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?
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.
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!