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Mac n cheese?

lestblight Dec 15, 2009 07:34 AM

thinking of making some mac n cheese-

any specific pairings you recommend?

I want to go fairly simple to begin.

so i was thinking of a 4 cheese combo with some herb.

what do you recommend?

im thinking...
cheddar, meunster, gruyere and pecorino - thyme

any suggestions ? thanks.

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  1. hotoynoodle RE: lestblight Dec 15, 2009 08:29 AM

    cheddar isn't always a stable melting cheese, id' pick another soft cheese like fontina or even swiss. if you're new at this, consider making a white roux with milk to give the thing structure.

    2 Replies
    1. re: hotoynoodle
      Perilagu Khan RE: hotoynoodle Dec 15, 2009 08:36 AM

      I agree with the roux advice. And if you make the roux you should be able to use cheddar just fine.

      1. re: Perilagu Khan
        LindaWhit RE: Perilagu Khan Dec 15, 2009 08:49 AM

        I third the advice re: the roux and the cheddar cheese (sharp cheddar!). I'm having some leftover mac & ham & cheese right now for lunch. But fontina or gruyere would be a good addition.

    2. j
      Jack_ RE: lestblight Dec 15, 2009 09:53 AM

      The last one I made was Cheddar, Jarlsberg and Stilton seasoned with a bit of gulden's mustard. Yes with a roux (there's another way?)

      7 Replies
      1. re: Jack_
        lestblight RE: Jack_ Dec 15, 2009 12:48 PM

        yup im doing a white roux. and perhaps ill ditch pecorino for fontina

        how would i work herbs into this? fold in with or just top it after?

        1. re: lestblight
          LindaWhit RE: lestblight Dec 15, 2009 12:54 PM

          Why are you thinking herbs - because you have them? If you do want to use herbs, I'd probably mix it into the breadcrumb topping, like this blogger:


          1. re: lestblight
            Jack_ RE: lestblight Dec 15, 2009 01:14 PM

            I add seasoning, salt, pepper and any herbs to the roux before adding the cheese and macaroni. I wouldn't put it in the topping, you want it to infuse and be better mixed in.

            Use whatever cheese you like. I usually use sharp cheddar, which I always have around (usually Cabot or Cracker Barrel bricks ) and add what looks good and is on special at the cheese shop. As I said last time I was inspired by this nice $8 lb Stilton.

            1. re: lestblight
              shaogo RE: lestblight Dec 16, 2009 05:53 AM

              I think with the lovely assortment of cheese flavors you've got going on, adding herbs is going to foul up the cheesy simplicity of the dish. If you must, go with an herb that's milder than thyme; chervil or even flat parsley lend themselves much better to a multi-cheese dish. No disrespect meant to herb lovers, however.

              With all the cheese action going on in the dish, I think it cries out for the addition of either a little Colman's mustard in the roux, or as I often do in mac and cheese, some sort of chili pepper action (I use a Vietnamese chili paste).

              1. re: shaogo
                hotoynoodle RE: shaogo Dec 23, 2009 04:15 AM

                i also use mustard in the roux and like smoked paprika on top.

                1. re: shaogo
                  BobB RE: shaogo Dec 23, 2009 11:53 AM

                  I agree, this is not the place for dried herbs. Mustard yes, maybe a pinch (or more, if you like) of cayenne or a hint of nutmeg, but leave the thyme on the shelf.

                  Oops! Just read down and realized this has been suggested several times already. That's what I get for replying before finishing the thread.

              2. re: Jack_
                Shrinkrap RE: Jack_ Dec 15, 2009 01:01 PM

                Yes! there's another way! Remember this one? (Hope this permalink thing works...


                I had posted this....


              3. kubasd RE: lestblight Dec 15, 2009 12:57 PM

                I love using a mix of monterey jack, sharp cheddar, smoked gouda, and jarlsberg. And yes i use a roux, i didnt' know there was another way. I liberally sprinkle breadcrumbs (i use italian seasoned) on top, dot with butter, and then top it all with some fresh grated parmesan to get a good crust. I make a lot so i have leftovers. OH! and i mix some roasted garlic in with the cheese sauce, it adds a nice sweetness and depth of flavor. Also lots of fresh cracked black pepper

                1. Perilagu Khan RE: lestblight Dec 15, 2009 01:00 PM

                  My recipe includes a liberal dose of cayenne.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Perilagu Khan
                    MMRuth RE: Perilagu Khan Dec 16, 2009 05:27 AM

                    Nutmeg is also a nice touch - though not with the cayenne, I think.

                    1. re: MMRuth
                      shaogo RE: MMRuth Dec 16, 2009 05:55 AM

                      I forgot all about nutmeg. Fabulous with cheeses. Just enough so you barely detect it.

                      I recall vividly having a piece of quiche when I was about 16 -- it was laced with Swiss cheese, and the filling had a bit of nutmeg in it. I thought it was the most wonderful cheese taste I'd ever experienced!

