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And The Winner Is...Mac & Cheese

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Here I sit at my friend Ryan and Brian's house watching The Golden Globes. I'm a little blown away by how oddly tan, shiny, and privileged everyone is. I feel an inferiority complex coming on. Thank God I chose tonight to make an extra large pan of Macaroni & Cheese.

This recipe expresses a lush mix of flavors and textures; you can use virtually any cheese that tickles your fancy. It's toothsome and crunchy, rich and satisfying. It would make a great dish to serve to a crowd or make for yourself on a weekend and eat throughout the week accompanied by a crunchy, raw salad tossed with a bright vinaigrette. Tonight we paired our Mac & Cheese with Goose Island's Pere Jacques - a fruity, malty, Belgian-style Ale.

Mac & Cheese
adapted from Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries
feeds four main dishers, six side-dishers

3/4 pound Macaroni, Strozzapreti, Shells or other short, hollow dried pasta
5 cups organic whole milk, half and half or a mix of both
a small onion, peeled and halved
a bay leaf or two
5 tablespoons organic butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
10 white peppercorns
8-10 ounces cheese - I used cave aged Gruyere
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1/1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
8 tablespoons grated Pecorino cheese

set oven to 400 degrees. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water till tender. drain pasta and toss in a bit of olive oil to keep from sticking while you cook the rest.

warm the milk in a saucepan with the onion and bay leaves until it's just ready to boil then turn off heat. melt butter in another pan and add flour and whisk over moderate heat until you have a pale biscuit colored paste. Remove onion and bay leaf from milk. Gradually pour in milk to the flour and butter paste and whisk until there are no lumps, then leave to simmer over a very low heat until the sauce is the consistency of heavy cream, stirring regularly so the sauce does not stick.

the white peppercorns and season the sauce with both the white pepper, a few grinds of black pepper and a little salt. Cut the cheese into a large dice. Fold the drained pasta, the cheese, mustard and paprika into the sauce then taste for seasoning. Add more cheese if you like it cheesier.

tip the whole mixture into a buttered 9 x 12 Pyrex dish. Toss the bread crumbs with the grated Pecorino cheese and scatter liberally across the top. Bake for thirty-five or forty minutes until breadcrumbs are browned and the mixture is bubbling underneath. Serve.

I'd like to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press, Meryl Streep and her heartfelt acceptance speech, and my friends Ryan and Brian for making this night so special.

photos by Ryan Robinson

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