I could say that there are as many Mac & Cheese recipes out there as there are recipes for roasted chicken, meat loaf, or chicken soup, to name a few. These are considered some main comfort foods and have been appearing on many restaurants’ menus during the past several years. Although I grew up as a child consuming the “mac & cheese” from a blue box that used to cost $1.00 for three boxes – I never made a home-made dish. Something I didn’t really think about ever making at all. Actually, not at all. Until yesterday.
After spending a day at the International Hotel, Motel, and Restaurant Show at the Javits Center in NYC, and after enjoying lunch at Spice Market in the late afternoon, come evening, we were hungry. And, since I was out all day, I didn’t replenish the proteins or produce in the fridge. So, what should I make? Okay…after looking in the fridge at the cheddar cheese, milk, butter and two black truffles in a jar that were left over from another meal, I thought about mac & cheese, with truffles, of course. And the cabinet held a half a pound of egg noodles left over from last week’s chicken stock and soup. Perfect. So, I pulled out my yellow Gourmet Cookbook and modified a classic with ingredients that I had on hand…and it was unbelievably good.
For the topping:
1 Tablespoon of unsalted melted butter
1 cup of panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1 cup of extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated on the traditional stainless steel hand held grater—avoid grating knuckles.
For the cheese sauce and macaroni:
2 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter
1 tablespoon of arrowroot (arrowroot is better than flour, IMO, as a thickening agent to make a roux; also, better to digest, I’ve been told)
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup milk
½ cup of cream cheese (yes, cream cheese, which is always on hand for a bagel…and since I had no heavy cream on hand)
2 cups of coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, coarse, country style—my favorite. Not that yellow stuff they put on hot dogs.
Dash of salt
Finely ground crushed fresh black pepper
2 truffles, finely chopped
Truffle oil – about 2 tablespoons, for drizzling
½ pound of egg noodles (or whatever is in the cabinet left over from a pasta dish or any macaroni-type meal).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a shallow baking dish. A two- quart dish worked for this recipe. Adjust accordingly for the amount of m&c that you are making.
For the topping: Stir together the butter, panko and grated cheddar cheese in a bowl until well combined.
For the sauce: Melt butter in a heavy pot. Whisk in arrowroot and red pepper flakes and cook, whisking for a few minutes to make a roux. Whisk in milk slowly. Bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly. Simmer for three minutes. Stir in cream cheese, cheddar cheese, mustard, chopped truffles, salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
Cook the macaroni in salted water until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of pasta cooking water and drain macaroni.
Stir together macaroni, reserved cooking water and sauce in a large bowl; transfer to baking dish.
Drizzle truffle oil over macaroni and sprinkle topping evenly over macaroni.Bake until top is warmed through….not tough or dry….about 20 minutes