Mac & Cheese, Please!

Recipes from cheese expert and author Laura Werlin
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Cheese expert and cookbook author Laura Werlin stopped by the Good Day studios to share some of her delicious recipes just in time for the holidays!  Below you can find links to her take on Spicy Home Fries Mac & Cheese, Smokey Blue Leeks and Hazelnut Mac & Cheese, and French Cheese Savoy Cabbage Mac & Cheese!  Learn more about Laura on her website: www.laurawerlin.com.

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Spicy “Home Fries” Mac & Cheese

(Serves 6)

To me, the ultimate diner breakfast isn’t the eggs you find there, but instead it’s the potatoes, especially when they’re in the form of home fries. In this mac & cheese, those home-fried potatoes get their just due by acting as the crowning glory on the creamy, cheesy pasta underneath. I don’t have to wonder what Dr. Atkins would have said about a potato-on- pasta dish, but this is one splurge worth its weight in carbs.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed 8 ounces small or medium shell pasta
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound small red potatoes, cut into ¼-inch chunks (do not peel)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 small onion (about 4 ounces), cut into ½-inch dice
1 medium red bell pepper (about 8 ounces), cut into ½-inch dice
1 medium green bell pepper (about 8 ounces), cut into ½-inch dice
2 teaspoons dried oregano
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1½ cups whole or reduced-fat milk
½ cup heavy cream
12 ounces cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (3½ cups)
2 teaspoons Frank’s RedHot Sauce (or use your favorite brand), plus more
for serving (use less or more depending on how spicy you want it)
½ teaspoon dry mustard powder
Ketchup, for serving (optional)

Directions

  • Position an oven rack about 6 inches below the broiler and preheat to broil. Butter an 8-inch square (1½-quart) metal pan or six 8-ounce ramekins. Set aside. (Note: Do not use a glass pan or a ceramic dish for this recipe. It can break when set under the broiler.)
  • Fill a 4- to 5-quart pot about three-quarters full with water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cook, stirring once or twice, until tender but firm, 4 to 6 minutes for small shells, 8 to 10 minutes for medium shells, and drain. Reserve the pot.
  • In a large skillet, heat the ¼ cup of the oil over medium heat. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the edges are darkened and the potatoes are crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Using a slotted spatula or spoon, transfer the potatoes to a plate.
  • Using the same skillet, cook the onion and bell peppers, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and beginning to caramelize (darken) around the edges, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the oregano and salt and black pepper to taste. Turn off the heat and set aside.
  • Using the same pot you used to cook the pasta, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the flour and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and stir constantly until a paste forms, 30 to 45 seconds.
  • Continue stirring for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the mixture starts to darken slightly and smell a bit nutty. Slowly whisk in the milk and cream and stir until the mixture starts to thicken and is just beginning to bubble around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
  • Add 3 cups of the cheese, the hot sauce, and mustard powder and stir until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth but not too runny. It should be similar in texture to cake batter. If it’s soupy, continue cooking until it thickens.
  • Turn off the heat and add the pasta and peppers. Stir to combine. Transfer the mixture to the prepared dish. Pile the potatoes on top of the casserole and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the potatoes.
  • Put the pan on a rimmed baking sheet and place under the broiler. Cook until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown and the potatoes that are peeking out begin to darken, 2 to 3 minutes. Watch carefully, because the cheese and potatoes can burn easily. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Pass extra hot sauce and/or ketchup, if desired, alongside.

Add-Ins

Bacon: Cook 8 slices bacon, crumble them, and add along with the pasta and
peppers, or

Breakfast sausage links or patties: Brown 8 ounces of sausage, then cut
into ½-inch pieces. Add along with the pasta and peppers, and/or

Spinach: Add 6 cups, a handful at a time, along with the pasta and peppers.

