Mac-n-Cheese off Part 2
This is the first time I have ever made homemade mac and cheese that is baked and then eaten. It is completely different from the boxed mac and cheese with the orange glob of cheez-food that gets stirred in.
I did my graduate school course work at THE Pennsylvania State University, and PennState football made it to the Outback Bowl in FL against Univ of TN (note, I live in Nashville, TN now, so either team winning would be ok, although I am loyal to the PennState Blue and White Nittany Lions) . To support PennState, I decided to make my pasta blue and white! I went to the Pasta Shoppe, a little cottage industry down the street from me, and they have a lot of college themed pasta, and other fantastic gift pasta ideas! I bought a pound of PennState Nittany Lion Pasta. Go PENNSTATE, Go BLUE and WHITE!
Second - Sauce:
Since I am a BIG PENNSTATE fan, I am going completely BLUE and WHITE with the cheese selection as well. I am using BLUE Cheese and WHITE Gruyere. What else is there for the perfect PENNSTATE BLUE and WHITE Mac-n-Cheese? So, I have never made a bechamel sauce before, so I went to the machine (aka my computer) to find a recipe. What came up when I googled Bechamel was a wikipedia recipe. I used it as a base, and I modified it for a more rich, fatten sauce, and I didn't really measure the ingredients, as I usually cook by texture, taste and feel.
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons bacon fat
1/3 cup flour
1¼ cups milk
1 cup half & half
a few grinds of black pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 lb grated WHITE Gruyere
1/2 cup loosely packed crumbled Danish BLUE Cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1. Place butter and bacon fat in a saucepan and turn the heat to low. When the butter is melted, remove the saucepan from the stove.
2. Sift the flour into the butter a little at a time, stirring continuously to combine them.
3. Add the milk a little at a time, and half&half a little at a time, continuously stirring.
4. Put the saucepan back on the stove on low, and stir until the sauce starts boiling and becomes thicker.
5. Turn heat off. Add pepper and nutmeg, and keep stirring.
6. Add all but about 1/3 cup of Gruyere, all the whilst stirring the sauce.
7. Add the blue cheese, and still stir, stir, stir the pot.
What I learned: STIR THE WHOLE TIME! DON'T STOP STIRRING, or the FLOUR will CLUMP. sigh. Yes, I learned that lesson. Maybe next time I will try arrowroot or cornstarch to thicken instead of flour.
Third - Boiling the Pasta:
While stirring the cheesy bechamel, I used my other hand to fill a pot with water, and brought it to a boil with some kosher salt. I dumped in my beautiful Blue and White Nittany Lion pasta, stirring the pasta occasionally for about 7 minutes, or until the pasta was just al dente, but not that done. Stir, stir, stir the cheesy bechamel!
Fourth - Butter the Casserole Dish:
While the pasta was boiling, and while I was stirring the cheesy bechamel, I turned on the oven to 350F, found my BLUE and mostly WHITE Le Creuset Dutch Oven, and used a third hand to generously butter the sides of the Dutch Oven. Stir, stir, stir, oh you get the picture.
Fifth - Assembly:
I drained the pasta while still stirring the cheesy bechamel. I combined the pasta and cheesy bechamel and dumped it into my greased dutch oven. I mixed up the bread crumbs and remaining Gruyere cheese and sprinkled it on top of the mac and cheese. I baked this goodness uncovered in the 350F oven for about 35 minutes, or until it was heated through.
Sixth - EAT!
Yummy, rich, and delicious! The first plate was very good, with just enough blue cheese, but not overwhelmingly so. The milk and cheese integrated well with the pasta, and the baking finished cooking the pasta through. The topping could have used a little more time to become more crunchy, and maybe next time I should spray the top with a little olive oil to help the bread crumbs get a little more crispy while baking.
PENNSTATE won the Outback Bowl game 20-10 over UT! Now that is some good cheese!
maccaroni and cheese