For all those reasons, and likely a few more, I haven't had mac n cheese for many, many years. Since my husband gave me the OK on the concept, it has been in my mind. Last evening I decided to take the plunge. Mac 'n' cheese is not inherently healthy, even when homemade. The more unctuously cheesy, the more the fat and calorie content rise. But, at least I know what is in it when I make my own, and there are none of those extras; dyes, preservatives and such.
|Decadent Mac and Cheese, with Crumb Topping|
Cheeses of ChoiceI was watching a program on TV a few nights back where someone was touting the richness of a mac n cheese made with cream cheese and Parmesan. That just struck me as a delightful combination. How much, though? I didn't want to go so far over the top. I ended up using about 1½ ounces of Parmesan and 4 ounces of cream cheese. Then I realized I still had a little bit of shredded cheese in the fridge, from the Taco Pizza I made a few days ago. It was a "Mexican Blend" of 4 cheeses, only one of which was a yellow cheese. There wasn't all that much left. I threw it in. At this point the cheesy mixture was mostly white.
Going for the Gold
Richness and FlavorI like flavor in my foods, so I also used caramelized onions, garlic and thyme. I added nutmeg and a little chipotle powder. As far as the macaroni, I used an 8-ounce box of Ancient Harvest Quinoa Elbow Macaroni. It is gluten free. It isn't something I had to use, but I really like the flavor of that pasta and have bought it often for that reason alone. If it came in more shapes, it might be the only macaroni product I would buy. I did use quinoa spaghetti a few times, though it is far more breakable in the long, thin strands; not as ideal. Still, even that would be completely acceptable if being gluten free was a must.
|Decadent Mac and Cheese, Baked with Crumb Topping|
Decadent Mac and Cheese
|Decadent Mac and Cheese alongside a steak|
8 ounces elbow macaroni
6 - 8 ounces bacon, fried, crumbled
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, quartered, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 - 3 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, lightly chopped
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
½ to 1 teaspoon of salt, as needed
a few grinds of fresh pepper
½ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ - ½ teaspoon chipotle powder, optional
4 ounces cream cheese (low fat acceptable)
1 - 1½ ounces (⅓ - ½ cup) shredded Parmesan (not the green cans)
½ - ¾ cup shredded cheese; chedder, jack, a blend, other
CRUMB TOPPING - optional:
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
2 - 3 teaspoons Pesto
2 teaspoons olive oil
In a skillet, fry the bacon until crisp. Drain, crumble and set aside.
In a large, heavy sauce or soup pot (at least 4 to 6 quart), melt the 2 tablespoons of butter and the tablespoon of olive oil. Once hot, add in the onions and keep heat over low to medium low and slowly saute the onions until deep golden, about 30 minutes.
While the onions are cooking, bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the macaroni according to package directions, or until al dente. Drain and rinse; set aside.
Once onions are deep golden, add in the garlic and thyme and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes. Make the bechamel sauce by sprinkling the flour over the onions and stirring until all the flour is incorporated. Add in the milk. Turn the heat up to medium, and whisk until the mixture bubbles and thickens slightly, about 5 - 10 minutes. Add in the salt, pepper, nutmeg, turmeric and chipotle powder. Toss in all the cheeses and allow them time to melt, stirring occasionally. Once melted, add the drained macaroni and the crumbled bacon. Stir well. The macaroni and cheese is now ready to serve.
IF USING TOPPING:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees; 325 if on Convection. Set the Panko in a bowl. Add in the 2 teaspoons of olive oil and the pesto. With fingers, rub in the oil and pesto until well distributed and the crumbs are nicely green. Pour the macaroni and cheese into a greased, oven safe casserole, either 9 x 9-inches or7 x 11-inches. Pour in the macaroni mixture and sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the top. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the crumbs are golden and the macaroni is bubbling.
My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest.