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Truffled Macaroni and Cheese with Mushrooms and Thyme

Monday, December 01, 2014

Recipe adapted from Ina Garten's Mac and Cheese.  [Recipe makes 6 to 8 servings].

Several years ago, a good friend and I created what could possibly be the greatest macaroni and cheese to date.  This sounds wonderful and all, but there's one thing wrong with this situation:  we made up the recipe as we went, so knowing the exact ingredients and amounts is still a mystery to this very day.  We have tried to recreate it countless amounts of times, and although they've been decent, they have never mirrored our miracle creation.

This weekend I was going to try it again, and then I thought...what's stopping me from using the basic process as a starting point but intentionally switching up the ingredients?  Well...nothing.  So that's exactly what I did.  If you're comfortable with making a béchamel sauce and have a general idea of how much cheese to add, making your very own gourmet macaroni and cheese is extremely doable.  I chose to use Monterey Jack over the traditional choice of cheddar since it's a better melting cheese, in addition to some Parmesan for a salty and nutty taste, my favorite blue cheese, sautéed mushrooms and a drizzle of truffle oil.  The end result?  You've got yourself a very grownup (but comforting) version of macaroni and cheese.  Someday we'll figure out what exactly was in our miracle dish, but until that day happens, I'm quite happy with this take on the classic.


INGREDIENTS:

1 pound dried pasta

12 ounces fresh mushrooms, stems removed (and discarded) and caps sliced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon white truffle extra-virgin olive oil
2 sprigs fresh thyme

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
10 ounces (~2 1/2 cups) freshly shredded Monterey Jack
1 1/4 ounces (~1/2 cup) freshly shredded Parmesan
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup freshly shredded Parmesan

DIRECTIONS:

For the pasta, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Cook the pasta until it's al dente, drain and cool with cold water to stop the cooking, and reserve.

For the sauce, heat a large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the butter and truffle oil, followed by the mushrooms and sprigs of thyme.  Cook for five minutes.  Remove from the Dutch oven and reserve; discard the thyme.  Add one tablespoon of butter and cook the shallots until tender, several minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.  Melt the remaining three tablespoons of butter, and then stir in the flour.  Cook for a minute.  Gradually add the heavy cream and milk while constantly stirring.  Increase the heat to medium-high and cook while stirring until the sauce starts to simmer.  Remove from the heat and gradually stir in the Monterey Jack and Parmesan.  Add the salt and thyme and taste for any additional seasonings.  Add the pasta and blue cheese and stir until combined.

For the topping, melt the butter in a medium skillet.  Add the Panko, thyme, and Parmesan, and saute until golden brown.

To serve, top each serving with toasted breadcrumbs, freshly grated Parmesan, additional blue cheese crumbles, and/or additional fresh thyme.  Serve immediately.

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