John Thorne Mac & Cheese
After reading the rave reviews on a previous thread, I made John Thorne's M&C today. It tastes good, but instead of being creamy it's a bit grainy. Any hints on what I did wrong? I used Tilamook sharp cheddar if that makes any difference. TIA.
This type of mac and cheese is basically a custard. The graininess you describe is a classic symptom of overcooked custard. The eggs got scrambled. I suggest making the same recipe on the stovetop, adding most of the cheese at the outset. Doing it on the stovetop gives you a little more control over the heat, which can be further modulated by frequent, if not constant, stirring.
I've been making a stovetop variation of John Thorne's mac and cheese (actually the Cook's Illustrated version of his version) and have had the grainy results you had sometimes as well. It is true that some aged cheeses are a bit grainy to start with, but it so happens that my favorite cheese for this dish is an aged cheddar that is very grainy, so I've had to do a bit of experimentation to overcome that flaw.
Here's a way I've found to use my favorite cheese and still get a fairly creamy consistency:
First, Tom is correct in advising not to cook the cheese too long.
Second, I've found that a splash of white wine helps the texture without tasting too "wine-y" (the acid helps keep the cheese from getting stringy) and I also toss the grated cheese with a tablespoon or so of flour (the starch helps keep it from getting so grainy). But the biggest help was to use about one third grated monterey jack instead of all cheddar. The texture of the jack cheese helps to smooth out the slight grainy quality of the cheddar I use.
re: Janet A. Zimmerman
Thanks for the advice everyone. I bet it was due to overcooking the eggs because now that I think about it the tastes I snitched when I stirred every 5 minutes weren't grainy. I just cooked it the whole 20 minutes without thinking about it overcooking - now I know to take it out when it looks done. I might try some monterey jack cheese next time too - love that stuff.
I don't know the Thorne recipe, but sometimes when cooking custard it helps to use a double boiler or bain marie whether cooking stovetop or in the oven.