As a cheese blogger, I often find my refrigerator littered with remnants of cheesy goodness. Too tiny to serve, too misshapen to photograph, and too good to throw away (not to mention too expensive) I would rack my brain thinking of what to do with all this fabulous fromage. Thank goodness for Bobby Flay!
Let me explain. I am a Food Network junkie so I was pretty stoked when Throwdown with Bobby Flay was a mac and cheese battle. Delilah Winder, Oprah’s favorite mac and cheese maker, put her seven-cheese creation up against Bobby’s five-cheese carbonara. I won’t spoil it and tell who won, but I will say that the upscale recipe from Mr. Flay gave me a great idea. Why not use my remnants and make my own upscale mac and cheese?
Okay, I know my past attempts at cooking this old-time favorite have crashed and burned (see The Perfect Mac and Cheese) I was feeling a bit more confident this time. My only hesitation was how all these cheeses would meld together taste-wise. How many cheeses? Not too many…just ten.
1 oz. Beekman 1802 Blaak (goat’s milk)
1 oz. Beaufort (cow’s milk)
4 oz. Robusto (cow’s milk)
2 oz. Goat Gouda with Garlic
2 oz. Romano (sheep’s milk)
4 oz. Bleu d’ Auveregne (cow’s milk)
8 oz. Gruyère (cow’s milk)
8 oz. Asiago (cow’s milk)
8 oz. Grafton Reserve White Cheddar (cow’s milk)
8 oz. Parrano Original (cow’s milk)
Okay, so maybe it was a bit much, including every single bit of cheese I had in my refrigerator, but let me say this…it was AWESOME! All those flavors came together into a single bite of oh-so-good. Thankfully, they all melted properly, even though I had forgotten to heat the milk (hot milk helps with the melting process). I served the Ten-Tacular Mac and Cheese to my family and received rave reviews and was so proud of myself… for about a minute. This dish was so yummy, so tasty, so full of cheesy goodness, that I became sad at the thought of never being able to duplicate it. There is no telling when I will have those exact cheese remnants again at the same time, if ever. Sure, I could buy them all again, but the cost would be far greater than the total value of one dish.
I am betting that I could make another variation with my next round of remainders as long as I test the ratio of flavors and melt potential. The four base cheeses, the Gruyère, Asiago, Cheddar, and Parrano are all reasonably priced and easy enough to come by. This is a pretty customizable recipe and I encourage anyone who attempts it to add their own cheese selection. My hope it that this will be one mac and cheese meal that will never get boring. As for my cooking skills, I don’t think I am ready for a throwdown…yet. (recipe below)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 6 to 7 cups whole milk, heated
- 4 large egg yolks, lightly whisked
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 8oz. Asiago, Gruyere, Parrano, and Grafton Reserve White Cheddar, shredded, leaving 1 oz. of each for the top.
- Up to 8oz of remainder cheeses, shredded, leaving 2oz for the top
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound Cavatappi pasta, cooked just under al dente
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 3 quart baking dish and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic to the pan and cook until lightly golden brown. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in 6 cups of the hot milk, increase the heat to high and cook, whisking constantly until thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk in the eggs until incorporated and let cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the thyme, cayenne, and all of the cheese until completely melted, season with salt and pepper. If the mixture appears too thick, add some of the remaining milk 1/4 cup at a time.
Place the cooked cavatappi in a large bowl, add the cheese sauce, reserved pancetta and parsley and stir until combined. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Sprinkle remaining cheese evenly over the top of the cavatappi. Bake in the oven until heated through and the top is lightly golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest 10 minutes before serving.