Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Culinary Adventures: Fancy Macaroni and Cheese

Do you remember that Verizon commercial where the woman was looking at buying a tablet, and she found a video her boyfriend had made with her cat, set to this goofy song about macaroni and cheese?  It's a real song.

Mr. Geek actually found it and bought it.  And threatened to play it at our wedding reception.  (He didn't, thank heavens.)

When I first got pregnant, I craved Easy Mac pretty much constantly.  Mr. Geek loved this, because it meant he could cook dinner for me for a change and I would rave about how delicious it was.  (We now have a pantry full of those blue boxes that I never got to because unbeknownst to us, cravings change the farther you go through the pregnancy...oops.)

Friday night, I decided I wanted to show my gratitude for Mr. Geek's macaroni prowess by making some for him- only a bit fancier than the kind in the blue box.  I don't have a whole lot of photos of the process because there was a lot going on in this dish- it's one of the messiest things I've made in a while, and I actually needed Mr. Geek's help for a couple of steps (and to snap a couple of pictures).  It's pretty gosh darn delicious, though, complicated or not.

Fancy Macaroni and Cheese
Basic recipe by Alton Brown only...fancied up a bit

-1 lb elbow macaroni
-3 Tbsp butter
-3 Tbsp flour
-3 slices bacon, cut into thin lardons
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1/2 onion, diced
-4 oz white mushrooms, roughly chopped
-3 C milk
-1 bay leaf
-1/2 tsp paprika
-1 large egg
-1/2 tsp white truffle oil (optional, but it's just not quite so fancy without it)
-8 oz sharp cheddar, shredded
-4 oz gruyere, shredded

-3 Tbsp butter
-1 C breadcrumbs

-While your oven starts preheating to 350F, put a big pot of salted water on to boil, and cook your bacon in a large pan until crisp.  Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper towel-lined plate.  (Frankly, this is a bit more crisp than I would have liked, as it's meant to be stirred into the pasta later, not used as a crunchy topping, but when you tell Mr. Geek to cook bacon, this is what he does to it.  He likes it really crispy.)

-Toss your diced garlic into the bacon grease and cook until fragrant.

-Add your mushrooms and cook until they're nice and brown and caramelized and delicious.  (Once your pot of water has reached a boil, add your macaroni noodles and cook to al dente.)

-Add the onions and cook until translucent.  Once this mixture is sufficiently cooked, turn the heat off and leave it be so you can concentrate on everything else.

-Melt your butter in a large saucepan- don't let it brown.  Rapidly whisk in the flour to create a roux, but don't let any lumps form. 

-Stir in the milk and paprika, then add the bay leaf.  Let it simmer for 10 minutes, then remove the bay leaf.  Stir in about half of the cheddar cheese and all of the gruyere, whisking constantly until the cheese is all melted. 

-This white truffle oil was a gift from Mr. Geek's dad on a trip to NYC.  It's very expensive, very strong, and very luxurious- a little goes a long way.  When your pasta has finished cooking, drain it and toss it in just a smidge of this magical potion, then toss it together with the onions, garlic, and mushroom mixture, as well as the bacon.

-Fold the cheese sauce into the pasta mixture, then pour the whole thing into a greased 2 quart baking dish.

-Top with the rest of the shredded cheddar.  Make your breadcrumb topping by melting the butter and tossing it with the breadcrumbs, then pat the topping over the whole thing. 

-Bake for 30 minutes, then let it rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

It's definitely filling enough to be a meal all its own, but it would also make an awesome side dish to some chicken, perhaps.

So what's your favorite macaroni dish?  Do you like stovetop mac-and-cheese or do you prefer it baked?  Do you like the simplicity of the blue box or the fancyness of mixing in proteins?

Much love,
The Geeks

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