Sunday, April 4, 2010

Stir Crazy II, stovetop mac & cheese revisited

A while back I made my first of what will likely be many variations of macaroni and cheese. I really enjoyed the entry I wrote about, but didn't consider it perfect. Yet. So, I made a few adjustments, aiming for more cheesiness, and a little less grainyness.

The basic proportions did not change:

3 T unsalted butter
3 T flour
3 cups whole milk (the yogurt from last time just didn't cut it)
3 cups cheese  This time I went heavy on the smoked gouda, probably 2 cups, and a cup of English cheddar with caramelized onions.This was a pretty mellow cheddar, and I liked the sweet zing the onions gave it.

Nothing else. I depended on the cheese to provide any needed saltiness. No paprika, no white pepper. Some recipes call for sage, which I may try if I'm aiming for a more sophisticated taste, but not this time.

Technique did not change. I melted the butter, gradually stirred in the flour and toasted the resulting roux for a few minutes. I forget where I first heard the suggestion of toasting a roux--there are recipes for toasting flour for a dry roux, but for a dish I make once a month, I'll take the butter. Anyway, I slowly added the cheese, then added one more ingredient before I poured it over the pasta:

1/4 cup Guinness

I was inspired by a beer-cheese soup I had in an Irish pub that was made with Harp. Harp, I didn't have, but I usually have Guinness in the house, especially in winter when it's chili season. The  Guinness added a really nice flavor to the back of the cheese sauce. The cheese sauce itself was very smoky and much more creamy that the sauce I made with the yogurt. We had barely one serving of leftovers from a pound of pasta. I think this was much more successful than the last batch, though I really missed the punch of the cheddar in this one. While tasty  with apples as a snack, the English Cheddar was too mellow when it came up against the smoked gouda. The poor thing was overwhelmed.

I served this deliciousness with some andouille and a spinach salad. The salad provided a complementary crunchiness, while the sausage provided dental adventures for the carnivores in us. 

Who says mac & cheese is just for kids?

Next week--a salad suitable for all year round.

Questions? Comments? Got a recipe for me to try? Let's hear it!

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