                      1. re: shaogo
                        dmd_kc RE: shaogo Dec 20, 2009 05:26 PM

                        But it's also remarkably easy to overdo it on the nutmeg, too -- and that's not a nice flavor. I ruined a very expensive mac and cheese with too much once, and now I'm super gunshy with it in savory dishes.

                  2. s
                    sunflwrsdh RE: lestblight Dec 15, 2009 01:22 PM

                    I just saw a Diners, DriveIns and Dives episode that used crumbled Pepperidege farm Extreme Cheddar goldfish crackers mixed with butter for the crumb topping...tried it last week and it was great! I use a very basic Betty Crocker recipe for mac and cheese, usually use sharp or extra sharp cheddar, but have been know to add whatever other cheeses I have in the fridge, with never a bad result:)

                    1. ChristinaMason RE: lestblight Dec 15, 2009 01:39 PM

                      I sometimes like herbs in mac. Thyme goes well. I also like cayenne and a little nutmeg, and a dash of powdered bay in the bechamel. You could also try a small amount of fresh rosemary. Just don't go overboard

                      1. b
                        bigfellow RE: lestblight Dec 16, 2009 05:45 AM

                        I make my mac & cheese with dubliner (Ireland) and oka (Quebec, Canada) cheeses with a pinch of dry mustard and cayene. Did I mention that I then add lobster meat!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: bigfellow
                          sunflwrsdh RE: bigfellow Dec 20, 2009 05:08 PM

                          Sounds great! Lobster meat would be an awesome addition....seriously...you add lobster meat to mac and cheese? Wow.

                          1. re: sunflwrsdh
                            bigfellow RE: sunflwrsdh Dec 20, 2009 07:08 PM

                            Yup. it's been a signature dish for years professionally and at home.

                        2. Will Owen RE: lestblight Dec 16, 2009 10:22 AM

                          After all the Thanksgiving leftovers, then White Trash Christmas party leftovers, then a week of gumbo, I am SO ready for a mess of mac'n'cheese. I will use sharp cheddar, pepper jack, and hard aged Gouda melted into a bechamel, along with chopped/sautéed scallions and Poblano pepper. Then I shall top it with more grated cheese and slices of Roma tomato.

                          Oh, what the hell - I'll put some ham in it, too! YEE ha! And then we'll eat it with fish and feel very virtuous...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Will Owen
                            Will Owen RE: Will Owen Dec 19, 2009 11:03 AM

                            Update: there was a whole bunch of that typical supermarket "party mix" of cubed cheese, everything from medium cheddar to smoked Cheese Food, left over from the party. It was good and cold, so I dumped a bunch into the Cuisinart and chopped it. Then I made two cups of bechamel, incorporating some chopped onion cooked in the butter at the beginning, and melted the cheese into it. Drained a can of Hatch tomatoes and green chiles and chopped up about 1/3 lb of ham and stirred those in. Cooked 8 oz + of elbows, combined everything, sliced Roma and cheese on top as above and baked it about 40 minutes, half with the lid on then half with it off. Not only delicious, but the extra gooeyness made it eminently reheatable as well. It's also a fairly complete meal dish, needing only a bit of greenery alongside.

                          2. s
                            sparkareno RE: lestblight Dec 16, 2009 10:44 AM

                            Two things I add---garlic & chipotle....and then some more garlic in the crumb topping.

                            1. r
                              redwood2bay RE: lestblight Dec 16, 2009 10:47 AM

                              Our favorite is a blend of sharp cheddar and smoked gouda, with a tiny bit of dried mustard (stirred well!) for seasoning. The gouda does not melt as smoothly, but we don't mind because the flavor is worth it.

                              1. ChristinaMason RE: lestblight Dec 16, 2009 11:43 AM

                                Oh, I just remembered. A friend once brought a MASSIVE wedge of very aged gouda with him when staying the weekend with us. After we ate ourselves sick, we used the leftovers in a mac-like pasta dish. It was freakin' unbelievable. I think we may also have tossed in some halved cherry tomatoes. Sigh.

                                1. EWSflash RE: lestblight Dec 19, 2009 11:12 AM

                                  My usual additives are thyme, basil, and marjoram, plus a ton of black pepper and a fair bit of nutmeg. You can skip all of that if you're using gorgonzola as the cheese!

                                  1. Bada Bing RE: lestblight Dec 19, 2009 11:46 AM

                                    Looking at these posts I'm totally feeling out of the mainstream. First, my family's traditional approach--and who doesn't do Mac and Cheese without thoughts of childhood?--is to use KETCHUP on the finished product. Most people retract in shock at the idea, and others nod yes (less often). Must be some regional thing. In any case, we use just cheddar and whole milk, with salt and pepper. It's a blander approach, but that's where the ketchup comes in on the finish.

