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Gourmet Mac & Cheese

OK, I'm on a quest to make a gourmet mac and cheese. This is going to be a part of a dinner where I am doing totally upscale food that wouldn't ever be considered upscale. Things like fried okra, mac & cheese, ribs. Sometimes it's fun to mess with my friends and give them haute comfort food. So I'm looking for a totally wacky, fun, gourmet mac & cheese. Does it have truffle oil in it? Great. Does it use a random camembert that I need to order from monks who only check their e-mails on the third tuesday of the month? Awesome. As long as I can get my hands on the ingredients and it isn't made like the Fleur de Lys 5k hamburger, I'm all in.

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  1. This recipe is my favourite "adult" mac and cheese. Just made it for new year's eve dinner (along with meatloaf and roasted cauliflower).

    http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

    The bleu cheese adds a great tang to the dish. I add a bit of mustard powder and a pinch of cayenne to it. And thanks to the chowhounds here who told me to take the bechamel off heat before stirring in the cheese -- it made for a perfectly smooth sauce.

    3 Replies
    1. re: TorontoJo

      when you say a bit of mustard powder, a pinch? a teaspoon? a tablespoon? just getting an idea. I love cayenne- it's my go to spice.

      I think I'd try this with an aged sharp cheddar. This is an inexpensive enough recipe that I could do a lot of trial and error with it.

      Also, when you say take the bechamel off heat to stir in the cheese- do you keep it off heat and let the heat remaining melt the cheese or do you return it to a low burner?

      1. re: jpschust

        Yes, I use an aged sharp cheddar as well. I'm not a huge fan of bleu cheese, but I do like it in this very much. If I want something milder, I'll use a cambozola instead of bleu.

        I use maybe a 1/2 teaspoon of mustard powder. And yes, I keep the bechamel off heat and let the remaining heat melt the cheese. This was a great rec from another chowhound and it gave me a much smoother end product. I also let the bechamel simmer for longer than the recipe calls for (maybe 10 mins).

        Have fun with your dinner party!

        1. re: TorontoJo

          hey thanks so much. I'll give some feedback as to how I think this recipe was. I intend on trying a bunch of recipes :)

    2. I wouldn't consider this recipe "wacky", but it is very good and definitely a gourmet version of mac n' cheese: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec... I went through a stage a few months ago, along with several other chowhounds, of wanting mac n' cheese all the time and I made lots of different recipes; this one was my favorite!

      1. I had a fantastic lobster mac and cheese at the Canoe Restaurant in Center Harbor, NH. It was both as upscale and comforting as anything I have ever eaten. I've never tried to make it but I'm sure it can't be that difficult to figure out.

        1. Although I don't know the recipe ... many years ago we ate at Le Bernadin in NYC and they had Mac and Cheese on the menu for many $$$. As it was Le Bernadin, it was on the menu and it was expensive - how bad could it be? My husband decided to order it w/out asking any questions. WOW .. it was made with lobster and truffles and was absolutely amazing.

          Here are a few links I've found from googling "Lobster Mac and Cheese" some may be the same recipe and I can't recommend for any of them but worth a look):

          http://www.paradounyc.com/lobster.htm

          http://donnafales.com/recipes/2005/05...

          http://www.tillamookcheese.com/Recipe...

          http://www.hancockgourmetlobster.com/...

          1. Zingerman's Roadhouse in Ann Arbor has several different mac and cheese recipes.

            They actually have an explainer as to why it runs $15 a pop.

            Hope these can provide inspiration.
            http://www.zingermansroadhouse.com/co...

            eb

            1. Anna Thomas' recipe, for what is close to the original old Roman dish, uses Fontina and Parmesan in a Bechamel heavily flavored with thyme, bay, and coarse black pepper. Mostaciolli noodles give a hefty texture and 'catch' the wonderful sauce. Top with bread crumbs and bake for about 15-20 minutes in a moderate oven till browned and bubbly.

              Even better with a tangy imported Fontina. Try this cheese combo for a nice change from cheddar-based cheese 'n mac.

              For 1 lb. noodles, make 3 cups of Bechamel and about 1 # combined cheeses. Use skim milk which balances out the rich cheeses, if you like.

              1. There's a restaurant I've been wanting to try where they make a brie and fig mac and cheese, which sounds really delicious to me.

                Goat cheese and herb would be another unique and yummy option.

                1. For the pasta, dry pasta is a must so you can't really splurge it besides getting a good brand although the more expensive doesn't mean the best.
                  I would use a really good aged Cantal instead of Cheddar to mix with the pasta.
                  In the bechamel I would grate some black truffle and probably use cream instead of milk.
                  I would top the dish with some really good parmesan.

