Yvonne’s “World’s Best” Mac & Cheese

My Facebook friend Yvonne, a fellow schnauzer-lover and accomplished home chef, recently posted her latest mac and cheese dish to our closed foodie group.  The key to its deliciousness, besides her skill in the kitchen, was Beecher’s Flagship cheese.  Handmade in Seattle, available at retail if you can find it, for about $25/lb, or by mail order with shipping costs that can double the cost of a pound.  There’s also a milder jack cheese component, and a surprising touch of both garlic powder and chili powder.

Upon seeing the photos Yvonne posted of ingredients, recipe on the package, and finished dish, I was determined to find a suitable substitute and try this out myself.  Seeing that Flagship is a combination of nutty-flavored Gruyère and cheddar, I searched – where else – but at Trader Joe’s for some excellent cheese stand-ins.

Mission accomplished, my cheese en place included these:

 

cheddar &gryewre

quattro-formaggio

The rest was simple, and seriously rivaled by longtime favorite Ultimate Macaroni and Cheese.

WORLD’S BEST MAC & CHEESE

(adapted from Beecher’s recipe)

INGREDIENTS:

12 ounces penne rigate

6 tbsp unsalted butter divided

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

3 cups milk

1 lb Trader Joe’s Cheddar & Gruyere cheese combination, shredded

4 ounces Trader Joe’s Quattro Formaggio shredded cheese

½ tsp kosher salt

½ tsp chili powder

1/8 tsp garlic powder

1 cup Panko bread crumbs

 

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 350º.

Butter a 9 x 13” baking dish.

Cook penne in 4-6 quarts boiling water about 9 minutes, until they’re cooked but still chewy.  Drain and rinse in cold water; set aside.

Melt 4 tbsp butter in heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat and whisk in flour.  Continue whisking for 2 minutes.  Slowly add milk while whisking and cook until sauce thickens, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Add 14 ounces of the Cheddar/Gruyère, 2 ounces of the Quattro Formaggio cheese, salt, ¼ tsp chili powder and the garlic powder.  Stir until everything is melted and incorporated.

Combine pasta and sauce in the saucepan and scrape into prepared baking dish.  Melt remaining 2 tbsp butter and combine with the panko, the remaining cheeses and remaining 1/4 tsp chili powder.  Sprinkle all over the top.  Bake uncovered 30 minutes and let set 5 minutes before serving.

IMG_3858 2

This will serve 6 hearty portions with a salad for dinner, or more as a side dish.  Can be refrigerated and reheated or recipe can be halved.

Ultimate Macaroni & Cheese

Once realizing I’d never posted this recipe, I truly could not wait for this to be baked and photographed before sharing it.  So please imagine that buttery panko topping browned and crispy, and the cheeses just oozing a bit from beneath that crunchy blanket.

Yes, I do unabashedly declare this to be the ULTIMATE mac and cheese recipe, adapted from what I enjoyed years ago at Stephanie’s on Newbury in Boston’s Back Bay.  The restaurant is still there, having grown up into much more than the bistro it was in the ’90s, but still featuring this signature dish on their extensive menu.  You can make a reservation and pay $19 for a lunch portion of this dish, or you can make a batch serving  6  for about $9 in ingredients.  Easy, and yet truly sophisticated.  Never go back to elbows and orange cheddar again.

ULTIMATE MACARONI & CHEESE

(adapted from Stephanie’s on Newbury Street, Boston)

img_0719

(oven-ready, not yet baked – imagine crispy browned topping!)

8 ounces penne, rotelli,  cavatappi, or similar pasta shape, cooked al dente and drained

For sauce:

3 tbsp butter

3 tbsp flour

2 cups  half & half  or light cream

1-1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

8 ounces shredded Vermont sharp cheddar

4 ounces Trader Joe’s Quattro Formaggio blend , or 2 ounces shredded romano & 2 ounces shredded asiago

For topping:

1 cup panko (do not substitute – this is essential for crisp topping)

4 tbsp melted butter

Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish (optional)

Melt butter in large saucepan, add flour and simmer 2-3 minutes on medium heat.  Add cream and whisk until dissolved.  Continue cooking on low-medium until thick & bubbly.  Add all the cheeses, and S&P – cook until cheese is melted.  Add to the pasta and place in buttered 2-quart baking dish.

Mix together the panko & melted butter, sprinkle evenly on top, and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.  Top with parsley.(optional)

For added depth of flavor, add 1/2 tsp truffle oil, or embellish with chopped broccoli, lobster meat, or prosciutto.

Wonderful winter comfort food, and a real crowd-pleasure on Superbowl Sunday.  This is a half-recipe, enough for 6 hearty portions.  Double it for a crowd and – of course – use a larger baked pan, but no need to increase the baking time.