The Great Mac Attack

Maccheese2

I have been so busy in the kitchen lately with concurrent projects that I don’t have many end products to show for it (half the time I seem to be always washing mixer bowls, baking sheets and whisks – why can’t I have an endless supply of these?). Hopefully results – or partial bloggable results will be available in the coming weeks (that’s the problem with so many cookbooks, you want to try everything and you end up with nothing).

However, I did make this delicious side dish to pair with Nigella’s chicken and sausage recipe for a dinner I had for some close friends. When the “Hungry” Hubby asked me what I was going to prepare, I said “Mac and Cheese.” He looked at me funny. He probably thought it was JUST Mac and Cheese (M&C). It did not sound remotely gourmet but more like an instant meal you zap in a microwave (which I still have not reinstated, BTW) and throw in some peas to make it look healthy. But if you ask me, this is the ultimate comfort food – so endearing in its cheesy goodness and so perfect for those chillier days to come.

The September issue of Bon Appetit featured special recipes from popular restaurants. The meatball sliders from the The Little Owl were actually featured on its front page. But the cheesy casserole from the Providence, Rhode Island restaurant La Laiterie at Farmstead, owned by Kate and Matt Jennings, was what caught my eye.

   Cheddar, Gruyere and Brie – need I say more?

Maccheese1

Cheesemonger’s Mac and Cheese

Bon Appetit, September 2007

  • 1 ½ cups coarsely grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 ½ cups coarsely grated sharp Cheddar cheese (about 6 ounces)
  • 1 ½ cups diced, rindless Brie (cut from 1-pound wedge)
  • 5 tbs butter, divided
  • ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • ¾ tsp (scant) nutmeg
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 ¾ cup fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless French Bread
  • 1 pound penne pasta (I used rigatoni)
  • 8 tsp whipping cream (if making a day ahead)

Mix all cheese. Set aside 1 cup for topping; cover and chill. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a 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 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. Cook pasta in boiling salted water until tender but firm to bite. Drain. Transfer to large bowl. Pour cheese sauce over; toss. Divide amount eight 1 ¼ cup custard cups. Sprinkle with 1 cup cheese. Place cups on rimmed baking sheet.

DO AHEAD. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with foil; chill. Drizzle each with 1 teaspoon of cream. Cover with foil; bake 15 minutes. Uncover. Sprinkle partially baked chilled or just assembled cups with breadcrumbs. Bake pasta until beginning to bubble and tops are golden about 20 minutes.

Cooking Notes:

            I baked the M&C on an 8×8 and a 4×4 casserole dish. It was extremely easy to make. The time consuming part is in grating the cheese. Put the Brie (and also the Cheddar cheese) in the freezer for a few minutes to make it easier to handle. When the recipe said to whisk the milk in gradually, I soon realized that it was because the butter-flour mixture was almost like a roux and it would sputter furiously – so be careful with this step. Other than that, the rest of the recipe was pretty straightforward and was a matter of assembly.

            There was no extra salt called for in the recipe. I thought it needed some at first, but with the glorious cheesy flavor I hardly noticed it after a few bites. Choose the best cheese you can find because the flavor of this dish largely depends on its main ingredients. This is the perfect side dish to have especially since you can prepare it a day ahead and is also a breeze to finish.

Even with the addition of artisanal cheeses, it did not lose its touch as a childhood, homey favorite and is just so gooey delicious!

Update 10/8/2007

This post got mentioned in The Good Life on The Street.com . Encouraging people to think outside the Kraft box and throw some Brie into Mac and Cheese.

26 thoughts on “The Great Mac Attack

  1. Mac and Cheese is my fav comfort food. I adore it. I could seriously eat it everyday. And while I have a go-to recipe, my Grams, its always nice to mix it up. This one looks ooey-gooey good! You can tell it has a crust on top but is still melty inside. PERFECT!

