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Favorite cheese blend for homemade Mac & Cheese?

Phoo_d Feb 22, 2009 12:52 PM

Hi Chowhounds,

I made a batch of mac and cheese this weekend which used equal parts extra sharp cheddar, gruyere, and brie. The consistency of the bechemel sauce and ratio of sauce to pasta was perfect, but we were disappointed with the overall flavor - it lacked "bite" and cheese interest. (Other ingredients included a little fresh thyme and scant teaspoon of grated fresh nutmeg.)

Does anyone have a favorite blend of cheeses to create an outstanding homemade mac and cheese? I'm looking to try again once my arteries have cleared out!


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  1. b
    Babette RE: Phoo_d Feb 22, 2009 02:08 PM

    That sounds pretty good as is. Sometimes I add smoked gouda &/or neufchatel, or any interesting artisanal cheeses I may have on hand. A little tabasco or other hot sauce adds a little kick.

    If there was any left over, did the flavor improve the next day?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Babette
      mwright RE: Babette Feb 26, 2009 10:29 AM

      Yesterday I did half sharp cheddar and half smoked gouda. I added some ham, whcih really suited the cheese flavours. My kids loved it -- there were no leftovers for my lunch today!

    2. m
      melly RE: Phoo_d Feb 22, 2009 02:11 PM

      I like extra sharp cheddar, white cheddar, and pepper jack!

      1. b
        bigfellow RE: Phoo_d Feb 22, 2009 02:27 PM

        Dubliner and Oka Classique! I also add fesh lobster....

        1. k
          kshrimp RE: Phoo_d Feb 22, 2009 05:06 PM

          We like a little parm, asiago, or something else sharp and salty, regardless of the other cheeses I'm using - just a little gives it that nice point :)

          1. Gio RE: Phoo_d Feb 22, 2009 05:19 PM

            Grated Seriously Sharp Cheddar from Cabot + Grated Gruyere + Fontina. No bechamel but about a cup of 1/2 & 1/2 poured over just before the dish goes into the oven.

            We add paprika over top and cayenne with the cheese mix.

            1. Phoo_d RE: Phoo_d Feb 23, 2009 02:47 PM

              Thank you for all of the suggestions! My husband had suggested fontina for next time and I like the idea of asiago to help with the sharpness. Aged or smoked cheddar had crossed my mind but I wondered if the smoke flavor would be to heavy combined with the heaviness of the dish. I see several experiments ahead...

              2 Replies
              1. re: Phoo_d
                cheesecake17 RE: Phoo_d Feb 23, 2009 02:51 PM

                I think smoked cheddar would be delicious!!

                1. re: cheesecake17
                  LPhila RE: cheesecake17 Feb 23, 2009 06:45 PM

                  I like a sharp cheddar and gruyere/swiss blend... maybe slightly more of the gruyere to keep the cheddar from making everything too broken or oily. Yum!

              2. m
                middydd RE: Phoo_d Feb 23, 2009 07:17 PM

                3 parts Old Cheddar, 1 part goat Chevre, 1 part Danish Blue or Gorgonzola. Topped with lots of buttered crumbs.

                1. 1
                  18465 RE: Phoo_d Feb 23, 2009 07:17 PM

                  whatever is in the frig. Usually mostly a shrap cheddar with a little bit of blue added. Also a bit of fresh goat, if you have some. Also a small amount of prepared mustard. I'd leave out the nutmeg for this particular combo but roasted red pepper is a nice addition to the top as well as a few bread crumbs.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: 18465
                    alwayscooking RE: 18465 Feb 25, 2009 01:30 PM

                    The 'found in the frig' method is the best . I'll never quite know how it will come out since I have a severe fondness for cheese of every sort and always have a few (or more) on hand (should there be a separate board for 'cheese'?). I topically also add halved grape tomatoes.

                  2. Ruth Lafler RE: Phoo_d Feb 23, 2009 08:25 PM

                    I find that a little bit of acid helps give it some "bite" and sharpen the cheese flavor. I use a small amount of a vinegary hot sauce, like Tobasco, or sriracha (I use a brand of sriracha that's more vinegary than the common Rooster brand). Not enough to make it hot, just to help focus and bring out the other flavors. A bit of dry mustard is a classic addition as well.

                    I like using flavored cheeses -- some very good ones are horseradish cheddar, truffled cheese and pepper cheese. A small amount of blue cheese is good; fontina, havarti, etc. are too bland for my taste.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Ruth Lafler
                      Phoo_d RE: Ruth Lafler Feb 25, 2009 01:21 PM

                      A dash of hot sauce is a great idea - I love horseradish cheddar too. Thanks Ruth!

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler
                        Jim Washburn RE: Ruth Lafler Feb 25, 2009 05:16 PM

                        Please name the brand of sriracha you use for this. Is it really better than a mix of Rooster and some extra vinegar? Thanks. I am a hot-sauce nut and always on the lookout for something good that I've not tried before.


                        1. re: Jim Washburn
                          Ruth Lafler RE: Jim Washburn Feb 25, 2009 06:50 PM

                          It's Uncle Chen's brand. I've never tried mixing Rooster with vinegar, but I think it's probably different, because it's not the same ratio of pepper/sugar/vinegar that you'd get by adding vinegar, that is, when you just add vinegar the ratio of pepper to sugar would still be the same. The ingredients on the Uncle Chen's are: chili, vinegar, garlic, sugar, salt; the ingredients for Rooster are: chili, sugar, garlic, salt, vinegar.

                          Uncle Chen's is a lot darker in color than Rooster, too, so they may use different peppers or process them differently.

                      2. chef chicklet RE: Phoo_d Feb 26, 2009 06:38 AM

                        My favorite cheeses for mac and cheese are, fontina, monterey for great melting, and cheddar for bite, and american for another flavor that's milder than the cheddar.
                        I like to make a white sauce first, add the cheeses, and then a few onions too (cut fine)and then into a deep casserole dish. As I put it into the casserole, I sometimes add another handful of cheddar. Top with all the cheeses, and lastly buttered bread crumbs.
                        A nice crust to break through to get to all that molten lava cheesy goodness.....well I guess I know what's for dinner.

                        1. n
                          normalheightsfoodie RE: Phoo_d Feb 26, 2009 09:51 AM

                          There is a afine line between too much, not enough and the right amount of salt. You can always add a little mustard.

                          I also like to add a little bit of chicken that I quickly saute with some bacon. The bacon gives the chicken a smoky flavor. I usually discard the bacon and I do not add it to the mac.

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