Cheese Drawer Mac and Cheese - A Night At The Improv.


2 1/2 ounces grated Gruyere
2 tablespoons shaved Parmesan
2 cups of 2% milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 flour
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Crumb top


Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Grease a 9 x 12 baking dish
Warm milk and cream in a separate sauce pan
In a larger sauce pan, melt butter
Add flour and cook for one minute until melted
Slowly add in milk, whisking like crazy for 8-10 minutes until thickened
Remove from heat and stir in cheese, salt, pepper, cayenne and nutmeg
Set aside
In a large pot boil 8 oz of pasta
Cook for 3 - 5 minutes until pasta is al dente
In a food processor grind crackers and Parmesan together into crumbs
Rinse noodles in cold water and drain
Add noodles to cheese sauce
Transfer cheese and noodle mixture to baking dish and cover liberally with crumbs. Bake 30 minutes until top is golden brown.




If you prepare as much mac and cheese as Suz and I, you're bound to end up with loads of cheese odds and ends. I had several tiny hunks leftover from the Amy Sedaris mac, but not enough to try out any of the recipes I had on hand. Without a fondue pot or penchant for cheese sandwiches, I had no choice but to improvise. Drawing inspiration from the TV show Chopped, I decided to make mac and cheese using only ingredients I had in the kitchen (or I was too lazy to go to the store, you decide.)

For anyone unfamiliar with the show Chopped here's how it works: Four chefs go head to head in a three course cooking competition where they must prepare a dish using the ingredients found in a mystery basket. The cooks are allowed to use anything they find in the pantry to enhance their dish but all mystery ingredients must be incorporated.

It's important to preface this by saying, I rarely make up recipes. Sure, I can whip together a stir fry or some spaghetti sauce without looking at a recipe but anything more complicated, I leave to the experts. In this case, I did glance at a couple of roux recipes for ratios of flour to milk and to figure out spice amounts but everything else was accomplished by winging it.

The End Result
I don't want to be accused of hubris but this was by far, the best mac and cheese I've ever prepared. It was as if the noodles were born in the sauce.* The nuttiness of the Gruyere tantalized the taste buds while the smokiness of the Gouda gave the sauce that je ne sais quoi. The overabundance of cheese sauce insured every noodle was crammed with flavor. The butter cracker topping was light, crunchy and strangely refreshing.




Saturday, January 23, 2010 - 9:38am

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