Crave, a local tapas and wine bar, is hands-down B's favorite spot for dining out. It's his choice for birthday dinners, good report card celebrations, and our date nights when his brother is not around. He is quite the creature of habit and always orders the same thing: the Iceberg Wedge with Applewood-smoked Bacon and Blue Cheese Dressing (no tomatoes, please), the Espresso-dusted Filet (aka "chocolate steak") cooked medium rare and the Smoked Gouda Macaroni and Cheese. Occasionally the Fried Cheesecake wins out over the Chocolate Pyramid for dessert, but that's about the only variation.
Crave's Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese is one of my favorites from their menu as well. Over the past year or so, I've had some success in replicating it, but never managed to write down the recipe when it turned out right. This recipe for Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese is based on one that I found in a Special Collector's Edition of All-Time Best Recipes, published by Cook's Illustrated. Their suggestion that you cook the mac and cheese on the stove, then just put it under the broiler to brown the bread crumbs is right on if you want crunchy topping, tender pasta and creamy sauce.
Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese
- 1 pound Cavatappi pasta
- 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, divided
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- 5 cups low-fat milk
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- 1 teaspoon Cholula hot sauce
- 8 ounces Smoked Gouda cheese, grated
- 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- olive oil cooking spray
- 2/3 cup Panko
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Bring a large pot of water to boil in a dutch oven over high heat. Stir in the pasta and tablespoon of salt. Cook according to package directions (about 8 minutes) until just past al dente so that it is a bit tender.
- Drain the pasta and set aside.
- Return the dutch oven to medium heat. Melt the butter, then whisk in the flour. Cook the flour for about 1 minute, making a blond roux.
- Slowly whisk in one cup of milk, stirring constantly until all the lumps are dissolved.
- Whisk in the remaining milk, dry mustard, cayenne, and hot sauce.
- Turn up the heat to medium high and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly. The sauce must reach a full boil to thicken properly.
- Reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and reduces to a heavy cream.
- Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cheeses, remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and black pepper.
- Add the pasta back to the pot, stirring gently to combine.
- Return the pot to medium low heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until hot.
- Adjust the oven rack to the lower third of the oven and preheat the broiler.
- Spray a 9 X 13 glass pan with olive oil cooking spray.
- Whisk together the Panko and olive oil.
- Pour the macaroni and cheese into the pan and sprinkle evenly with the bread crumbs.
- Broil until the topping is deep golden brown, 3-5 minutes, rotating the pan if necessary so that the bread crumbs brown evenly.
- Allow the dish to cool for about 5 minutes before serving.
Yield: 10-12 side servings
Prep time: 40 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
The Smoked Gouda adds big flavor to the mac and cheese, while the Monterey Jack adds a creaminess you can't get from using the Smoked Gouda alone. I used Cavatappi pasta rather than ordinary macaroni because I wanted to make it a little fancier. I've given up trying to make the dish with the Barilla-plus pasta I usually use. It may have more protein, fiber and Omega-3s, but the texture just doesn't work for mac and cheese.
This post is linked to These Chicks Cooked.