Whether baked or stovetop, we all have a very special place in our heart (and belly!) for the ultimate guilty pleasure food, macaroni and cheese.
And while many of us have our heart reserved for the classic variety, there's a whole lot we can do with our dish to blow it out of the park. "A great mac and cheese starts with quality ingredients, with complex layers of flavors and different layers of textures, for example gooey cheese, a crunchy crust, and al dente pasta," says Chef Sean Olnowich, Executive Chef at Bounce Sporting Club.
"Ideal ingredients for a great mac and cheese starts with a base of interesting al dente pasta like torchio with several cheeses. My favorite cheese combination is a Comte or Gruyere, extra sharp white cheddar, and a creamy fontina slowly melted into a cream and béchamel mixture with slow cooked shallots, roasted garlic cloves, and thyme. Next I would add crisp rendered guanciale (cured pork jowl) and slow-roasted sweet tomatoes. I would top all of that with a layer of white cheddar and garlic bread crumbs lightly browned and crisped in the broiler," says Olnowich.
Choosing Your Cheese
A great mac and cheese will start with smaller shells such as Rustichella d'Abruzzo elbows, says Tim Bucciarelli, Manager at Formaggio Kitchen, a gourmet specialty food shop. "We often have lots of leftover cheese bits around [we're a cheese shop after all!], so we get creative with the exact cheeses we use. If you don't have lots of cheese bits and are buying specifically for your mac and cheese, look for fontal, cheddar, Gouda, Comte, or similar cheeses, and always include some grated Parmigiano Reggiano," says Bucciarelli. "One staffer mentioned her secret ingredient is a dash of blue cheese well-mixed in to give the dish an added depth of flavor. We add heavy cream and sour cream to our recipe for a fantastically rich consistency, and we always top our mac and cheese with bread crumbs and maras pepper before putting it under the broiler for a final crisp-up.
However you start out, there's some deliciously inventive ways to seal the deal!
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