Omg, macaroni and cheese! One of the greatest inventions man has ever made!
On Saturday, I attended my friend’s annual rib-off (a rib cooking competition). This year, he added a new category in the competition: the “mac-off.” Given that the macaroni and cheese competition was in its infancy, there were a few bumps in the road that made the evaluation of the mac’s less than ideal. Most importantly, all of the macs were cold by the time anyone tried them. This is a huge fail. Baked mac n’ cheese is best eaten and evaluated while hot. Period-end-of-story. The second problem was that there were too many entries, see here:
A lot of people didn’t even make it to the end of the table, thusly not all the macs were tried, and how can you award a winner when only a few were sampled? Further proof of this is that the winners were #2 (vegetarian category), and #3 (meat category). The veggie category went all the way up to 10, but it was evident that most people stopped around 6. Ok, I promise, I’m not a sore loser. My mac n’ cheese did NOT hold up well after sitting outside cooling for 2 hours, while the winner’s (#2) did. The winner’s mac n’ cheese was outstanding; I’m not going to lie. But if the conditions were fair, I think mine could have been a safe runner-up. I love this recipe; it’s the shit, but eat it when it’s hot.
Truffle and thyme macaroni and cheese
*My recipe is adapted from the one from Bertha’s Kitchen, published in Saveur May/2011
1 lb. elbow macaroni (I like the bigger variety)
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
3 cups milk
1 1/2 lb.s grated cheese – I use a combo of sharp white cheddar, medium orange cheddar, mozzarella, and gouda
1 cup grated cheddar – for the top
1/3 cup grated parmesan – for the top
2-3 tbsp. truffle oil
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
Kosher salt – to taste
Pepper – to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg – to taste
Pre-heat oven at 375 degrees.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta, cook halfway through (al dente), drain and set aside.
Heat the butter in a 2-qt saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour and cook until smooth, about a minute (you don’t want to brown your roux). Add the milk slowly, and whisk until your sauce thickens. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. This will take about 10 minutes.
Add your grated cheeses to the sauce. Stir until melted and smooth. Add salt and pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg. Take the sauce off the heat, and add in the truffle oil.* Your kitchen will start to smell amazing.
Stir in the pasta. Add fresh thyme, stir again. Transfer the mixture to a 9″ x 13″ baking dish.
Cover the pasta with the remaining grated cheese and parmesan.
Bake in the oven until the top is bubbly and golden brown, about 35 minutes. If after that time the top is still not browned, you can turn up the oven to broil, and broil the top for just a few minutes (be careful not to burn it, the broiler works fast).
Very important: LET IT COOL 10 minutes before serving. However, don’t wait more than half an hour or the magic will be lost.
The truffle oil is key!
*Truffle oil is worth the dough it costs. It really tastes amazing, the truffle taste is super concentrated, and it adds so much incredible flavor to pastas, potatoes, soup, etc.