French Mac and Cheese

Remember the days when you were little, and your mom made you Kraft macaroni and cheese? It was prepared with butter, milk and cheese powder that resulted in orange-colored mac.  As a kid, I loved the stuff.

Finished Product 1

But this.  This is no Kraft mac and cheese.  This is grown-up mac.   It is not-for-kids, stinky cheese mac.  It is rich, creamy, gooey mac.  It is crunchy-on-top, and stringy cheese in the middle.  And yes.  It is better than the orange mac from the blue box.

The thing I love about this mac and cheese, and mac in general, is that it is so versatile.  You can really use any cheeses you want, and it will come out great.  Plus, who doesn’t love mac and cheese?! (Sorry, lactose-intolerant friends…)

To make this mac, you will need cheese. (Surprised?) 🙂  You will also need a medium-large pot, a small saucepan, a baking dish, a grater, and a silicone whisk.

Now let’s get back to the cheese.  I vary the selection, dependent on what is available at the store, but my favorite combination is: Raclette, Gruyère, and Fontina.   While the name of this dish would indicate that I use only French cheeses, they are actually of mixed origin.  Fontina has been made in the French Alps since the 12th century (thank you, Wikipedia!), while both Raclette and Gruyère originate from bordering Switzerland.  Regardless, it is a great combination, and if you can find these cheeses at your local grocery for a reasonable price, I highly recommend them!

Cheese

As you’ll note from the photo above, I shredded the Gruyère and the Fontina, and cut the Raclette into cubes.  If you’re feeling lazy, it is fine to chop all three into cubes; though I do prefer the look of shredded cheese on top of the dish. 🙂

Once your cheese is ready to go, boil your pasta in a medium-large pot with salted water for about 7 minutes.  Strain it when it is done and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, take a small saucepan, melt 2 tbsp of butter, and then whisk in 1 1/2 tbsp of flour to make your roux.  A roux is a thickening agent, made with flour and fat (usually butter).  You always want to start with the fat and then add the flour.  Make sure to whisk it well, and as soon as the flour is incorporated, you’ll want to move on to the next step so it doesn’t burn.

Roux

Add 1 3/4 cup of milk, and 3/4 cup cream, whisking constantly.  Bring this mixture to a boil, and then salt and pepper to taste.  Transfer the sauce to your larger pot, with the cooked pasta and simmer for about 4-5 minutes.

White sauceAdd the Raclette and the Fontina, and an additional 1/2 cup of milk.  Stir continuously to melt the cheese.  (This is my favorite part!)  If it looks too dry, add a bit more milk or cream.  Pour the pasta and cheese mixture into your buttered baking dish, and then sprinkle with Gruyère.

Ready for the oven

Bake at 390F until golden-brown on top (about 10 minutes).

Hot and bubbly

That crunchy top layer is the best part.  Make sure to get some of that when you scoop it out!

Finished Product 2

Serve yourself a heaping portion and enjoy your grown-up mac. 🙂

Bon appétit!

-G

French Mac and Cheese

(Recipe adapted from Libby Sloan, founder of Les Gastronomes de Paris cooking school)

– 12-16 oz box of pasta (I like to use penne)

– 1 3/4 cup of milk

– 3/4 cup cream

– 2 tbsp butter

– 1 1/2 tbsp flour

– 280g shredded or cubed cheese – The original recipe dictates 80g of Comté, 80g of Abondance, and 100g of Raclette.  Comté and Abondance can be hard to find in the U.S., unless you go to a specialty grocery or cheese shop, so I substitute with Fontina and Gruyère.

– Salt and pepper

– 1/2 cup of cold milk

Boil pasta in salted water for 7 minutes.  Strain and set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt butter and whisk in flour to incorporate.  Add milk and cream, whisking constantly.  Bring to a boil, then take off the burner and add salt and pepper.

Combine pasta with the white sauce, then simmer on low for about 4-5 minutes.  Add Raclette and Fontina cheeses.  Stir until cheese is melted and well-combined.

Pour the mixture into buttered baking dish.  Sprinkle with Gruyère, then bake at 390F until golden brown on top (about 10 minutes).

Tools you’ll need: a medium-large pot, a small saucepan, a baking dish, a grater, and a silicone whisk.

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