Jump-Start Your Mac And Cheese Recipes
Mac and cheese generally occupies a unique place in our shared culinary experience. On the one hand, it’s a childhood favorite for many people, a rich and hearty blend of flavors that harken back to the simplicity of being a kid. Yet in more recent years, chefs everywhere have applied their skills to revamping this kitchen classic, resulting in a string of increasingly gourmet interpretations. If you’re enrolled in culinary academy, mac and cheese is the perfect dish to practice your craft – while enjoying a slice of the good old days to boot.
Grab those pots and pans, because here are a few tips that are anything but cheesy:
Rethink you choice of cheese
As a far as most recipes are concerned, cheddar is the most popular choice for mac and cheese. However, that doesn’t mean that it has to be your only option. Why not use something like mozzarella or provolone? These are pasta filata cheeses, meaning that due to the way the curds are pulled during the cheese-making process, both come out especially stretchy and stringy. Unlike cheddar, that can give a new taste and texture experience to your mac and cheese recipe. But don’t just rethink the cheese inside the mac; why not use cheese as a topping? Whereas breadcrumbs are used the majority of the time, something like parmigiana cooks just as crunchy while adding a secondary cheese flavor to the recipe itself.
Make you mac extra creamy
Mac and cheese is, in many ways, a battle of creaminess. Too much and you’ll end up with a soupy mess. However, not enough can make for an especially dry bowl of noodles. As such, as Epicurious noted, you want to create the best base sauce by relying on three fundamentals of French cooking. These are:
- Roux: This is a thickening agent made from mixing flour and some kind of fat, namely bacon grease or melted butter. A nice light, blond roux is best for mac and cheese.
- Bechamel: You get this rich and tasty sauce by adding milk into your roux and cooking it. This is a great sauce for mac and cheese thanks to its overall thickness.
- Mornay: For the final step, stir in some cheese to your bechamel and you’ll have a mornay sauce. It’s nice and creamy while still having a good consistency. Just be sure to pour in the cheese in three batches, which ensures everything melts properly.
Add in a bit of flavoring
In and of itself, mac and cheese is pretty tasty. However, some chefs opt to add in different flavorings in order to create a new experience. For a bit of heat, why not try something like chili or habanero peppers, Sriracha or Tabasco sauce. Looking for a slightly different kind of heat? Use horseradish, which has a nice mixture of both heat and tanginess. Or, opt away from heat entirely and make some Italian mac and cheese. That involves garlic cloves and chili mixed with the noodles, and then topping the final dish with olive oil, basil and a bit of parmesan cheese. Mac and cheese also goes well with certain kinds of meat, including crumbled bacon bits or cooking the noodles with juicy ground beef.