a fear of béchamel
A minute or two ago I googled 'macaroni cheese' and got 22,300,000 results. Room for one more do you think?
I love the combination of pasta and cheese. One of my favourite quick suppers is spaghetti tossed in butter, a spoonful of cream and plent of grated parmesan and black pepper. But I have issues with most macaroni cheese recipes; well two issues to be precise.
Firstly, I have an irrational dislike of béchamel sauce. Not a phobia exactly (is there a word for a fear of this culinary wallpaper paste? Probably) but such that I find it difficult to make the stuff. No doubt this stems from some maternally inflicted childhood dinner trauma. Although I have no specific memory for this, I do remember her once force-feeding me butter beans until I spewed them all out again.
Hancock: I thought my mother was a bad cook, but at least her gravy used to move about. Yours just sort of lies there and sets.
Secondly, a lot of versions of this dish are singularly lacking much in the way of one of the two main ingredients, viz cheese. And whatever you might think of the recipe below it certainly doesn't fail on that score. It is rammed with cheese. It is cheese-ageddon as far as the macaroni is concerned. But no more of a quantity than you might easily polish off from a cheeseboard at the end of a meal, or in a supper of welsh rarebit.
Speaking of the macaroni, I used cavatappi (a type of elbow macaroni) from Morrison's at 95p/500g (or two for £1.50):
Anyway, here's my version: rich, filling, comforting, simple: cheese, pasta and cream.
1 litre water
1 dsp table salt
150ml double cream
1 rounded tsp dijon mustard
15g pecorino, grated
40g mature cheddar, grated
50g gruyère, grated
a splash or two of Henderson’s Relish (or Worcestershire Sauce)
Bring the water and salt to a boil in a large pan. Add the macaroni and boil until cooked but still firm (i.e. ‘al dente’).
When it's cooked, drain the pasta then rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process and wash the starch off (so the macaroni won't stick together).
In another pan, bring the milk and cream to a simmer. Add the dijon mustard and all three cheeses. Season with black pepper and stir constantly until the cheese has melted. Add a splash or two of Henderson’s (or Worcestershire) and stir.
Turn the cooked macaroni out onto some kitchen roll and pat dry. Mix it into the cheese sauce. You could have a little taste just to check for seasoning, but it really won't need any salt adding, . Leave in the pan for at least 10 minutes (so the pasta can soak up the flavour from the sauce) or until you're ready to finish off the dish.
Transfer the mixture into a small baking dish, reserving two tablespoons of the sauce, cover the dish with foil and bake in a 180C/160C fan oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, discard the foil, pour over the reserved sauce and place under a hot grill for a minute or so until the top is bubbling and golden (keep an eye on it all the while). A bowl of salad leaves with a mustardy dressing is all that's needed as an accompaniment.
dig that crazy mac 'n' cheese
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