Today is Mac 'n Cheese Monday!Mac 'n Cheese is perfect for a rainy day, sick day, sunny day or really (who am I kidding) any day! Today's Mac 'n Cheese is extra cheesy and creamy due to the soubise sauce that is literally poured over and mixed into the pasta, the layers of cheese added to make a crispy top and then the baking & crisping that is needed to make this Mac 'n cheese so darn delicious!
This Mac 'n Cheese is adapted from Michael Ruhlman's Twenty: The Ideas and Techniques That Will Make You a Better Cook.Rulhman has great step by step directions throughout this recipe (as well as many others in this book). Certainly made me feel that I could confidently make a soubise sauce without too much effort or the fear of making a mistake. The results are simply fabulous.
For the Soubise sauce (French white sauce) - makes about 2 cups
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1 medium onion, sliced & diced
- 1 shallot (chopped)
- 3 tbsp all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups milk (I used 1%)
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 3 tbsp sherry cooking wine
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1-2 tsp dry mustard
- 1/4 tsp ground pepper
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
- 340g macaroni (elbow pasta), or penne or anything you have.
- 3 tbsp melted butter
- 455g grated Gruyère (could also use Cheddar, Comte, Emmanthaler all combined together)
- 30g Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 2 tbsp melted butter
- 55g panko bread crumbs
Food notes: Soubise sauce calls for 6-7 gratings of fresh nutmeg. I didn't have any. There was also the addition of 1/4 tsp smoked paprika which I also didn't have! As a result, I just added more cayenne pepper (1/2 tsp). The pepper does add a hit of spice to the dish so if you have little ones or guests that aren't well versed to spice you can leave it out. This recipe also calls for a LOT of cheese! I found that 350g of Gruyère with some additional for the top of the dish was more than enough (this is also because I ran out of the right cheese and had to buy some sharp cheddar for the top)
Pasta directions (you can cook the pasta while making the sauce):
1. Cook the pasta until al dente.
2. Drain and let the pasta sit in a large bowl until the sauce is done.
3. Pre-heat oven to 425F/220C.
1. In a pot melt 2 tbsp butter over medium heat with a pinch of salt. Add the onions to this pot. Cook the onions until they are caramelized (stir often!).
2. In another pot (3rd picture-above), melt 2 tbsp butter over medium heat, add 2-3 pinches of salt, and the shallots. This pot will be the start of your soubise sauce.
3. Once some of the water has evaporated from the butter (approx. 1 minute), add the flour.
4. Stir with a flat-edged tool in order to prevent the flour from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
5. Once the flour mixture looks and smells 'toasted' (it should also be all stuck together) gradually whisk in the milk.
6. Keep whisking and use the flat spoon to prevent the flour from sticking to the bottom.
7. Allow the sauce to simmer and thicken.
8. While stirring, add in 2-3 pinches of salt.
9. Next, add in the white wine vinegar, sherry, fish sauce, dry mustard, black pepper and cayenne pepper (if you're using).
10. Once everything is well mixed, add the caramelized onions to your soubise sauce (above-3rd picture to the right).
11. Ensure the onions are heated through by mixing the onions into the soubise sauce.
12. Using a hand blender (if you have) purée the sauce in the pot. If you don't have a stick blender, transfer the sauce to a blender and process.
13. Keep the sauce warm over the stove.
14. Add half of the Gruyère (228g) to the soubise sauce. Stir until well melted.
15. Pour the soubise sauce over the cooked pasta. Mix well.
16. Butter a square ovenproof baking dish with melted butter (approx. 9 X 13 X 23).17. Pour the mixed pasta in the baking dish.
18. Sprinkle the rest of the Gruyère over the top of the pasta.
19. Sprinkle the top with Parmigiano-Reggiano chese (I used a pecorino for this one).
20. Toss the panko with the melted butter. Spread over the top of the pasta.
21. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30minutes at 425F/220C.
22. After 30 minutes, remove the foil cover and bake until the cheese is golden brown and crisp! This can be done by turning on the broiler/grill option on your oven. Takes about 5-10 minutes in my oven.
23. Enjoy!!! Rulhman also notes that you can prep this pasta earlier in the day before baking or refrigerate it for up to 3 days. Just spread the panko topping right before baking. I'm thinking that you can also freeze this pasta. However, I for one will not be able to freeze this dish as it's way too tempting to eat right away!