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Mac and Cheese

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 

Well.. this forum is my go-to resource when I want to create a dish to take to a function, be it Christmas, Easter, or a general pot-luck BBQ. This Saturday my band is having a BBQ to get together and play for fun as opposed to working. I am making a pesto (mortar and pestle only please) but I also am going to do a Mac & Cheese dish.

 

I've thought on it some and this is my plan so far, as always I am welcome to any and all experienced opinions regarding this.

 

For the pasta I am going to go with a larger "shell" style. I plan to boil it in salted water until just shy of al dente so it can finish in the baking.

 

I plan to make a mornay sauce and I have kind of centered on smoked gouda (any recommendations for another melting cheese to pair with it? possibly pecorino romano?) I think thyme is a great herb to pair with cheese so I planned to carefully pick thyme and then mince it. Taking a note from Indian cooking I thought I could use a little oil in a saute pan and perfume the thyme in the oil to release the oils and permeate the oil with the thyme flavor.. I would then incorporate the oil and thyme into the roux for the mornay.

 

Over medium heat I plan to use roughly half butter half oil for the roux, then half and half or heavy cream for the dairy. Once I have a bechemel tightened up I'll turn the heat to low and stir in the grated gouda (and possibly other cheese)

 

The last element I was considering is a classic bread crumb topping. I've thought about it and using simple bread crumbs seems to result in a dry almost chalky topping. What I thought I'd do is find a nice product of buttery seasoned croutons.. then process them in my food processor to create a seasoned butter bread crumb to top .. possibly combining some fine grated parmesan.

 

I've thought about a layer of provolone before putting the bread crumbs on.. to give it a true cheese quality, thoughts on this? Boars Head makes a nice picante provolone.


What say ye?

post #2 of 20

Sounds good to me. I make almost same way but not with smoked cheese. I also make it with lobster pieces but for $26.50 a plate. I use white cheddar  I sometime use a bit of shredded Asiago with it . I do not mix thyme with oil.

 

Boars Head Provisions does not make cheese, they distribute it under their label.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #3 of 20

I find that smoked gouda is a good complimentary cheese for mac n cheese, but not as the main cheese.  It's too smokey for my personal taste to be the basis for mac n cheese.  That said, you could try it and tell us how you like it. 

 

After experimenting with various combinations of cheeses I have finally settled on the combination of cheddar, colby, and monteray jack (or pepper jack if you want to add spice) as my favorite.  But that's just me, I'm looking for mild and creamy - not tangy or pungent.  A little smoked gouda added to this would go a long way. 

 

Just as important as the cheese is the addition of very finely chopped onion, sweated in the butter and bacon fat (yes!) that I use for the roux.  I also like to stir in a little ground mustard and some hot paprika. 

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #4 of 20

I'd consider keeping the Smoked cheese addition low as well and possibly blend it with a very mellow swiss or young gouda...something that will offer up it's cheesiness while allowing the smoke flavor to stretch out a bit.  It's a powerful flavor and could become redundant, or it might work great (hey you never know but portion size may need to go way down).  If you go with the Provolone, that's going to be up-front-and-center so your other flavors are going to need to stand up to it so keep that in mind.

 

Since you are doing a larger shell, I would personally keep it on the creamier side although I can't give you a "why" it's just how I'd feel my way through it...I think it may be a distribution thing in my mind, elbows proportionally, volume-wise are going to be more compact/close together whereas shells tend to afford space for the sauce.  It seems that if that sauce is thicker it will be less appealing so maybe deviate a bit from traditional amounts of cheese a bit? 

 

I like the idea for the crumb, I've been following the idea from others of using Panko tossed in melted butter and that works nice.  I would do a coarse pulse process to give some interest with the crumb, otherwise it seems back to square one if you go full blown fine. 

 

These are just my thoughts on the process, so take it fwiw. :D  

post #5 of 20
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the feedback, I will avoid the smoked gouda and hopefully can just find a plain gouda to blend with other cheeses. I hadn't thought about sweating onions but that sounds like a good plan as well. Lots of great input to consider!

post #6 of 20
I like smoked cheese in mac and cheese, but it only takes a little bit to scent the entire dish. Similarly, I like to use a sharp grating cheese to punch up the cheese impact. I usually use parmesan, but romano is a good choice too as is aged gouda (18-14 months old). I like some dijon or spicy mustard and cayenne or hot sauce as well.

I agree, can be a good herb for mac and cheese. I think people would be put off by seeing leaves in it though. I lean towards using a dried ground thyme and then I'd add it with the flour to buffer it from over cooking, but still release it's perfume. It would be pretty invisible in the dish.

I think you've got too much fat if you use half and half or cream. Too heavy in a dish already heavy with the cheese.

