New Year’s Eve this year started out with 22 friends, one big house in the countryside and an even bigger potluck dinner. Basically my idea of heaven! I brought far too much food as always but everyone knows that’s better than not having enough…
And a tray of brownies – another ace recipe from my sister’s chef-ing days which I might post here at some point.
(And I also brought some sticky toffee pudding we didn’t even get round to eating… But this BBC Good Food recipe is super simple, delicious and can sit in the freezer until the next time you need a last-minute dessert. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long.)
And of course everyone else brought amazing food – 200 homemade sausage rolls, sweet potato pie, turkey and leek pie, lasagnes, veggie chilli and an awesome salad with beetroot, potato, boiled eggs, green beans, black olives and a caper dressing.
But the highlight for me has to be macaroni and cheese. It’s always been one of my favourite foods and I usually make it once a year on Thanksgiving. But it’s become such a favourite amongst my friends that I thought I’d bring it along for a final 2010 outing!
This recipe was inspired by the best macaroni and cheese I have ever eaten at an epic cheese restaurant in New York called Casellula. (Yes, there is such a thing as a cheese restaurant and there should definitely be more of them.) This ain’t no Kraft orange fakery, it’s a celebration of real cheese. Mmmm!
Everyone’s favourite macaroni and cheese
- 500g / 1 pound dried pasta (I actually tend to use spirals but macaroni would be even more authentic of course)
- 3 medium yellow onions
- 200g Comte cheese (Gruyere also works if you can’t find Comte)
- 200g Emmental cheese (or a good quality mature Cheddar will give a more aged, less nutty flavour that also works well)
- 250g Goats cheese (This is the key ingredient so try to find one with a fairly strong flavour as it will be mellowed by the other cheeses. I use a hard cheese as it’s easier to grate but soft is equally, if not more, delicious.)
- 500ml milk
- 50g butter
- 2-3 tbsp flour
- Spices: 2 bay leaves, a dash of grated nutmeg and cayenne/chilli powder, fresh black pepper and sea salt
- 1 wholemeal bread roll or a few slices of bread
- Heat some oil or butter in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Slice the onions and add to the pan. Add a teaspoon or so of salt immediately, turn down the heat to low and leave the onions to fry without stirring for about 10 minutes. The salt makes them release water which should keep them from burning.
- Stir the onions and leave to cook on low for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to stop them sticking to the pan. Reduce the heat further if they are browning too quickly and cook until golden in colour and caramelised. Set to one side.
- While the onions are cooking, make your breadcrumb topping by whizzing your bread in the food processor. Pre-heat your oven to about 200 C / 400 F.
- Boil a large pan of salted water and cook your pasta for the recommended time. When it’s al dente, drain and run under cold water to stop it overcooking and set aside.
- When the onions are almost done, make your cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a medium pot and add the flour. Stir for a minute or two to remove the floury taste and make a roux.
- Add your milk and spices. Ideally the milk should be warm – I often microwave it for a minute or two with the spices infusing in it. But even if you add it cold it will work ok, it just takes longer. Heat through for 5-10 minutes until thickened.
- Grate all the cheese into the sauce except half the goats cheese. Stir the pasta and onions into the sauce and pour into a large baking pan or casserole dish.
- Grate the rest of the goats cheese on top and layer with the breadcrumbs. The goats cheese is what really takes this version of mac and cheese to the next level I think – especially when it gets nicely browned and a bit crispy…
- Bake for about 45 minutes until heated through and browned on top. Serve yourself first or you may not get a chance to have any!
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