-to recipe – a lot of testing various things to see how you like them. The basics of mac and cheese are to make a roux, add milk, add grated cheese and mix until it forms a sauce, then mix with cooked pasta. For a stovetop version, serve immediately; for a baked version, put it in a baking dish, top with cheese and/or breadcrumbs, bake and serve. And yet there are so many variations it’s mind-boggling! This one if from Bon Appétit. It was delicious, though I must confess I forgot to top it with the reserved cheese – I’m sure it would have been even better then! The main caveat here is that it calls for a lot of brie, and if you get the quality stuff, you can expect to spend $20 on brie alone. So it’s not an everyday dish, sadly. That being said, it wasn’t bland like many versions can be – the pungent brie was toned down a bit, but still made everything taste delicious, and it went really well with the sharp cheddar and gruyère. Note that I didn’t have ramequins the right size, so I made the whole thing in a 9”x13” dish and it worked well.

1 ½ cups coarsely grated lactose-free gruyère cheese
1 ½ cups coarsely grated lactose-free sharp cheddar cheese
1 ½ cups diced rindless Brie (cut from a 1-lb. wedge)
5 Tbsp. butter or margarine, divided
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
¾ tsp. (scant) nutmeg
4 cups lactose-free whole milk
1 ¾ cups fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless French bread
1 lb. penne pasta (or short pasta of your choice)

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until tender but firm to bite. Drain when ready.

Meanwhile, mix all cheeses. Set aside 1 cup for topping; cover and chill. (Do your best not to forget that cup in the fridge…)

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and stir until mixture turns golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add thyme and nutmeg. Gradually whisk in milk. Simmer until thickened and smooth, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Add cheeses from large bowl. Stir until melted and smooth.

Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add breadcrumbs; toss. Stir until golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to plate.

Preheat oven to 375 °F.

Transfer the drained pasta to a large bowl. Pour cheese sauce over; toss. (This was still soupier than I expected, but it reached the right consistency in the oven.) Divide among eight 1 ¼-cup custard cups (or a 9”x13” baking dish). Sprinkle with 1 cup cheese (don’t forget!). Place cups on rimmed baking sheet. Cover with foil; bake 15 minutes. Uncover. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake pasta until beginning to bubble and tops are golden, about 20 minutes.

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