Saturday, May 21, 2011

Mac-nificent! - 5/21/11

Main dish mac and cheese with an attitude.  Mac Daddy mac and cheese.  Mac-nificent mac and cheese, with four kinds of cheese, three kinds of meats, caramelized onions, a highly seasoned white sauce to hold it together, and buttered panko crumbs for that crunchilicious factor.

1 pound of Ronzoni corkscrew pasta, cooked according to package directions.  Do not rinse with cold water.

5 cups of mixed grated and shredded cheeses (roughly equivalent amounts of sharp cheddar, pepper jack, mozzarella, brie, and a handful each of parmesan and romano) - set aside one cup of the mixed cheeses
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 quart (4 cups) whole milk

Kosher salt
Black or white pepper
a pinch of cayenne
a pinch of nutmeg
a few drops of Tabasco
a couple of glugs of Worcestershire sauce

1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups of meat, diced or crumbled (kielbasa, sausage crumbles, dry chorizo)

For the topping:
2 tablespoons of butter
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

In 1 tablespoon of the butter, saute the onion till it begins to soften.  Add the meats and cook to render the fat, but do not allow to get crisp.  Remove the cooked meats and onion from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside.  In the same pot add the remaining butter and when melted, add the flour.  Whisk these together until a smooth roux forms and continue cooking until the "raw" flour smell is gone, about 2 minutes.  Continue whisking as you pour in the milk.  The white sauce (bechamel) will not thicken until it is fully heated, so keep whisking over medium to medium high heat.  Once the sauce has thickened, season it with the salt, pepper, cayenne, nutmeg, Tabasco and Worcestershire.  Now remove from the heat, and stir in the four cups of mixed grated cheese.  When the cheeses are melted and the sauce is smooth,  add the cooked meat and onion to the pot, using the slotted spoon to avoid adding any fat that may have gathered in the dish holding the meat.  Stir the cooked pasta together with the sauce.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Put the 2 tablespoons of butter into a 9 x 13 x 2 inch baking dish and place in the oven to melt the butter.  Pour off the melted butter and set aside.  Pour the macaroni and cheese sauce into the prepared baking dish.  Top with the remaining 1 cup of mixed cheeses.  Place in the oven and bake for 10 - 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and sprinkle the panko crumbs over the top.  Carefully pour the melted butter over the crumbs.

Change the oven setting to broil, and return the baking dish to the oven for the crumbs to get medium brown and toasty.  Leave the oven door partially open while the dish is under the broiler, and watch very carefully, because the crumbs can blacken and burn and spoil the dish.  When the dish is done, remove and let the macaroni and cheese sit about 10 minutes before serving.

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