                  1. I'm not sure if it qualifies as "upscale", but I made Canteen's Mac and Cheese this past holiday to great success. This is a dish that used to cost 25.00 a serving at Canteen. Alas, they're no longer around, so maybe pricing was the issue:

                    http://www.gothamist.com/archives/200...

                    Of course, if you want to completely go high falutin', Black Truffle Mac and cheese is probably up there, from Top Chef Season 1:

                    http://www.bravotv.com/Top_Chef/Episo...

                    1. What is the rest of your menu? That will help determine how to mix up the mac and cheese. I'd vary it to compliment what else you're making.

                      I often make variations of the basic baked recipe (find on most commercial boxes). Sometimes I'll add mozz cheese, chopped tomato, pepperoni and oregano for an Italian spin.

                      Also, presentation goes a long way to make something upscale. Try serving in mounded or perfectly cut square - then drizzle a sauce over top (cream or cheese sauce, for instance) with some chopped parsely or paprika (or cayenne).

                      1. Use any decadent recipe, add sauteed fresh porcini and make sure you have plenty of good parm in your cheese mix. Serve in individually-sized portions in small souffle or other ceramic dishes, hot from the oven with a bubbly browned bread crumb and cheese crust, topped with a fresh maine lobster tail you added near the end of cooking. Then shower with white truffles table-side.

                        Damn, what time should we be there?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Grubbjunkie

                          Make it a butter poached lobster tail and then we're talking decadent....

                        2. I am a big fan of Martha Stewarts mac and cheese made with gruyere. The only thing I do different is used premade breadcrumbs. We just made this a few weeks ago. Richie

                          Martha Stewart’s Macaroni And Cheese

                          8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
                          6 slices good white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces

                          5 1/2 cups milk
                          1/2 cup all purpose flour
                          2 tsp. salt
                          1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (maybe?)
                          1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
                          1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste (1/8 tsp.)
                          (1 tsp. dry mustard, maybe 1 1/2 tsp.)
                          4 1/2 cups (about 18 oz.) grated sharp white cheddar cheese
                          2 cups (about 8 oz.) grated Gruyere or 1 1/4 grated Pecorino Romano cheese
                          1 lb. elbow macaroni

                          Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3 quart casserole dish; set aside.

                          Place the bread in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour butter into bowl with bread and toss. Set the bread aside.

                          In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat the milk.

                          Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute. While whisking, slowly pour in hot milk. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick. Remove pan from heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar cheese and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere or 1 cup Pecorino Romano; set cheese sauce aside.

                          Fill a large saucepan with water; bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 minutes less than manufacturer’s directions, until the outside of the pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.) Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well.

                          Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce. Pour mixture into prepared dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup Gruyere or 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano and bread crumbs over top.

                          Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to wire rack to cool 5 minutes. Serve.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: javaandjazz

                            I've made this for years. The best white cheddar I've found yet is at Costco. Coastal English Cheddar. Hands down, tastiest. You can also buy your gruyere there for a fraction of the price. When you need this much, it's worth it.

                            Whatever you do, don't use Romano, no matter how much cheaper it is. It's way to salty. Do yourself a favor and make the bread topping.

                            1. re: javaandjazz

                              Her recipe is really great. One thing I would add, the last time I made it, I felt the ratio of sauce to pasta was a little high and added more pasta. Normally I consider MS to be the Annoying Queen of I'm Better than You, but this recipe is really excellent.

                              I made it with black diamond white cheddar, and antique gruyere. I made croutons per the recipe, using challah.

                              Be warned, the recipe makes a *lot*.

                            2. This recipe is still more homey than upscale, but it's too delicious not to share. It's meant to be low-fat, so you just have to add way more Gouda than called for. I don't bother with the Parmesan, and I've always used Granny Smith apples. Also, in my house it makes two servings, not four. Thanks, everyone, for sharing all of the great ideas ...

                              Smoky Macaroni and Cheese
                              Source: Better Homes and Gardens

                              8 ounces dried large elbow macaroni
                              3 ounces smoked cheddar cheese or smoked Gouda cheese
                              1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
                              1/2 cup chopped onion
                              3/4 cup fat-free half-and-half
                              1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
                              1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
                              1/4 teaspoon black pepper
                              1 medium tart apple, cored and coarsely chopped (2/3 cup)
                              1 tablespoon finely shredded Parmesan cheese

                              Directions
                              1. Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain. Return macaroni to saucepan. If desired, remove any darker outer layer from smoked cheese with a vegetable peeler. Shred cheese (you should have about 3/4 cup); set aside.
                              2. For sauce, in a medium saucepan combine broth and onion. Bring to boiling; reduce heat to medium. Cook, covered, about 5 minutes or until onion is tender. In a screw-top jar combine half-and-half, flour, mustard, and black pepper; cover and shake well. Add to onion mixture. Cook and stir just until bubbly. Remove from heat. Add smoked cheese, stirring until most of the cheese is melted. Pour the sauce over cooked macaroni; toss to combine. Pour into a 1 1/2-quart casserole.
                              3. Bake, covered, in a 350 degree F oven for 10 minutes. Uncover and bake about 10 minutes more or until bubbly. Let stand for 5 minutes. Top with chopped apple and Parmesan cheese. Makes 4 servings.

