Sunday, September 15, 2013

Truffled Mac and Cheese

I have a confession.  The husband and I eat a lot of mac and cheese.  Kraft... mac and cheese.  As much as I enjoy home cooked meals, I haven't ever found a mac and cheese recipe that I like.  Until now.

To be fair, this recipe has been around the internet for quite awhile - it's a Martha Stewart recipe, after all.  But, I've put my own little spin on it by adding the truffle oil.  Truffle oil just makes everything a little bit better.  I recently had a truffled mac and cheese at a local restaurant and it was fantastic.  (And now I can save the $13 and just make my own!)  The truffle oil is optional, of course, if that's not quite your thing.

Also optional are all the veggies on the side.  Two different kinds of veggies make it healthy, right?  At least that's what I was telling myself when I was eating this meal.

The focus of this recipe is the cheese, obviously, so I would encourage you to splurge and get good stuff.  Not the yellow, rubbery block of preservatives that some companies call cheese.  But if all you have is some of that stuff, go for it, and get the good cheese the next time.

The original recipe calls for what is essentially croutons on top.  Which I think is weird.  I used panko bread crumbs instead, and I'm so glad I did.  It created a wonderful golden, crunchy crust that is the perfect foil for the gooey, creamy cheese inside.

Now, the original recipe also uses a 9 x 13 inch pan.  As much as we love mac and cheese, that was even a little extreme for us (but mostly our waistlines and wallets).  I halved the recipe which was perfect for us.  But if you need to feed a crowd, go ahead and make the full recipe.  Or if you want a lot of leftovers.  Bonus - this recipe reheats well!  As the husband says, "it's just awesome."

Truffled Mac and Cheese
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
Makes 5-6 servings

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for casserole
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 3/4 cups milk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more for water
Pinch ground nutmeg
Pinch teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 1/4 cups (about 9 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar cheese
1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) grated Gruyère
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp (about 1.2 ounces) grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 Tbsp white truffle oil
1/2 pound elbow macaroni

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a 2-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place the panko breadcrumbs in a medium bowl. In the microwave, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Pour the melted butter into the bowl with the breadcrumbs, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside.

2. Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add the flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.

3. While whisking, slowly pour in the hot milk a little at a time to keep mixture smooth. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick, 8 to 12 minutes.

4. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, truffle oil, and about 3/4 of the cheese; set the cheese sauce aside.

5. Cover a large pot of salted water, and bring to a boil. Cook the macaroni until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir the macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.  It will seem like there is too much cheese sauce, but I promise that there isn't!  All that extra sauce not only tastes great, but helps it reheat well.

6. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese, and the breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes (though we needed a bit more time to get it brown, but your oven may vary). Transfer the dish to a wire rack for 5 minutes; serve.


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