  2. OMG, I'm definitely having a Mac Attack right now just looking at that picture. (I LOOOVE Mac & Cheese and my waistline hates me for it). I'm keeping this recipe for a cold winter day. =)

  3. What a great recipe! It's like a mac and cheese casserole kicked up a notch. Thanks for sharing and thanks again for participating in the Monthly Mouthful! The post is going up later today so be sure to keep an eye out.

  4. Hi there,

    I made this recipe a little while ago, and I have to say I was underwhelmed with it, but your photos make me want to try it again! :)

  5. Mac and Cheese…. the first thing that came into my thoughts was McDonald Cheese Burger Attack…… lol…. your dish looks so great. such a bright and attractive yellow orangy dish. This something I use to eat at my uni in scotland whereby I like them less oily.

  6. On my last visit to La Laiterie (fortunately only half an hour from my house), I had Matt's mac 'n cheese for the first time. It has moved right to the top of my list of guilty pleasures!

  7. This looks great! And i totally hear you on the paralyzing nature of an every-growing cookbook collection. There's so much I want to make that I often don't know where to start!!

  8. Hi Laurie – it's always good to have a special old family recipe to rely on.
    Hi Deborah – I said the same thing specially when I saw the gruyere and brie together.
    Hi cooking ninja – well , you don't have to eat the whole thing , but it is very satisfying.
    Hilda – I felt the same way when I first saw the recipe…I just wanted Mac and cheese right away.
    Bee – :)
    Hillary – thanks! I checked the round up – it was terrific.
    Hi Ngoc – sorry you didn't think it was that good. On some palates you might just need a little more salt. I love the consistency of this one..and the fresh breadcrumbs gave it a flavorful crunch.
    Hi Peabody – there wasn't much left after we devoured it – it goes so well with roast chicken or even steak.
    Your so funny Big boys Oven! It does sound like a Mcdonald burger doesn't it.This isn't oily at all since the butter was mixed with the flour to form a roux.
    Hi Anh- It's perfect for dinner.
    Hi Lydia – I thought of you when I saw this recipe , knowing that you from RI. Lucky you to be close to this mac and cheese dish.
    Hi Dana – I just received two more cookbooks yesterday – I stayed up pretty late reading it. I didn't want to go to bed!

  9. Mmmmm, I'm always looking for new Mac & Cheese recipes, and this sounds luscious with the addition of Brie and thyme. And I see no problem just serving a plate of Mac & Cheese with a side salad and a glass of red wine–makes for a simple yet comforting meal.

  10. Veron, If I am not mistaken…. the scottish have a similar dish called macaroni and cheese, the oily surface comes from the cheddar cheese after baking, I think :)

  11. Oh Veron! This sounds just amazing…mac and cheese, although not part of my childhood, is definitely a comfort food :) And with those fabulous cheeses (gruyere…I love!)…would make for very sweet dreams :)

  12. Veron this is so funny – I've been on a wild mac & cheese attack after I tried some at a restaurant here about two weeks ago. Just can't get enough. Wish I had the mag but I think I just have to make this one! Three cheeses: way to go!

  13. This sounds like glorious macaroni, Veron! And no, you need not say any more than Cheddar, Gruyere and Brie! This is definitely the kind of macaroni that you can make a complete meal of, all on its own, no doubt about it! :-)

  14. I have been dying to try this one ever since I saw the recipe in Bon Appetit. I think your post has pushed me over the edge – I'm off to buy cheese tomorrow!

  15. I am afraid of B. seeing this…I have been warned by the doc. to watch his cholesterl…but how do you handle 50+ years of mama's southern cooking?! Anyways…3 kinds of cheese…oh yum!!!

  16. Oh my oh my oh my. This looks and sounds so tasty. I think it would be fair to say that I'm somewhat obsessed with macaroni and cheese. I am always up for trying a new recipe and I love that this one uses brie! I will now have to go and find the September issue of Bon Appetit to see the other variations. My favourite time-consuming to make macaroni and cheese (http://www.eatmedelicious.com/2007/06/macaroni-cheese-happiness.html) uses aged white cheddar and lots of herbs. I hate how people look down upon mac & cheese and don't realize it's true greatness and versatility.

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