                              1. With Fontina Cheese, Pancetta, Porcini Mushroom, Cream and a touch of truffle oil. Top with panko crumbs or more fontina.

                                (as I eat a turkey hot dog...hold the bread) ugh

                                1. We recently had a mac and cheese cook-off in Seattle that featured entries from both local chefs and amateurs. Lorna's winning recipe is posted on the Urban Diner website:

                                  http://urbandiner.inknoise.com/blog/2...

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: dandelion

                                    oh wow,the brioche topping is over the top. I make it very similar but add the red pepper flakes when we serve. I love this recipe.
                                    Great link, thanks!

                                    1. re: chef chicklet

                                      Oh yeah, this recipe won the contest by a landslide.... Really good.

                                  2. This is a pretty hot thread. You probably have enough suggestions and recipes to be able to make a different one every week for a year. But...just in case, here's an article from today's paper with a little lesson on making mac & cheese and ten! recipes.

                                    http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07007/...

                                    1. Yummy...what great, unusual mac and cheese recipes. Those should cover the gamut of tastes.

                                      1. My go to macaroni and cheese is a variation of this recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec.... With my changes (I basically cut it in half, use chipotles in the whole thing, and use all whole milk instead of a milk/cream mixture):

                                        For bread crumbs
                                        2 tablespoons unsalted butter
                                        2 tablespoons olive oil
                                        2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
                                        1 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs

                                        2 to 3 tablespoons chopped chipotle chiles in adobo
                                        2 T unsalted butter
                                        1/4 cup all-purpose flour
                                        2.5 cups whole milk
                                        1 tablespoon dry mustard
                                        1/2 lb macaroni
                                        a little less than 1 lb extra-sharp Cheddar (preferably white), grated

                                        Heat butter and oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides, then cook garlic and bread crumbs, stirring, until crumbs are golden. Transfer to paper towels to drain and season with salt.

                                        Make macaroni:
                                        Preheat oven to 350°F. Chop chipotles.

                                        Melt butter in a 3- to 4-quart saucepan over moderate heat, then add flour and cook, whisking, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk and mustard and simmer, whisking occasionally, 3 minutes.

                                        Cook macaroni in a 6- to 7-quart pot of boiling salted water until just tender. Drain in a colander and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in white sauce, cheese, chipotles and salt to taste.

                                        Fill an 8x8 shallow casserole with macaroni mixture. Sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake casserole in middle of oven 30 minutes, or until bubbly.

                                        This recipe also recommends using cavatappi as the pasta, which is a tubular curly pasta, and it's really great with that, but I've had a problem finding it of late.

                                        1. ooh, i like this topic.

                                          i like to use taleggio and gruyere together, with bechamel to thin it out just a bit and seasoned to taste with nutmeg and S+P.

                                          that can also be just the base. class it up with: chives, porcini mushrooms, pancetta, etc. next time i intend to drizzle in truffle oil. the lobster suggestions above sound decadent.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: coookie

                                            Well, you decadent coookie, you, suppose you put a layer of lasagna nooodles down, then a layer of "taleggio and gruyere together, with bechamel to thin it out just a bit and seasoned to taste with nutmeg and S+P" then a layer of "chives, porcini mushrooms, pancetta, etc." and "drizzle in truffle oil" with lobster optional and another layer of lasagna noodles and so forth.

                                            I guess this wouldn't be mac & cheese and purists would say it ain't "authentic" lasagna, either.

                                            Might be good though. A little rich.

                                            1. re: yayadave

                                              holy crap, that is like a medley of deliciousness.

                                              reminds me of a simpsons quote:

                                              Moe: Hey hey, Sabu, I need another Magnum or your best Champagne here, huh. And bring us the finest food you've got stuffed with the second finest.
                                              Sabu: Excellent sir. Lobster, stuffed with tacos.

                                              1. re: coookie

                                                I don't know from simpsons, but that quote has me choking.

                                          2. I think Paula Deen has a great mac & cheese recipe. I modified it for an Iron Chef cheese competition by adding crab and topping with Panko and came in 2nd.