A few weeks ago I started a quest for some good mac and cheese. Nancy makes a killer mac-n-cheese but I wanted my own. I’m sure I frustrate the crap out of Nancy sometimes because I’m always looking for something better when it comes to food and recipes. Now mind you , this mac-n-cheese is not Bobby Flay mac-n-cheese with some crazy-sexy ingredients, but it is really, really good! I would make it for any of my friends and be proud.
My first attempt was with a Jamie Oliver version that didn’t include a bechamel sauce but instead called for mixing the cooked pasta with the cheese and then baking it. I found it to be okay, had some nice flavor as he added garlic salt to his, but overall it didn’t make the grade for heart-attack-5,000-calorie-kill-me-now before-I-have-a-stroke-and-die type of mac-n-cheese. This is what I’m looking for. Why make mac-n-cheese if you aren’t going to go for broke? I thought about mixing in bacon or truffle oil, but why make something simple complicated?
The second version, I made a few nights ago for my best bud Chad, Nancy and the boys. I found this version in Kurt Beecher’s book, “Pure Flavor”. I was also able to find Beecher’s Cheddar in the local store and was glad. Nancy and I visited their flagship store in Seattle last year. Great cheese!
Chad is up from San Francisco and has been visiting for the past week. I’m almost out of energy. I think I’m getting about five hours of sleep each day. We are mild though, old guys I guess. Our pattern consists of playing sports games on the Playstation 3, drinking large amounts of liquids, cussing at the TV and throwing controllers and in general fighting for the most wins. We are both super competitive. Most of the time we have a great time but there are nights where we are about ready to kill each other.
Last night was particularly funny though since you can customize your player characters. Chad always plays with a male character, but I always pick a female character. I figure if I’m going to have to watch a cyber-person on the screen for hours and hours, I would rather look at a woman than a man. So, I’m buying some hot clothes for my hot cyber golfer when Chad asks me, just as Nancy appears around the corner, “Can you turn her around on the screen so we can see her a%$?” Bad timing, hahaha, we laughed our a$% off as Nancy gave us a dirty look out of the corner of her eye!
Well back to the mac-n-cheese. It was quite a story. I thought I was going to double the recipe, but it didn’t quite turn out that way. Problems from the start, because I was trying to cook and hold a serious political discussion with Chad and Nancy. I doubled the butter, but nothing else in the bechamel sauce. By the time I noticed it was way too late. From there I threw caution to the wind. I ended up doubling the cheese by mistake and the resulting mac and cheese, though incredibly cheesy and awesome had a bit of a texture issue. We ate it, Jacob and I really enjoyed it, but Nancy and Chad complained about the texture.
Chad, who is like me, super-competitive and a bit of a perfectionist said “Let’s do it again and do it right this time!” DOH! “Oh what the hell,” I thought, it was about 9:30 at night, but let’s make it again. Chad started the bechemel while I tried to grate the cheese with the correct proportion this time. It worked out perfectly, and we ate the second version at 11:00pm. Everyone loved it, plain and simple. It was great mac-n-cheese. From what I can tell, the secret to this recipe is the proportions.
Perfect Mac-n-Cheese (serves 4 as a side dish)
- 8 ounces penne pasta (half a box)
- 2 cups Beecher’s Flagship Cheese Sauce (see below)
- 1 ounce Cheddar, grated
- 1 ounce Gruyere cheese, grated
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil or butter an 8-inch dish. Cook the penne 2 minutes less than the package directions. You want the noodles not quite done because they will finish cooking in the sauce in the oven. Rinse the pasta with cold water and set aside.
Combine cooked pasta and Flagship Sauce in a medium bowl and mix carefully but thoroughly. Scrape the pasta into a prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the cheeses, then the chile powder. Bake uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes, until the top has a nice golden crust. Let sit for a few minutes before serving.
If you decide to make this as a main and double the amounts, use a 9×13 inch baking pan and increase the time to 30 to 35 minutes.
Beecher’s Flagship Cheese Sauce (makes 4 cups)
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups milk
- 14 ounces semi-hard cheese, grated (I used Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar)
- 2 ounces grated semi-soft cheese (I used Gorgonzola)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chile powder
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Continue to whisk and cook for 2 minutes. You just made a roux, a substance used for thickening sauces!
Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Now you turned the roux into a bechamel.
Remove from the heat. Add the cheese, salt, chile powder and garlic powder. Stir until the cheese is melted and all the ingredients are incorporated, about 3 minutes. If the cheese isn’t melting completely you can put the pan on low heat.
Use immediately or refrigerate for up to three days!