Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Homemade Mac and Chérieezy (Yes, I'm lame.)

FACT: You will NEVER find day-glow orange, boxed macaroni and cheese in my house. NEVER.

I went on a quest to find Denver's finest mac and cheese. Steuben's, Sputnik, Jonesy's Eat Bar... let's just say I've had my fare share of the creamy side dish. Here's my version of the perfect mac and cheese. Feel free to experiment with different cheeses to suit your taste. For a smaller portion, simply cut the recipe in half.

My local grocery store (King Soopers) has a specialty cheese counter, complete with a cheese expert. I call her the "Cheese Lady" (I'm sure there's a fancy name for someone who specializes in cheese, I just don't have the time or the care to look that up.) My highest recommendation: BE NICE TO THE CHEESE LADY! (and the meat guy, and the produce guy, and the baker...) She lets me sample different cheeses, makes me special orders and gives me awesome suggestions based on the fact that I'm nice to her. Heck, she even lets me know right before she marks down certain cheeses so I can get them at discounted prices.

Mac & Chérieezy
1 lb. cavatappi or elbow macaroni
1 quart milk
1 stick unsalted butter, divided
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
.35 lb. Cave Aged Gruyere, grated
.70 lb. Jarlsberg Swiss Cheese, grated
.25 lb. Cantalette Cheese, grated
.25 lb. English Cheddar, grated
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 dash (or pinch) ground nutmeg
1 1/2 c. panko bread crumbs
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Oil (vegetable or canola)

The cheese measurements don't have to be exact, just in the ball park.

Top Left: Cave Aged Gruyere, Jarlsberg Swiss / Bottom Left: Cantalette, English Cheddar

1. Drizzle oil into a pot of boiling water. Add generous pinch of salt to the boiling water. Add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the package. Drain and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it.

3. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth.

4. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, nutmeg, salt (to taste) and pepper (to taste). Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish.

5. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the fresh bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top.

6. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

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