On my Facebook page I had asked my friends for ideas on what to make for my back to basics theme for January. Anne Chisholm requested a really good, not too dry mac and cheese so I tried to deliver. I tried and failed! But, I think I figured out the problem with most mac and cheese recipes.
First, I knew if there was anyone out there who could make a kick-butt gooey mac and cheese it would be Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. Sure enough Ina has a recipe for Grown Up Mac and Cheese and wow, was it ever decadent. And expensive to make! But I was happy to invest if this was the best and moistest mac and cheese in the world.
This is where the money was spent, the cheese. I used a good quality old cheddar, gruyere and blue cheese. I could not find basil at this time of year so I used some fresh thyme instead. Some people commented on my foodie Facebook page that they could not find gruyere cheese so I recommend either a really fresh mozzarella or maybe a smoke gouda.
You start by making the pasta. You need to bring a big pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Make sure to salt that water! I can not tell you the difference it makes. I never thought it was necessary but every show on The Food Network said to do it so one day I did and wow, pop! Way more flavour.
I decided I wanted to infuse the milk for the sauce with thyme so I warmed it up and let the thyme infuse as the butter melted for the roux. A roux is what thickens a sauce. You melt butter and then add the same amount of flour:
Whisk whisk whisk! Not easy to do and take a pic at the same time, LOL. Let the sauce thicken. Add the cheese to the sauce along with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Drain the pasta, put it back in the pot with the cheese sauce and some homemade bacon bites. I use turkey bacon, wasn’t sure it would work but it was great.
I changed the recipe here by putting on panko breadcrumbs drizzled with olive oil and it got so crunchy and crispy! The top was my favourite part!
You bake it in the oven for 30 minutes and I think this is where all grown up mac and cheese recipes go wrong and boxed mac and cheese go right. Ovens are dry and I think the macaroni soaks up what liquid there is and the rest evaporates. By the time you take it out, that beautiful cheesiness is gone.
So! Next week I am going to do the exact same recipe but I will only put the mac and cheese in to broil and crunch up the top and hopefully have that lovely cheesy mac and cheese we crave so much. Want to join me? You are invited if you would like to try. The recipe is here.
The crazy thing is even though it was dry, my husband and I still LOVED it! I mean we could not get enough but it drove us crazy knowing that it could be even better had I just skipped a step. I still have a lot of the ingredients so the only thing I have to buy again is the thyme and the gruyere which I will do happily, especially if it means that I finally found a recipe I can wholeheartedly recommend to Anne!
If we are going to consume all those calories, I want to taste them! Check back next Friday to see if Mac & Cheese: Take 2 is a gooey success.