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Favorite cheese blend for homemade Mac & Cheese?

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!

Phoo-D
http://www.phoo-d.com

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  1. 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

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

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

        1. 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. 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. 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...
              Phoo-D

              2 Replies
              1. re: Phoo_d

                I think smoked cheddar would be delicious!!

                1. re: cheesecake17

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

                1. 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

                    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. 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

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

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        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.

                        Jim

                        1. re: Jim Washburn

                          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. 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. 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.