Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sneak Peek: Mac & Cheese


One of the perks of working on cookbooks is the sheer volume of recipes that come across my desk. Without a constant flow of new ideas I fear I’d become lazy and fall into a dinner rut, repeating the same dish over and over.
There’s one upcoming cookbook that I am feeling particularly inspired by at the moment, our forthcoming Macaroni and Cheese cookbook by Ellen Brown which will be published in Fall 2012. It’s full of delicious and creative variations on the ultimate in comfort foods and inspired by restaurant favorites around the country. I had to try the recipe for Herbed Mac and Cheese, adapted from Farmstead and La Laiterie, Providence, RI and it was well worth it. Three types of cheese, including Brie along with bunches of fresh herbs made this a winner in my house.
Try it, you won’t be disappointed!

Makes 4 to 6 servings
1/2 pound penne
4 ounces Brie
3 ounces Gruyère, grated
3 ounces sharp white Cheddar, grated
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary (substitute 1/4 teaspoon dried)
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh sage (substitute 1/4 teaspoon dried)
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme (substitute a pinch dried)
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups whole milk, heated
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the pasta until it is just beginning to soften to the al dente stage. Drain the pasta, run it under cold water, and return it to the pot.
Scrape the white rind off the Brie, and chop it finely. Combine the Brie with the Gruyère and Cheddar, and set aside 1/2 cup of the cheese mixture.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute, or until the mixture turns slightly beige, is bubbly, and appears to have grown in volume. Stir in the rosemary, sage, thyme, and nutmeg. Increase the heat to medium, and slowly whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer the sauce for 2 minutes. Add the cheese to the sauce by 1/2-cup measures, stirring until the cheese melts before making another addition. Pour the sauce over the pasta, and stir well. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and transfer the pasta to the prepared pan.
Heat the remaining butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs, and cook for 2 minutes, or until the crumbs are golden brown. Combine the browned crumbs with the remaining cheese mixture, and sprinkle it over the top of the dish.
Bake the casserole for 20 minutes to 30 minutes, or until the cheese sauce is bubbly and the crumbs on the top are deep brown. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, then serve.



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