#52NewEats :: Week 15 :: Million Dollar Mac and Cheese

Million Dollar Mac and Cheese

It should come as no surprise to any of you that I’ve been a huge fan of Grilled Cheese Social since the day I found her many years ago.  She is known for coming up with some of the most epic grilled cheese combinations.  I actually haven’t tried too many of her recipes, because they can feature some wild ingredients I’m not a fan of, or cheeses I just can’t find without taking a hike to Reading Terminal Market (which is harder now that I live so far out of the city).  BUT, I recently saw her recipe for Million Dollar Mac and Cheese on Facebook, and it shot straight to the top of my To Do list!

This recipe features several easily-attainable cheeses, and duh, burrata?!  In mac and cheese?!  I never would have thought.  I mean burrata kind of christens everything it touches with its lusciousness, so why not mac and cheese?!

I really loved this mac and cheese, and so did everyone I made it for.  Check out that cheese pull though.  👆👆👆  Who can’t get behind that?!

This recipe was such a hit that I’ll be making it for more of my family at Easter tomorrow.  It will probably be one of the only things I eat bc ew ham.

You should make this recipe too.  You should also go follow GCS on all the social media sites.  She is always posting delectable food pictures on Instagram, and she has recently started doing live videos on Facebook.  She’s adorable, and she makes hella slutty food.  What’s not to like?

You can find the original recipe //here//.  I wouldn’t change a damn thing!  Those toasted herb breadcrumbs are ABSOLUTELY worth the minimal extra effort of chopping the herbs – they completely made this dish!  In fact – I might even double that part of the recipe for tomorrow!

Million Dollar Mac and Cheese

For the mac and cheese:
1 lb rotini or fusilli
2 tbsp salted butter
2 tbsp shallots, chopped
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp all purpose flour
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup gruyere, shredded
1 cup muenster, shredded
1/2 cup burrata (about 1 large ball or two small ones)
1/2 cup cheddar, shredded
1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1 tsp hot sauce

For the toasted herb breadcrumbs:
1 tbsp salted butter
1 tsp sage, chopped
1/2 tsp rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 tsp thyme leaves, stem removed
1/3 cup panko

For the mac and cheese:
1. Prepare pasta according to the directions and strain once it’s al dente.

2. In a large pot, add butter, chopped shallots, a pinch of salt and red pepper flakes and cook over medium heat for a few minutes until the shallots start to soften. Right before they begin to caramelize, add flour and whisk constantly until a roux forms. After a few minutes, the roux will start to darken and the taste of the flour will have cooked out. At this point, add heavy cream and whisk. Let the heavy cream cook for 5-10 minutes or until it begins to reduce and thicken. Add the muenster and whisk in a figure 8 motion. Then add the gruyere and keep stirring with the whisk until all the cheese has melted. Cut the burrata in half and add to the cheese sauce. Stir until melted and combined. Last, add the hot sauce and the ricotta. Salt to taste and remove from heat.

3. Turn your broiler to high. Meanwhile, add the pasta to a serving bowl and mix in the cheese sauce, little by little until the desired creaminess is reached. Top the dish with grated cheddar and place under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese has crisped up and is golden orange.

For the toasted herb breadcrumbs:
Melt butter in a small pan over medium-high heat and add chopped sage, thyme and rosemary. Cook for a few minutes until the herbs have softened and the smell is irresistible. Add in the panko and continuously stir until it is golden brown and toasty. Keep an eye on this, I almost burned mine! Sprinkle toasted herb bread crumbs over broiled mac n cheese and serve!

#52NewEats :: Week 3 :: Creamy Brie Mac and Cheese

Hey ya’ll!  For this week’s 52 New Eats recipe I chose another mac and cheese dish – primarily because my daughter LOVES Brie cheese, and LOVES Ritz crackers, and I though, why wouldn’t she LOVE this?!

Silly me.  🙄

She’s too picky I suppose.  She didn’t like this mac and cheese, but I thought it was pretty bangin’.  I like that it’s a little more grown-up than my mac and cheese – it uses slightly more ‘exotic’ cheeses.  Not so exotic you can’t find them in a supermarket, but more exotic than your average Joe mac and cheese.  I’m happy with the way this turned out and will file it in my ‘keepers’ column.  😊  You can find the original recipe //here//.

Here are my thoughts on the recipe:

🍴 I halved the recipe and it was plenty for me, my daughter, and two bowls of leftovers.  I’d only make the full portion if I was having people over.  It did reheat well, if you heat it gently on 50% power until warmed through.

