Inspired by the Mac-n-Cheese Off, we’re eating an earthy ode to mac-n-cheese. This dish is made with a bechamel based sauce that’s filled with herb goat cheese, sharp cheddar, parmigiano reggiano, sauteed shitake and crimini mushrooms deglazed with sherry vinegar, truffle oil, fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage. Since the actual macaroni and cheese is extremely rich, we went with a crispy top-layer made from panko and parmigiano reggiano rather than the standard ooey gooey cheesey top layer.
T: I gotta say, Amanda, this mac and cheese was out of this world. I believe it came from another planet. it was outrageously tasty.
A: why thank ya, mister T! mac and cheese happens to be one of those foods that i find totally decadent and just absolutely love (when it’s made well).
T: you know, i grew up eating boxed mac and cheese like 95% of the time. i never had much real mac and cheese. And when I did, it was not creamy at all. Then along came mandy. Mandy, mandy.
A: hehehe honestly, i grew up with a similar mac-n-cheese experience. On occasion my dad would make mac-n-cheese and throw in some tomatoes and some good cheddar, but it was always dry and kind of gritty. a common outcome when you don’t use the bechamel based cheese sauce and just try to toss the macaroni with some cheese and bake it.
T: yeah that’s the way I would have thought to do it… make some box mac & cheese and throw some cheddar on there. or…. boil some macaroni and then just put cheddar on it. Either way I’d be sucking.
A: i’m sure if you did any research before you made the macaroni and cheese you wouldn’t just do that. there are tons of recipes out there.
T: if I did any research. Chances are if I were doing this it would be 2 in the morning I and would have had a few ice-cold Natural Light beers and I wouldn’t be sensible enough to “do research”.
A: heard that! fortunately you have me. and i tend to make macaroni and cheese out of what ever happens to be left over. it just seems to go with everything. this was an unusual mac and cheese for me because nothing was left-over. it was all made just for this meal.
T: i want more of this mac and cheese.
A: i actually wasn’t sure if you would like this one as much as previous ones, since you still aren’t mushrooms’ biggest fan…and my inspiration for this one was the earthiness found in mushrooms (and truffle oil).
T: I don’t know, I like mushrooms in the right scenario… just don’t want to sit around and eat them raw or something. But I was a massive fan of this mac and cheese. Like, OMG, Mandy. That was the best mac and cheese I’ve had. I give it a 4.9/5. You’ve got mac and cheese nailed.
A: damn, yo! that’s a crazy high score! i was a huge fan of the dish too. maybe not a 4.9/5 fan, but still…. I give this one a 4.75/5, which happens to be a pretty damn high rating.
T: if I’m not mistaken that’s the highest score we’ve ever given anything on this blog.
A: hmmm… i feel like i remember 1 other meal that might have scored higher, but i can’t think of what it was exactly.
T: i don’t remember either. But I’m sure it had plenty of cheese in it. Cheese helps anything get a higher score. Cheeeeese. Back to the Mac n Cheese…
A: yeah, so there is only one thing i would do to this dish if i could afford it – use real truffle and not truffle oil! but… seeing as how i’m currently in search of new employment!!!! that can’t really happen.
T: how much is a truffle, anyway? Or I guess I should say… how much is the amount of truffle that you would need for this dish?
A: well, since you can’t really buy just part of a truffle, i would need to purchase a whole one.
T: ok google-master mandy, what’s that going to run us?
A: well, from mirepoix usa you can get an eighth of a pound for $225 usd. on boots in the oven, they went to a at a truffle festival in italy and they had smaller ones there for about â‚¬20 each. and they don’t particularly weigh a lot. i hate money! i wish i could just barter for products in my time off. i’m gonna make a sign and go stand in front of a specialty store that says “Will Work For Truffles… (and/or an aussie rack of lamb)”
T: Dude that is a great idea! You should totally do that! It might just pan out!
A: hehehe you never know. it might just be outrageous enough…
T: maybe you could dress up as a truffle… is that going too far?
A: uh… maybe so and where on earth would we find a truffle costume!
T: we would construct it out of paper mache of course!
A: or maybe i could just wear a chef’s coat or something…
T: ok, yeah… that’s more like it. so where in the San Diego area can we do this?
A: i dunno. i’ve not looked into who carries truffles around these parts. i don’t imagine it would be too terribly hard to find out though. you never know guys. maybe we’ll really do this.
T: quizas, quizas, quizas.
1 1/2 cups sliced crimini mushrooms
1 1/2 cups sliced shitake mushrooms
2 tbsp oil or bacon fat
1 1/2 tbsp sherry vinegar
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
3 cup whole milk, warmed
4 oz herb chevre, crumbled
4 oz sharp cheddar, shredded
4 oz parmigiano reggiano, separated in 2 2oz piles
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
1 tsp fresh sage, minced
2-3 tbsp white truffle oil, depending on how strong you like it (yes, this is some rich mac-n-cheese)
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup panko
10 oz elbow pasta
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a large pot of water over high heat and cover. Place a large saute pan with 2 tbsp oil or lard over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the mushrooms to the pan and saute for 7-10 minutes or until the mushrooms are fully cooked and slightly caramelized. Toss or stir occasionally. Season with a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper then deglaze the pan with sherry vinegar. Allow all of the vinegar to cook out, then remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside.
Begin the cheese sauce. Add 3 tbsp butter to a medium-sized sauce pan and place the pan on the stove over medium heat. Once all the butter is melted and hot, whisk in 3 tbsp flour. Cook the flour, whisking, for about 30 seconds , just long enough to get rid of the raw flour taste, but not long enough for the flour to start caramelizing. Add the thyme, rosemary, sage, and red pepper flakes. Continue stirring and allow the herbs to saute for about another 30 secpnds. Slowly pour in the milk while whisking continuously, so the roux and milk incorporate smoothly and there are no lumps. Allow the bechamel to come to a simmer (it won't gain it's full thickness until it does), stirring occassionally.
While waiting for the sauce to come to a simmer start the pasta. Liberally salt the pot of boiling water, almost to the point it tastes like sea water. This may take a few handfuls of salt . Add the pasta to the water and cook the pasta for a minute or two less than the suggested time on the box.
Once the bechamel has reached a simmer, stir in the chevre, cheddar, 2oz of parmigiano, and truffle oil until all the cheese has melted. Turn off the heat and and taste the sauce for seasoning levels. Season with salt and pepper as necessary. In small mixing bowl, mix together the panko and remaining 2oz of parmigiano reggiano.
Strain the pasta immediately once finished cooking. In a mixing bowl, toss the pasta, cheese sauce, and mushrooms together. Pour the macaroni and cheese into a deep glass or ceramic loaf pan and sprinkle the panko/parmigiano mixture evenly across the top. Bake the mac-n-cheese in the upper part of the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the topping is golden and the cheese sauce is bubbly. Serve hot. Enjoy!
*if you're lucky enough to have a real truffle, feel free to substitute shaved truffle for the truffle oil!