April 19, 2011

Mac and Cheese

Last week, Stud and I decided that our wedding cake topper was not going to get any better sitting in our freezer, so we decided to break it out and celebrate our 6 month anniversary.  Any excuse to eat cake, right?  We had to have a special dinner to go along with our cake, but I didn’t feel like cooking too much.  It was Friday.  We resorted to duck confit with mac and cheese and a salad.  The duck confit comes frozen and all you have to do it bake it for about 45 minutes, and it is amazing.  I would never go through the effort of confit-ing my own duck when this decadence is so easy.  (They are from Hudson Valley Foie Gras)  All I had to do to complete our meal was make some mac and cheese.  And I went the personal serving route because why not?  The little Le Cruset pots are so cute!

Spicy Mac and Cheese
1 lb elbow spaghetti
5 T. butter
6 T. flour
5 c. milk (I used mostly skim)
1 ½ t. powdered mustard
¼ t. cayenne
Pinch nutmeg
2 T. Cholula
2 c. gruyere cheese
2 c. cheddar (or another sharp cheese)
1 c. parmesan cheese
Panko bread crumbs

Cook the pasta according to package instructions and once finished, rinse under cool water to prevent sticking.  Meanwhile, in a large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the butter and once it’s simmering, add in the flour.  Then add in the cayenne and powdered mustard and whisk until incorporated.  Slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly.  Once the roux and milk are combined, bring the mixture to a boil to complete the thickening process.  Once the sauce comes to a boil, remove from the heat and add in the nutmeg, cheese, Cholula, salt and pepper to taste.  The amount of salt needed will vary depending on your cheeses, so make sure you taste it.  Once all the cheese has melted, add in the elbow pasta and put back on low heat stirring until it’s all heated through.  Put in a baking dish and sprinkle the top with panko bread crumbs.  Put under the broiler until the crumbs are all toasty and then enjoy!

I loved the subtle heat and creaminess of this mac and cheese.  Also, it is essential to taste.  After our first attempt at seasoning, it was still really bland.  We added more cheese (duh), more salt, and more Cholula and ended up with something amazing.  This can also sit in a warm oven if you want to make it ahead and just pop it under the broiler right before you serve it.  Also, mac and cheese is one of those things with endless options.  Maybe add some more spice.  Or some bacon.  Or add the duck confit to the mac and cheese!!!  Wasn’t mac and cheese one of those fashionable-again foods not too long ago (along with cupcakes, grilled cheese, etc)?  I bet there are some awesome recipes out there. 

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