Decadent Mac & Cheese

Last night, I had to feed a craving... a craving for something rich and creamy, warm and comforting. I wanted, no *needed* macaroni and cheese. And no blue box concoction would do. In fact, I took it a few steps beyond your standard from-scratch recipe by using a blend of five cheeses, and topping it with crunchy panko crumbs and fresh herbs. This was most certainly not your momma's macaroni and cheese - it was simply decadent.

mac & cheese baked with an herbed panko crust 

Jen's Decadent Mac & Cheese

2 cups medium shell pasta
4 tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, plus 2 tbsp. for topping
2 cups whole milk
about 1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
3 cups finely shredded/grated cheese (I used 1.5 cups of Grafton 8 yr. Reserve Cheddar, 1 cup cave-aged Gruyere, 1 cup imported Italian Fontina, and 1/4 cup each aged Asiago and Parmigiano Reggiano)
1/2 cup panko crumbs (a Japanese dry breadcrumb)
1 tbsp. each chopped fresh rosemary and thyme

Cook pasta according to package directions until just under al dente.

Meanwhile, in a wide saucepan, make a bechamel by melting 4 tbsp. butter with 4 tbsp. flour, then whisking in milk until all are smooth and well combined. Once this thickens, add a grating of nutmeg, about 1/8 tsp., and stir. Add cheeses a little at a time, stirring until melted and well combined. Add the cooked and well-drained pasta to the cheese mixture, tossing well.

Pour pasta and cheese mixture into a baking dish. Combine choppped herbs with panko crumbs and spread evenly over the top, coating well. Break up the remaining 2 tbsp. of butter into little bits and scatter over the top. Place in a 350 degree oven, uncovered, until the top is browned and the sauce is bubbling.

Approx. 4 main-course servings, or 6-8 as a side.

Posted by jenblossom on January 31, 2005 | TrackBack

Mmmmm - sounds so gorgeous...
What did you drink with it?

Posted by: meriko on January 31, 2005 8:04 AM

Well, we had it alongside some simply baked chicken and haricots verts. The original plan was to do the chicken with barbecue sauce, but I am a dingbat and forgot to put the sauce on at the end... but with that in mind, we just got beer (lager) to go along with.

I don't know enough about wine and food pairing yet that I would feel comfortable trying to match something with a sweet and spicy barbecue sauce, as well as the richness of the mac & cheese... but I'll be sure to do some research for next time. What would your recommendation be?

Posted by: jenblossom on January 31, 2005 8:37 AM

I really can't begin to describe how good this tasted. In fact, I would eat nothing but oatmeal and salad for five meals running if I could load up on three servings of this during the sixth meal.

Posted by: Dietsch on January 31, 2005 10:00 AM

[Checks current New York weather]

Ah yes. *Now* I understand.

Posted by: Stu Nathan on February 1, 2005 5:34 AM

Panko! What a GREAT idea. Your recipe sounds amazing and I can't wait to try it. All that's missing is a little bacon...

Posted by: megwoo on February 1, 2005 10:19 AM
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