If you want richness in the mac and cheese, an egg liason style mac and cheese. The egg allows you to really load it up with cheese compared to what a standard mornay will hold without breaking. here's one such recipe, but Cook's ILlustrated and Joy of Cooking have published very similar recipes as well.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #7 of 20

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by eastshores View Post

Thanks for the feedback, I will avoid the smoked gouda and hopefully can just find a plain gouda to blend with other cheeses. I hadn't thought about sweating onions but that sounds like a good plan as well. Lots of great input to consider!

 


I wouldn't drop it altogether, that's what experimentation is all about!  Personally since you're doing it along with the BBQ, I like your large shell idea and I do like the idea of the smoked cheese, just keep it down around (off-the-cuff-guess) 10%-15% of your total cheese additions, depending on how smoky that gouda is.  They also have a huge range of salt content so be careful with that too....the better ones I have had are less salty, but some of the inexpensive ones can get really really salty...and I think they even make faux processed ones which are really not good at all.

 

This is making me want mac-n-cheese now. :D I love it on a rainy cool day in the evening, baked mac, some crusty bread, some pilsner.  Mmmm.....lots of carb load but so worth it, especially if you get the blues.

post #8 of 20

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by phatch View Post

If you want richness in the mac and cheese, an egg liason style mac and cheese. The egg allows you to really load it up with cheese compared to what a standard mornay will hold without breaking. here's one such recipe, but Cook's ILlustrated and Joy of Cooking have published very similar recipes as well.

 

Always wanted to incorporate egg but don't know how.  Any recipes without canned milk?

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #9 of 20
You don't have to use canned milk, but it balances against all the cheese better than plain milk. Using plain milk, you'll have to rebalance seasonings which I have full faith in your ability to handle.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #10 of 20

eastshores,

i'm sure i'm too late for this go round, but i make a 'not your mama's mac n' cheese'  in which i use gouda, gruyere and appenzeller cheeses in the sauce. shallots, mushrooms, artichoke hearts and sherry among other things. i make my breadcrumbs by processing stale country or french bread then sauteeing in evoo and butter til golden....then mix in grated parm before topping. this is an extravagant version but can be simplified by omiting the artichoke hearts and mushrooms for a simplier dish....oh, i also use fusilli pasta.....whatever you end up with i'm sure will be delicious.....have fun on the fiddle!

joey

food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne

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food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne

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post #11 of 20

In my roux I like to use a brunoise of Vidallia onions or Maui sweets and left over drippings from smoked bacon. Smoked sweet Spanish paprika,Trader Joe's spicy Dijon and white pepper are key ingredients for me in seasoning.

If Was using Mornay as a base I'd already have Gruyere and egg incorporated in my sauce. If your going to opt for canned milk I'd assume you'd want evaporated milk and not a condensed or sweetened milk. I prefer Mac n Cheese "straight up" and right out of the pot after mixing so I usually just stick with Bechamel. The extra richness and browning qualities of the Mornay are not needed unless you want a baked Mac or like yours extra riiiich.

As much as I like fresh Thyme I'd use it in Mac n Cheese with a very light hand.

No matter how you like it Mac and Cheese with BBQ is a sure fire wiinner.

Now what about the collard greens?

 

 

Dave

I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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post #12 of 20

I like stove top mac too, much better than baked. 

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #13 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by eastshores View Post

Well.. this forum is my go-to resource when I want to create a dish to take to a function, be it Christmas, Easter, or a general pot-luck BBQ. This Saturday my band is having a BBQ to get together and play for fun as opposed to working. I am making a pesto (mortar and pestle only please) but I also am going to do a Mac & Cheese dish.

 

I've thought on it some and this is my plan so far, as always I am welcome to any and all experienced opinions regarding this.

 

For the pasta I am going to go with a larger "shell" style. I plan to boil it in salted water until just shy of al dente so it can finish in the baking.

 

I plan to make a mornay sauce and I have kind of centered on smoked gouda (any recommendations for another melting cheese to pair with it? possibly pecorino romano?) I think thyme is a great herb to pair with cheese so I planned to carefully pick thyme and then mince it. Taking a note from Indian cooking I thought I could use a little oil in a saute pan and perfume the thyme in the oil to release the oils and permeate the oil with the thyme flavor.. I would then incorporate the oil and thyme into the roux for the mornay.

 

Over medium heat I plan to use roughly half butter half oil for the roux, then half and half or heavy cream for the dairy. Once I have a bechemel tightened up I'll turn the heat to low and stir in the grated gouda (and possibly other cheese)

 

The last element I was considering is a classic bread crumb topping. I've thought about it and using simple bread crumbs seems to result in a dry almost chalky topping. What I thought I'd do is find a nice product of buttery seasoned croutons.. then process them in my food processor to create a seasoned butter bread crumb to top .. possibly combining some fine grated parmesan.