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Smokey Blue with Leeks and Hazelnuts Mac & Cheese

(Serves 6)

I created this recipe to showcase one of my favorite American cheeses, Smokey Blue, made by Rogue Creamery in Oregon. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a cheese that’s just like it sounds—a smoked blue cheese. Although it’s become fairly widely available, don’t despair if you can’t find it. Instead, just use your favorite blue cheese and substitute smoked mozzarella or smoked scamorza for the regular mozzarella. The hazelnuts, also primarily an Oregon-grown product, are the crowning glory on this unusual but delicious mac & cheese.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon plus 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
8 ounces small elbow macaroni
5 tablespoons salted butter
2 cups coarse, fresh bread crumbs (preferably Italian or sourdough)
3 leeks, white part only, sliced crosswise ¼ inch thick
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups whole or reduced fat milk
12 ounces mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated, or chopped if water-packed (about 4 cups; or use smoked mozzarella if using regular blue cheese)
8 ounces smoked blue cheese (such as Rogue Creamery’s Smokey Blue), crumbled (about 1½ cups; or use regular blue cheese)
¼ teaspoon mustard powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¾ cup hazelnuts (preferably skinned), toasted and coarsely chopped

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter an 8-inch square (1½-quart) baking dish or pan (or six 8-ounce shallow baking dishes). Set aside.
  • Fill a 4- to 5-quart pot about three-quarters full with water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cook, stirring once or twice, until tender but firm, about 4 minutes, and drain.
  • While the pasta is cooking, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium skillet. Turn off the heat and add the bread crumbs, stirring to coat. Set aside. Using the same pot you used to cook the pasta, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in the flour and stir constantly until a paste
  • forms, 30 to 45 seconds. Continue stirring for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the mixture starts to darken slightly and smell a bit nutty. Stir in the milk and cook until the mixture starts to thicken and is just beginning to bubble around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Stir in the mozzarella, half of the blue cheese, the mustard powder, and cayenne and cook until the cheeses have melted and the sauce is smooth but not too runny. It should be similar in texture to cake batter. If it’s soupy, continue cooking until it thickens.
  • Add the pasta, and stir to combine. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining blue cheese, followed by the hazelnuts. Top with the bread crumbs. Place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until bubbling and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

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French Cheese And Savoy Cabbage Mac & Cheese

(Serves 6)

I love to use savoy cabbage in combination with cheese, especially rich and full-flavored cheeses like the French ones called for here, and any starch, potatoes or pasta. Savoy is not bitter like its cabbage brethren, and it makes for a great textural and flavor contrast to the starch and dairy. Although readily available in most grocery stores these days, if you can’t find savoy, regular green cabbage makes a fine substitute.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
8 ounces medium shell pasta (or use orecchiette)
6 tablespoons salted butter
1 small baguette (about 12 inches; or use half a full-size baguette), made into bread crumbs
1 medium onion (about 8 ounces), coarsely chopped
1 large head savoy cabbage (about 1½ pounds), cored, large stems removed, and coarsely chopped (or use half of a regular green cabbage)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1½ cups whole or reduced-fat milk
1 cup crème fraîche
12 ounces Comté cheese, coarsely grated (about 4 cups) (or use Gruyère)
8 ounces double-cream Brie cheese, rind removed and cut into ½-inch chunks (this is easiest to do if the cheese is cold)
4 ounces Roquefort cheese, broken into small chunks (or use other creamy but flavorful blue cheese)
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¹⁄8 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter an 8-inch square (1½-quart) baking dish or
  • pan (or six 8-ounce ramekins). Set aside.
  • Fill a 4- to 5-quart pot about three-quarters full with water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cook, stirring once or twice, until tender but firm, 6 to 8 minutes, and drain. Reserve the pot.
  • While the pasta is cooking, in a medium skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Turn off the heat and add the bread crumbs. Stir until mixed well. Transfer to a small bowl and wipe out the skillet.
  • Using the same skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cabbage and cook until the cabbage is tender and wilted, 5 to 7 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
  • Using the same pot you used to cook the pasta, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the flour and stir constantly until a paste forms, 30 to 45 seconds. Continue stirring for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the mixture starts to darken slightly and smell a bit nutty.
  • Slowly whisk in the milk, crème fraîche, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and cook until the mixture starts to thicken and is just beginning to bubble around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Stir in 2½ cups of the Comté, Brie, Roquefort, cayenne, and nutmeg and stir until the sauce is smooth but not too runny. It should be similar in texture to cake batter. If it’s soupy, continue cooking until it thickens.
  • Add the pasta and cabbage mixture and stir to combine. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Top with the remaining 1½ cups Comté and sprinkle with the bread crumbs.
  • Place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet and cook until bubbling and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Add-Ins

Cooked ham: Cut a 4-ounce piece of cooked ham into 1/4-inch pieces. Add
along with the pasta and cabbage.

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