Is your curiosity peaked? Are you wondering? Do I have your undivided attention? Hmmm? I mean anything goes in THIS column, right? Sounds like a bad word doesn’t it? …or something you’d create in the bathroom, not the kitchen. (She giggles.) Well, this week, you’re safe…this IS in fact, created in the kitchen, with all natural, (hehe), EDIBLE, ingredients. What were you thinking? Jeez…
Over the weekend, we welcomed friends from out of town to our home. While planning for their visit, I was also planning this week’s casserole column. I thought what better way to welcome our friends down south, and combine my two tasks at hand, than with some ole’ fashioned southern comfort food! (They’re Yankees. We forgive them for that.) To me, comfort food=casserole = none other than Mac N Cheese! I mean really guys, what else?
Wait! What? The Gourmet is going to make…macaroni and cheese? Absolutely! Macaroni and cheese has gotten a bad crap wrap since the invention of the crap in a box…no offense Kraft. Trust me, in this recipe you will not find a cardboard box, or any packets of cheese like powdered substances. You KNOW any old mac n cheese, simply will not do here. What we need to do is add some pizzazz! We need umph! We need to be creative and let our real, unprocessed, cheeses flow! WE are going to create a masterpiece of pasta and cheese, an adulterous affair of beautiful, sexy, flavors…we are going to create…drum roll please… Quattro+ Formaggio Macaroni.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-inch thick piece pancetta, cut into small dice
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cans evaporated milk
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon paprika
2 1/2 cups freshly grated Asiago cheese , plus more for the top
1 1/2 cups New York Cheddar
1/2 cups Shropshire Blue (Or your favorite Bleu Cheese)
1 cup grated Fontina cheese, plus more for the top
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus more for the top
½ cup Grated Percorino
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked
1/2 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Preheat your oven to 350 and butter your bottom…of the dish. Although that does give me some ideas for later…Heat your oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat and brown the pancetta until crisp. Place your pancetta on a separate plate reserving your cooking oil to begin your roux, a fancy name for crap that will thicken your mac n cheese. Whisk the flour into the reserved oil and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Then whisk in your evaporated milk, increase your heat and continue whisking constantly until your mixture is thickened. You now have a roux. Next, whisk in the eggs until incorporated and let cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the herbs and seasonings, and all of the cheese until completely melted. If you want to add some cheese to the top, reserve about ½ cup for that purpose. If not, throw it all in.
Place the cooked macaroni in a large bowl, add the cheese sauce, pancetta and parsley and stir well. Next put the mixture into your buttered bottom dish. If you reserved cheese for the top, add it now. Bake your mac n cheese until the top is lightly golden brown, 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and enjoy!
Now there is the REAL way to enjoy REAL macaroni with REAL cheese. Now that you have no excuses on how to prepare or enjoy REAL mac, n REAL cheese, please don’t let me catch you with any cardboard boxes in the future. It could get ugly. Save those for the recycling plant!