You may remember my talking about my Hubby's longing for a macaroni cheese recipe that didn't involve a roux-based sauce. He had a memory of a macaroni cheese that a friend's wife had made for a dinner party, which he was sure contained wine - and was itching to re-create that.
Well, he'd gone a little way along that route by learning how to make a roux-based sauce, so that at least he understood the process in order to deviate from it. I detailed his learning process in the blog posting about the Cauliflower Cheese - and indeed it was a beautiful cheese sauce.
Like me, he'd scoured the internet and my recipe books, looking for a recipe that satisfied all his criteria, but without success. So he took a recipe that was nearest to what he wanted, and adapted it with the best bits from several other recipes.
I can confirm that the Macaroni Cheese he came up with was quite categorically the best Macaroni Cheese I have ever tasted - and was perfectly able to see it on a dinner party menu. Macaroni Cheese isn't the first thing you'd think of for a dinner party, but this one is quite simply the Gold Standard for Macaroni Cheeses.
The cheese sauce was made more in the style of a fondue, rather than a cheese sauce. As such, it contained the desired white wine, simply loads of cheese (cheddar and gruyere) along with cream and milk.
As if that wasn't enough, the whole dish was sprinkled with a mixture of buttered breadcrumbs, herbs, parmesan and salt which gave it a lightness of texture and a simple delicious crunch.
It's not the cheapest Macaroni Cheese in the world - but I'd go so far as to say that it is certainly the best I've ever had!
MACARONI CHEESE (feeds 4-5)
225g macaroni pasta
5-6 rashers lean unsmoked streaky bacon
3 tbsp butter, plus a little for the breadcrumbs
3-4 small shallots, chopped
2 tbsp plain flour
150ml white wine
100ml whole milk
300ml double cream
115g gruyere cheese, grated
115g mature cheddar cheese, grated
2 tbsp fresh chives, chopped finely
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
pinch of cayenne pepper
pinch of nutmeg
110g crusty breadcrumbs
enough parmesan to grate over.
1. Pre-heat oven to 200deg C/180deg C fan/Gas mark 6.
2. Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to packet directions until tender to the bite. Drain well, but do not rinse.
3. In a large frying pan over a medium to high heat, melt the butter and add the bacon. Fry until fat is rendered and just beginning to turn crusty around the edges. Add the shallots and cook until golden, approx 3 minutes.
4. Sprinkle mixture with flour and cook, stirring all the time, for around a minute. Add the wine and stir, then the milk, still stirring, making sure to collect all the flavour from the bottom of the pan. Add the cream and continue to stir. Sprinkle in the cheeses, a handful at a time, continuing to stir until each handful is melted before adding the next.
5. Stir in 2 tbsp chives, mustard, a pinch of salt, the cayenne and nutmeg. Add the pasta to the sauce and stir lightly to combine.
6. Add to a baking dish.
7. To make the breadcrumb mixture, (which can be made ahead of time), in a food processor pulse the breadcrumbs with one and a half tbsp of butter, 1 tsp chives, grated parmesan and a pinch of salt, until mixed.
8. Sprinkle over the pasta and bake until the top is browned and the cheese sauce is bubbling, around 15-20 minutes.