Friday, November 16, 2012

Baked Blanc Mac & Cheese

Thanksgiving is next week. 

Just an FYI. 

It's the earliest it will ever, ever be - according to Mr. S who read that in an article somewhere. Which means most of us are probably either in complete denial, or over the moon. 

I think I've got one foot in both. Thus the mac & cheese. I can claim I was practicing for Thanksgiving, while secretly having every intention of just stuffing my face full of carbs and cheese. And ignoring the swirls of cinnamon and evergreen that inevitably arrive this time of year. 

Pass the bread crumbs. 

If you serve mac & cheese, perhaps you should test-run this recipe. It's grown-uppy enough to be served to the in-laws, while still being acceptable to a 3 year old. I call this a win.

This version has a special cheese called Fromage Blanc in it. The cheese is like a lightly curded greek yogurt, or a tangy, softer queso fresco. It's really good. You should use it, if you can find it. Or you can google substitutions. Your choice.

Start off with melted butter and panko breadcrumbs. Toast until just brown and remove from heat.

 Melt more butter in a saucepan and add some flour.  

Then whisk till it doesn't smell raw any more (2 minutes). Gently - and slowly!! - pour in milk. 

Whisk it frequently until it starts to bubble. Remove from heat. 

Add in grated white cheddar, 


and fromage blanc. Mix.

Then spices. Paprika, cayenne, nutmeg.

Whisk until all mixed together. Toss in cooked pasta (I prefer shells to elbows) and stir. 

Spoon the mac & cheese into buttered ramekins. 

Top with the buttered and browned panko.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until bubbling. Remove from oven. Let sit 5 minutes. If you can.


Baked Blanc Mac & Cheese
Makes four 20 oz servings
Adapted from Martha

4 tbsp butter (plus a bit for the dishes)
1/2 c. panko bread crumbs
4 tbsp flour
2 1/2 c. milk
 8 oz white cheddar (I used Tillamook with black peppercorns added), grated
6 oz parmesan/romano cheese, grated
1/2 c. fromage blanc (can sub greek yogurt apparently, but I'd stick with this stuff if you can find it.)
sprinkling of nutmeg, paprika, and cayenne pepper
1 box (12 oz) shell or elbow pasta

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium-sized skillet, melt 1 tbsp of butter. When the butter starts to bubble, add in the panko bread crumbs. Stir frequently. Cook until just golden and remove pan from heat. The crumbs will continue to cook in the warm pan even when it's off the heat.  

Start the water for pasta at this point. Once it starts to boil, add in the pasta. Cook for 2 minutes less than the quickest time it says on the box (I cooked mine for 8 minutes, when it said 10-12 minutes on the box).

In a medium saucepan, melt the other 3 tbsp of butter until bubbling. Add the 4 tbsp of flour and cook for 2 minutes, or until the raw flour smell goes away. Gently and slowly pour in the milk, whisking the entire time. Whisk frequently, until mixture begins to bubble. Remove from heat. 

Whisk in cheeses and spices. Pour cheese sauce over drained pasta. Mix. Spoon into 4 buttered 20-oz ramekins, or a 9x9. Top with panko. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until it bubbles around the edges.

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