🍴  The cheese sauce is VERY thick.  I would highly recommend measuring the cheeses accurately, and weighing the Brie as well.  Don’t eyeball it.  I sort of eyeballed it in the sense that I measured out the cheese I needed and then I had some leftover and thought eh, can’t hurt anything, but I think it helped contribute to making the cheese sauce very thick.  I don’t not like this – who doesn’t love a thick, creamy cheese sauce? – but it may not be what some are looking for.  I also used just over 2oz of Brie.  This also helps make it slutty and thick!

🍴  I have never had crushed Ritz crackers on top of a casserole before, though I have seen it many times.  You can now officially call me converted – it was the perfect topping for this mac and cheese, and I may even reconstruct my classic mac and cheese to have this topping!  I omitted the garlic in this step though, because I was trying to keep it as kid-friendly as possible.  I’m sure the garlic would have been a nice, sharp touch!  If you do add it, I would highly recommend grating it over mincing it.  It will melt into the butter much better.

🍴  I was unsure about the mustard powder and cayenne, but I added it anyway because like I said before, I like to make a recipe as called for the first time, and tweak afterwards.  I barely tasted them after the mac and cheese baked, but I do think I tasted the mustard powder – it was ever so slight, something that just made me go hm, is that the mustard powder?  Maybe that’s what my kiddo tasted when she made a stink face at me.  Whatever, I didn’t mind it at all, and it’s probably the kind of thing you would notice if it wasn’t there.  I could imagine this mac and cheese being rather plain without these seasonings – Brie, havarti, and fontina are all pretty mild, rich cheeses.

Below is the recipe as I made it.  Enjoy!

Creamy Brie Mac and Cheese
Serves 8

3.5 tablespoons butter, divided
3/4 cups crushed Ritz crackers
1/2 pound elbow pasta
1/8 cup flour
1.5 cups warm milk
2/3 cups sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup fontina cheese, shredded
2/3 cups havarti cheese, shredded
2-3 ounces Brie, rind removed and chopped
1/8 teaspoon mustard powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Nonstick cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray.
2. Boil the pasta according to package directions and drain. Set aside.
3. Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium heat and add 1.5 tablespoons butter. Allow to melt. Add in the crushed Ritz crackers, and stir to coat and toast, about 3-5 minutes.
4. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Allow the mixture to cook and bubble for about a minute, stirring a couple times so as not to burn it.
5. Add the milk. Whisk constantly, and raise heat up to medium-high. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking frequently, until the sauce has thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and begin stirring in all of the cheeses.
6. Once the cheeses are well-combined, pour the sauce over the drained macaroni. Stir together to combine, then pour into the prepared baking dish.
7. Bake for 20 minutes or until the crumbs are golden brown and the sauce is bubbling.

#52NewEats :: Week 1 :: Not Quite J. Alexander’s Mac and Cheese

As part of my 2017 new year’s resolutions, I would like to make one new recipe every week.  I’ve been in something of a cooking rut lately – creativity has escaped me, thanks to the stress of moving and renovating a house – and am looking for some inspiration and some new foods to drool over.

I have this 3-inch binder full of recipes at home.  No kidding.  Three inches.  Full.  Some of these recipes date back about 16 years to when we were living in Spokane and I was just learning how to cook.  I got some cookbook program for my computer, where you could plug in a recipe and it would provide you with the nutritional information for the recipe.  You could print out a full page, and I would enter all these recipes I found on the ancient internet in those days and print them out.  I have NO idea where many of these recipes came from.  So I can’t really claim them as my own.  Many of them I have made before, and I have really only kept the recipes I like and the recipes I haven’t made yet in this binder.

It should come as no surprise that about 85% of the recipes in this binder are recipes I haven’t made yet.  #lazyaf #orbusyaf #imnotsure

The binder is divided into sections – Beef, Chicken, Pork, Pasta, Veggies, Drinks, Sweets, and Miscellaneous.  Each section also has a folder, and within each folder are all the recipes I’ve ripped out of magazines over the years.  Food Network, Real Simple, Bon Appetit, Saveur, Food and Wine… TONS OF RECIPES.  Over the Christmas break I was sitting on my couch in a rare moment of laziness, paging through a stack of magazines I had to read before tossing them, and of course I ripped out a few recipes, and I said hey, why do I keep ripping these out?  I never make these recipes.  I always make the same stinkin’ recipes over and over and over again.  So that’s where I got the idea for this resolution!

