Coastal English cheddar cheese for Mac & Cheese
Last month, hounds on the home cooking boards discussed calcium crystals in cheese. These crystals, found in certain aged cheese, create a prized, carmel like flavor.
At a recent trip to the SF Costco, I bought "Coastal Rugged Mature English Cheddar Cheese", a white cheddar, aged for a minimum of 15 months. The label highlights the calcium crystals. 17 ounces costs about $7.
After several hours at room temperature, the cheese seems to sweat its fat. To me, it's too rich for eating by itself. Instead, I made macaroni and cheese, using hound Deena's super simple recipe (no white sauce, just layer pasta, cheese and pour over a milk/egg/seasoning mixture). I used nonfat milk.
The result was wonderful. Tastiest and easiest macaroni and cheese I've ever made.
Hope other hounds enjoy it too!
Most cheeses, especially hard or firm ones like aged cheddar, will definitely "weep" when they sit out a long time. Other softer ones will become hard on the edges. You want to let a cheese sit out of the fridge 30 - 90 mins but not in very warm climates. It's not the fat that's weeping, it's the moisture from the cheese. If a cheese is sitting out, try keeping it covered under a cake plate dome.
"It's not the fat that's weeping." Actually, it can be. Sheep's milk has a higher percentage of fat than cow's or goat's milk and so sheep's milk cheeses often develop an oily film on their surface when brought to room temperature. That sometimes happens with cow's milk cheeses, too,. On the other hand, blue cheeses exude moisture and can look and feel wet. If so, they should be wiped gently with a paper towel.
Yes, I took a look at the recipe, and it is bit along the lines of a custard. The fact that the eggs are cooked until 'almost set' signifies that the casserole isn't exposed to a great deal of heat either, so I stand corrected- this dish isn't in that much danger of curdling.
Is the 'sauce' creamy though? A bechamel based cheese sauce takes a lot more work, but the end result is a fairly velvety sauce.
Your cheese sauce may not have curdled on you the one time you made, but with the ingredients you use, the chance of it curdling are actually pretty high. In other words, you got lucky. Aged cheddar, in my experience, is much more likely to curdle than younger cheddar. Nonfat milk is also more likely to curdle as milkfat acts, to an extent, as a stabilizer.
I'm all for quick and easy, but starchless cheese sauces are a recipe for disaster. There's very few things more disgusting than a watery/particley sauce. By avoiding starch, you increase the probabilities of curdling exponentially.