Thursday, December 20, 2007

Cooking Lesson......Lost count: Mac 'n' cheese

When I think Mac and cheese, I think Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. It is what I grew up with. A fresh out of the oven cheesey goodness was not something I got until I was in high school and by that point I hated anything not out of the Kraft box.
My freshman year of college I ate a lot of Kraft mac 'n' cheese. I ate so much I got sick of it. I haven't eaten it since.
But now 2 years older and growing foodie with a boyfriend who likes to say that his food tastes "can go from eating McDonald's to commenting on wine like an enthusiast." A man who loves mac 'n' cheese. So two months ago at a party, I gave the guests a recipe that I thought they would like. I gave my boyfriend cheesemonger's mac 'n' cheese with brie, gruyere, and cheddar. I never thought he would actually make it. But he insisted last week that he wanted to make it for me before I left. Who was I to complain?
First we went and picked out the cheeses. Now the recipe calls for sharp cheddar, but do you go with block cheese, fresh cheese, already shredded cheese. We went with fresh cut cheese, but my boyfriend's question was what kinda of sharp cheddar. I shrugged. It depends on what you like I told him, so we choose just a sharp cheddar. Then was the decision of the brie. How to choose that, I don't know. We just choose one, I'm no cheese expert. I just really like it and so does my boyfriend.
After the grocery store and a 2 day wait, we began to cook the recipe. It wasn't that hard and it is always fun to teach him something new. Our only problem is we didn't get the roux brown enough so it wasn't a thick mac 'n' cheese. I cut out the nutmeg and I believe with the cheeses we choose that it would over power it all. However, the mixture of the three cheese was excellent. It was so delicious that I don't know how to describe it, but my boyfriend describes it as rich. But it was so good, I went back for seconds and probably could have eaten the whole thing.

Paul's 3 cheese mac 'n' cheese
(adapted from Gourmet magazine Cheesemonger's mac and cheese)

1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Gruyère cheese
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 6 ounces)
1 1/2 cups diced rindless Brie (cut from 1-pound wedge)
5 tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
4 cups whole milk
1 3/4 cups breadcrumbs
1 pound penne pasta or rigatoni

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until tender but firm to bite. Drain. Transfer to large bowl.

Mix all cheeses. Set aside 1 cup for topping; cover and chill. 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.

Pour cheese sauce over pasta; toss. Place in square glass pan or anything that can hold the pasta. (We used an 8" pyrex dish and it fit) Sprinkle breadcrumbs. Bake pasta until beginning to bubble and tops are golden, about 20 minutes.

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