Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Art of Compromise

My dear husband is a bit of a mystery to me. If you forced him to pick a favorite food, there is no doubt in my mind that he would say cheese. (I’m betting that spending some formative toddler years in cheese-snob Switzerland has something do with it). Gooey brie, smoky gouda, creamy mozzarella – we’re talking a serious cheese love affair here. And yet, impossibly, he hates, HATES my childhood favorite, macaroni and cheese. How there isn’t a special place in his heart for that blue box is beyond me…though I suppose it has something to do with appreciating real cheese versus mystery powder. Whatever.

In any case, I decided to employ that time-immemorial tool of a happy marriage and compromise: make macaroni and cheese, but fancy-style, sans box and neon orange glow. It may not look or taste like the mac I know and love, but after a bowlful (or two or three) I’ve decided there’s room in my heart for the grown up version, too.

Grown Up Mac and Cheese
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour
3 cups whole milk
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Dash cayenne pepper
¼ tsp nutmeg
4 oz. fresh goat cheese
4 oz. gruyere, cut into small chunks
6 oz sharp cheddar, cut into small chunks
1 1b. elbow macaroni or cavatappi
½ cup panko bread crumbs
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large pot, bring salted water to boil. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add the flour; whisk to incorporate and cook the flour, about 2 minutes. Add the milk, salt, peppers, and nutmeg, and continue to cook, whisking often, until the mixture thickens to the point where it coats the back of a spoon. Reduce the heat to low and add in the three cheeses. Stir often to fully melt and incorporate.

While the cheese is melting, add the pasta to the boiling water and par-cook, about 5 minutes. Drain the pasta and pour into a large casserole dish. Pour the sauce over the pasta, stirring to fully coat each noodle. Add salt and pepper to the panko crumbs to taste and sprinkle over the top of the pasta. Place on middle rack of oven and bake til heated through and the top is golden and crispy, about 20 minutes.