The first one I picked had to be a cozy comfort food recipe because guess what people, it was 15 degrees outside yesterday.  Yes, folks, 15 FREAKING FREEZING degrees.  My new/old house gets very cold and I am finding out that baseboard heating is basically useless unless you turn it up to 80+ degrees.  So I wanted to cook up something that would get my oven going and warm us up from the inside out.

Some time ago, when I first started on Pinterest, I found a recipe for J. Alexander’s copycat mac and cheese.  J. Alexander’s is a restaurant I had been to in Chicago with my friends Liz and Sara on a girls’ night out.  We left the husbands home with the kids – they had a pizza party and some whiskey, and we dressed up and went to a nice restaurant to shove our faces full of all the sluttiest of foods.  I think I remember ordering some really delicious hot spinach dip, mac and cheese, and a steak.  I remember the mac and cheese knocking my socks off.  So when I was perusing Pinterest some time later and stumbled across a copycat recipe for this, I just had to make it.  So I pinned it.  And some time after that I tagged it as a recipe I wanted to make “soon”, so I copied it into a Word document with 5,634 others and printed it up.  I stuck it in this binder.  And then promptly never made it.  #lazyaf #orbusyaf #stillnotsure

I did a quick Google search to see if I could figure out which site this recipe came from, and the one that looks most like the one I printed up is located here, but it’s still not exactly the same.  The top 3 search results are all different recipes.  I might try the others before the year is out.  🙂

Anyway, here are my thoughts on the original recipe:

🍴The original recipe calls for several chicken bouillon cubes, which I am not a fan of.  I find bouillon to be pretty salty.  I’m sensitive to very salty foods.  So I omitted the bouillon right off the bat.

🍴I also eliminated the sugar.  I think we add sugar to recipes a lot of times when we don’t need to.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a recipe for tomato sauce that has you add sugar to ‘balance it out’.  I will taste it before and after and not taste a difference.  We don’t need anymore sugar in our bodies, so I eliminated that too.

🍴There’s a step in the original recipe where  you are supposed to toss the drained pasta with olive oil and lemon juice before adding it to the cheese sauce.  I actually went to the trouble of buying a lemon, squeezing fresh juice out of it, measuring it out and adding it to a little bowl with some measured olive oil, and then forgot this step.  In hindsight, it might be a good thing I forgot this step.  I think it only would have caused the cheese sauce to separate a little more while baking.  So I ended up unintentionally omitting this as well.

🍴The recipe calls for Gruyere cheese and recommends using half regular Gruyere and half smoked Gruyere.  I looked for smoked Gruyere and couldn’t find it at either of my grocery stores.  I wish I had, because I think it would have kicked this up a notch!  I will probably try this recipe again with the smoked Gruyere!

🍴I loved the thick, luscious, velvety-ness of the cheese sauce base before I added the shredded cheese to it.  I may use this base on other mac and cheese recipes that I come up with myself.

With all that in mind, and without further ado, here is the recipe as I prepared it!

Not Quite J.Alexander’s Mac and Cheese
Serves 4-6

8 cups chicken stock or chicken broth
8 ounces cavatappi (I actually weighed this)
3 1/2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 small red onion, minced
1 clove garlic, grated
1 teaspoon Cholula
2 1/4 cups freshly grated Gruyere cheese – may use a mix of Gruyere and smoked Gruyere
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup panko

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bring the chicken stock to a rolling boil over high heat and add the cavatappi. Cook according to package directions. Drain, and return cavatappi to pot.

2. While the pasta is cooking, add 1/2 tablespoon butter to a small skillet and melt. Saute the minced onion and the garlic over medium heat until the garlic melts into the butter and the onion softens, about 8 minutes. When finished, set aside off the heat.

3. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. When melted, whisk in flour and cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Gradually add in the cream, half and half, and sour cream, whisking constantly. Whisk until warmed together and thickened, about 2-4 minutes. Whisk in the sauteed onion and garlic mixture and the Cholula. Whisk until well combined. Season with freshly ground black pepper to taste. Simmer gently over low heat, about 15 minutes.

4. Whisk in 1 1/2 cups shredded Gruyere and all of the Parmesan cheese. When thoroughly combined, pour over the cooked pasta. Stir together to combine well. Add remaining tablespoon of butter to a small bowl and microwave until it melts, about 15 seconds. Add the panko and stir until the panko is coated with the melted butter.

5. Pour half of the mac and cheese mixture into a greased baking dish. Top with half of the remaining shredded cheese. Pour the rest of the mac and cheese mixture on top, and top with the remaining shredded cheese. Top with the buttered panko. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the mac and cheese is bubbly around the edges and the panko is nicely browned.