                                    Twice I've tried making Bechamel/Mornay mac-and-cheese sauces. Each time they were much too heavy for my taste. But that could be my sauce technique, which is limited. I cook serious food. But mac and cheese I make this simple way.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Bada Bing
                                      ChristinaMason RE: Bada Bing Dec 19, 2009 01:46 PM

                                      I like ketchup on Kraft blue box...

                                      1. re: Bada Bing
                                        Popkin RE: Bada Bing Dec 19, 2009 03:42 PM

                                        mmm, you tried bbq sauce on it? Especially a sweet one? I still like that from time to time :D

                                      2. Popkin RE: lestblight Dec 19, 2009 03:40 PM

                                        I LOVE making macaroni and cheese! I like playing around with my (mom's) basic recipe. I've done:

                                        bacon and cheddar macaroni and cheese (using the bacon grease for the roux.... that was a naughty one for the arteries lol!)

                                        sharp and smoked cheddar

                                        not sure if it qualifies as macaroni and cheese, but ricotta, parmasan, and mozzarella with garlic and a touch of pesto was a really good one.

                                        cheddar (white and yellow) with parmasan

                                        I've steeped a dried pepper in the milk (really nice kick and colour)

                                        I'll usually add a hit or two of hot sauce or cayenne pepper to the cheddar and jack versions, seems to brighten the flavour.

                                        1. r
                                          rainey RE: lestblight Dec 19, 2009 04:25 PM

                                          I like cheddar. I will use 2 different cheddars. Then whatever's around that sounds good. Cantal is nice. So is Compté. A smoked gouda gives it character. A little nutty grueyer can't hurt anything. A little Reggiano Parm always gives it a kick. Mostly, it's the variety of flavors that create a nice round, complex flavor.

                                          I don't melt my cheese into a roux. I pour a bit of Bechamel into the bottom then I layer the mac with generous layers of cheese. The rest of the Bechamel (made with buttermilk for that extra flavor) goes on before the last layer of cheese that's extra generous and covers all the exposed macaroni.

                                          It's not what most people think of as the classic mac & cheese but my family doesn't want it any other way.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: rainey
                                            sunflwrsdh RE: rainey Dec 20, 2009 05:12 PM

                                            buttermilk in the Bechamel sounds interesting...I make some form of mac and cheese almost weekly in the wintertime, and will give the buttermilk a try next time I make it. I love both smoked gouda and gruyere in mine, and I melt about half of whatever cheeses I'm using into the Bechamel at the end, and layer the other half of the cheeses with the pasta.

                                          2. t
                                            tastesgoodwhatisit RE: lestblight Dec 21, 2009 12:02 AM

                                            I like cheddar, fresh parmesan and a bit of blue cheese. I do it with a roux, and season with a bit of dijon mustard, garlic, and a hint of lemon juice.

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                                              lestblight RE: tastesgoodwhatisit Dec 21, 2009 11:09 AM


                                              so i made the mac n cheese

                                              sharp cheddar. fontina. gruyere and pecorino

                                              w roasted garlic and shallot. and thyme
                                              and an egg for added richness and creaminess

                                              it came out good.

                                              but it wasnt as gooey as i would have liked.. the tope was crunchy but under wasnt as gooey as i would have liked.. dont think it dried out in the oven.

                                              so for extra goo.. what do you think i need to add more of? cheese?

                                              or more bechamel?"

                                              1. re: lestblight
                                                roxlet RE: lestblight Dec 22, 2009 03:09 AM

                                                Whenever I watch any competition cooking programs and one of the dishes is mac and cheese, the one that always seems to win is the one made with Velveeta in the mix of cheeses. I've never tried it. I'm just saying.

                                                1. re: lestblight
                                                  hotoynoodle RE: lestblight Dec 23, 2009 04:21 AM

                                                  leave out the egg. egg acts as a binder and start heading you towards a custard.

                                                  pecorino has great flavor but is not a good melting cheese.

                                                  1. re: lestblight
                                                    chicgail RE: lestblight Dec 23, 2009 04:40 AM

                                                    What do you mean by gooey? To me there are two types of mac & cheese: "soupy" which is a lot of liquidly cheese mixture and macaroni pasta or "sticky" which is thicker, with the cheesy stuff adhering to the pasta -- more like the blue box.

                                                    I have a strong preference for the second kind, and am disappointed when I get served the soupy kind. That's why I never use tomatoes in my m & C -- too much liquid added.

                                                    1. re: chicgail
                                                      Will Owen RE: chicgail Dec 23, 2009 08:41 PM

                                                      If your mac is insufficiently gooey, you might want to read my post above. I consulted with my favorite oldfashioned pasta book, "What's For Dinner, Mrs. Skinner?", and copied off the recipe that calls for 8 oz. macaroni, 2 cups milk, 2 Tbs each of butter and flour (=2 cups bechamel), and 2 cups cheese. This results in a very gooey but not soupy dish. The addition of an egg would firm it up without making it too dry.

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