December 19, 2010

Grown Up Mac and Cheese

In my book, the holidays are the best excuse to splurge a little. When it comes to food, why not indulge and make something extravagant but comforting? This is one of those recipes. I could see this next to a roast with a glass of bubbly prosecco. This cheese sauce is basically the food version of a bear hug. I could bathe in it really...too far? 
 This ain't your typical blue boxed artificial mac n cheese. Have you tasted that crap lately? I used to love it as a kid but after trying it as an adult, I was left disgusted and unfulfilled. Mushy pasta, chock full of artificial flavoring and chemicals. Yikes.
Make sure you buy some cheese with a little age on it. They provide more flavor and depth to this version of grown up mac and cheese. 

Grown Up Mac(or Fusilli) and Cheese 
1 pound shaped pasta of your choice, I used fusilli corkscrews
kosher salt
4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
3 cups milk
1 cup half and half
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard or mustard powder(but who has this on hand?)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
8 oz aged cheddar cheese, shredded, 2 tablespoons reserved for topping
8 oz swiss or Gruy√®re cheese, shredded
For Topping:
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup sourdough bread, cut into tiny chunks
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat over to 375 degrees.
Cook pasta according to package directions with a good heaping teaspoon of kosher salt. Once al dente, drain well and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the milk and half and half together in a small sauce pan, making sure to not let it boil.

Melt 4 Tbs. butter in a large pan over medium heat and add the flour. Whisk until smooth. Cook over low heat, whisking, for a minute or two to get the flour taste mellowed.
While whisking, add the heated milk slowly and stir until all the lumps are out and the mixture thickens, about 2 minutes.

Add the grated nutmeg, paprika, mustard, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Turn off the heat and add the cheese, making sure to reserve 2 tablespoons of cheddar for the topping. Stir until all is melted and mix in your cooked pasta. Pour into a 3 quart baking dish.
For the topping, melt the butter in the microwave and add the rest of the ingredients to combine. Sprinkle over the pasta mixture.

Put the dish on a baking sheet(just in case it bubbles over). Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and the top is golden brown.
 I served this at a small cookie baking/decorating party with some mulled wine. Stay tuned on how that went in the next post. :)

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