 

I've thought about a layer of provolone before putting the bread crumbs on.. to give it a true cheese quality, thoughts on this? Boars Head makes a nice picante provolone.


What say ye?


Sounds really tasty to me. I woulld be satisfied with that.
post #14 of 20

I got inspired by this thread, made some mac-n-cheese the other night, split the bechamel (with tempered egg) into two bowls.  The one got just cheddar because we had it and needed to use it and the other got a blend of white cheddar, gruyere and some type of romano (can't recall which, I had it blended and vacuum packed what I didn't use last time).  Incorporated fresh sauteed Morels my youngest and I fetched on Sunday.  It was tasty.  I prefer baked mac.

post #15 of 20

 Morels in Mac n Cheese. That gets my vote!

 

Dave

I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
Reply
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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post #16 of 20
Thread Starter 

Wow you guys/gals have certainly delivered on this thread as I knew you would. I am proud that my original ideas are accepted for the most part. I made notes on the cautions regarding things getting too rich or over-taking flavors with a smokey element. Another good but bad note is our BBQ got postponed because of the death of our hosts close business partner. So.. that being said I have more time to plan this and will be taking all of the suggestions into consideration. I am doubtful however about my access to morels.. hopefully the thyme will pull through in the earthy department!

post #17 of 20

I'm a lot farther North and our herb garden is booming this Spring. Going to hit the woods and look for shrooms today. I woke up thinking about Mac with morels and creamy goat cheese.

 

Dave


Edited by DuckFat - 4/27/12 at 6:14am
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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post #18 of 20
Thread Starter 

I wanted to follow up since I was able to make the mac and cheese to take to our BBQ last night. Our host did a great pork loin, some smoked chickens, and smoked boneless ribs.

 

I will admit up front, that while ultimately the dish was successful, I felt like I betrayed my own senses/palette and held back. I took too much of the cautions over "overpowering" the dish to heart and ended up with what I thought fell kind of flat. Some of the people at the BBQ really hyped my dish up and that made me feel even worse about pulling punches in the flavor department. I used 4 cheese for the mornay.

 

  • aged swiss
  • gouda (not smoked)
  • colby jack
  • aged sharp white cheddar (this was my main sharpness)

 

For the pasta I ended up staring at the options and contemplating. I ended up going with 1 lb of what were called "cork screw" .. it was a very interesting ridged combination of elbow, and rotini cut in about 1" lengths. I added to that 1/2 lb of medium shells.

 

Luckily the mornay came out well. I actually removed about 1/4 of the roux and started adding in whole milk that I warmed a little at a time. I kept building it up and whisking in additional roux/milk until I had the volume I figured I needed. I was extremely afraid of over-thickening.. it's not an easy task.. if you don't make the bechamel thin enough the cheese will over-thicken it, yet when you have a completed mornay and mix it with the pasta there is always some residual amount of moisture from the pasta that will then thin it! Too thick is bad... so is runny!

 

For the topping the croutons worked very well. I took the advice of others and tried to make a less uniform crumb. I grated a pecorino romano on top as well.

 

Personally I love sharp cheeses. Feta is one of my favorite cheeses and if I make this dish again I plan to do two things differently. First, while I enjoyed the creamy mornay, I really missed the texture of cheese within the pasta so next time I will crumble a sharp cheddar and mix into into the pasta after the mornay has been mixed in.. this way it will bake into nice pockets of chewy cheese goodness. The second thing I'd do is layer the top with slices of sharp provolone ala lasagna before then topping with the breadcrumbs / parm.

 

Thanks again for the inputs, I enjoyed this even though it landed more on the lesson learned side than the knocked it out of the park side.

post #19 of 20

Sorry it didn't come out the way you planned.  But to be fair, nobody said not to use smoked gouda, I think we cautioned that it would be overpowering if it was used as the main cheese.  You probably should've used a bit if you were looking for smokiness.  Any kind of cheese can be used in mac n' cheese, some people use gruyere (which to me is yucky and stinky) and others even like to use blue cheese (too powerful for me.)  The mac n cheese you made is right up my alley, creamy and mild but if you didn't like it you should go with your own instincts.  I have found my ultimate mac n cheese recipe that suits me, it's only a matter of time before you find yours.  But I could think of less fun things to do than make mac n cheese until you find the recipe that speaks to you!  My fave is

 

- sweated onions in bacon fat

- cayenne or hot paprika

- mustard powder

- thyme

- 50% extra sharp white cheddar

- 50% colby

- 50% jack

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #20 of 20

MMMM sharp white Cheddar. The 2# Tilamook Sharp White Cheddar blocks that Costco carries are an awesome buy here.

 

Dave

I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
Reply
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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