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What kind of cheese is best for my Mac?

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nathanac Jun 27, 2007 04:34 PM

I love mac & cheese and make it all the time. Lately I've been wanting to switch it up a little. I usually make a bechamel sauce and then add three different cheeses to it. I like it creamy and gooey on the inside and crunchy on top. I'm interested in what some possible fav's could be out there. Anyone?

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    traceybell RE: nathanac Jun 27, 2007 04:58 PM

    I like some Wisconsin asiago for a tangy sharpness. I always use an extra sharp cheddar for the main cheese. Also like the combination of a little bit of mustard and beer in the milk, along w/cheddar. (I don't think the asiago would go well with the latter combo.) And I think one of the creamiest for mac 'n cheese is gruyere.

    1 Reply
    1. re: traceybell
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      nathanac RE: traceybell Jun 27, 2007 05:12 PM

      Yeah, I usually add cayenne, mustard, and worchestishire sauce. The gruyere sounds awesome. Would you use it by itself or with what cheese? What kind of ratio?

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      travelinman0009 RE: nathanac Jun 27, 2007 05:30 PM

      try manchego

      1 Reply
      1. re: travelinman0009
        John Manzo RE: travelinman0009 Jun 27, 2007 07:19 PM

        That's gonna be one expensive mac and cheese!

        We use a combo of white cheddar, gruyere and asiago. One of my partner's secrets is to crush some dried porcinis and mix them into the sauce (which like nathanac's begins as a bechamel). We also add drained chopped tomatoes and corn- yes, sweet corn. Panko for the "crust."

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        will_forfood RE: nathanac Jun 27, 2007 05:58 PM

        mac & cheese is the only thing my husband will allow me to cook--or that i'm confident enough to cook for dinner guests. ok. are you ready? you've gotta keep an open mind here. my two main staples when not making a bechamel-based mac and cheese: good quality sharp cheddar (like old quebec 3 year) and velveeta. these two go along with two or three other quality cheeses. gruyere is a good choice as is emmentaler, muenster, colby, camembert or another (milder) cheddar like dubliner.

        don't let the people working behind the cheese counter make you believe that firm cheeses don't melt well for mac & cheese. as long as you grate it fine-medium and mix it well with the freshly cooked (and hot) pasta prior to baking, the cheese will melt beautifully.

        i've experimented many times and found that a little bit of velveeta binds the pasta. without it (and not in a bechamel sauce), the mac & cheese falls apart. none of my guests can ever detect the velveeta because of all the other cheeses.

        to make a nice crunchy top (without cheating--i.e. breadcrumbs, panko, etc.), i set aside 1/3 of a cup of the cheeses and sprinkle it on top in combination with a little bit of freshly grated parmesan. (not sure why but parmesan lends to a great crunchy top.)

        2 Replies
        1. re: will_forfood
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          amyvc RE: will_forfood Jun 27, 2007 07:33 PM

          I second velveeta along with other high-end (as compared to velveeta, anyway) cheeses. This is how Mom taught me to make her most awesome mac and cheese ever and it's always a big hit. CH is not usually the forum for velveeta, but there's an exception to every rule.

          Also, add a little sherry when the cheese sauce is almost done - heaven!

          1. re: amyvc
            Davwud RE: amyvc Jun 28, 2007 09:28 AM

            Don't knock veveeta. It has it's applications that nothing else can manage.

            Would you put it on a platter with some wine and grapes?? Of course not. But how could you make rotel without velveeta??

            DT

        2. dinner belle RE: nathanac Jun 27, 2007 08:53 PM

          Aged gouda (Rembrandt, if you can find it) is out of this world!

          1. Megiac RE: nathanac Jun 28, 2007 09:37 AM

            I do a three cheese mix with sharp white cheddar, parmesan, and gorgonzola (for bite). Mine also has a little bit of worcestershire sauce and dijon mustard (also for bite).

            1. LNG212 RE: nathanac Jun 28, 2007 09:43 AM

              I do mine using Italian cheeses. I like to use penne for this. I too start with the bechamel. Then I add fontina (by far the largest component and very creamy) plus a combination of aged asiago and parmigiana reggiano (for sharpness and saltiness) and then a (very) small amount of fresh mozzarella (for milkiness). And, if I have any on hand, I add a tablespoon or two of creme fraiche. I top with plain fresh breadcrumbs before baking. I've also tried adding a little cayenne to the fresh breadcrumbs. I find that using four kinds of cheese is pretty much it, max -- much more than that and you can't taste any of them anyway.

              1 Reply
              1. re: LNG212
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                dietfoodie RE: LNG212 Jun 28, 2007 09:57 AM

                I like fontina, too. Or, if you like mustard in your mac and cheese, add a chunk of Welsh Dragon (the ale and mustard kind) to your cheese blend and leave out the mustard.

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                wandasue RE: nathanac Jun 28, 2007 11:31 AM

                I add fontina and freshly grated parmesan or romano to the sharp cheddar. I also increase the flavor depth of the bechamel by adding sliced onion, fresh thyme sprigs, a few peppercorns, and a bay leaf while making the roux ( from a recipe found in Fine Cooking Magazine). You can modify the richness factor by using cream, but I've had satisfying results w/ 2% milk. If I don't have homemade bread crumbs on hand for the topping (over a layer of grated cheeses), I like the texture panko crumbs bring to the dish.

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