Monday, 3 December 2012

Mac & Cheese Mondays: Herbed Mac & Cheese

Soooooo - I have something to tell you.  I'm not ACCURATELY reviewing this recipe from Michelle at Brown Eyed Baker.

The reason I'm not accurately reviewing this recipe is - because - well.....  One of the major components is mushrooms.

BEFORE you start telling me about how wonderful and delicious mushrooms are and how their awesome flavour creates magical happenings in all your dishes, I want to you to understand something.

I LOATHE mushrooms in a way that cannot be described.  I believe they have their own special circle in hell.  The second - no - in the MILIsecond that I know I have a mushroom in my mouth, I am forced to completely eject everything in my mouth into a napkin or a garbage can.

Picture this, if you will - a lovely, sunny summer afternoon.  A little girl of about 6 and her brother of 4 are outside in the backyard playing when their mother calls them in.  They both come in chewing away in delight.  The mother proceeds to tell them to open their mouths when they refuse to tell her what they are eating.  They finally oblige and the mother finds their mouths chock full of backyard mushrooms. 

The mother FREAKS and rushes the little children to the emergency room.  The little brother of 4 is promptly given ipecac and smartly does what the ipecac is designed to make him do.  The little girl, however, after seeing what happens to her brother, promptly develops an iron stomach and somehow HOLDS BACK.  Ipecac will not work on this little girl.  So the doctor, in a worried fit, gives the little girl activated charcoal. 

Yep - you read that right, ACTIVATED CHARCOAL.  The little girl with the iron stomach finally relinquishes her overwhelming plethora of backyard mushrooms and they are both sent home safe and sound. 

No mushroom poisoning for those two.

It wasn't until I was 30 or so that I discovered that most varieties of mushrooms that grow in our backyards are actually edible and WON'T poison you, and that if you have an abundance of mushrooms in your backyard, you should get out there with a mushroom field guide and harvest away!

In one serving of activated charcoal, this little girl went from swiping and chowing down on mushrooms off the grocery store shelf when her mother wasn't looking, to a grown-up girl who will spit and gag in a public place if even the tiniest of morsels of mushrooms get into her mouth.


Clearly my hand is being forced in this situation.

Let's move on to this recipe.  You don't really want to hear about any more of my childhood trauma.

Originally, I was going to opt out of using fresh herbs and just use dried in this recipe.  But because I was taking out a major flavour component, I needed to do something else. 

So fresh herbs it had to be - even though I now owe the grocery store my first born child because fresh herbs cost, like, a zillion dollars in Canada.

Here's all the stuff.

To start off with, melt some butter in a pot.

Then add the flour and whisk to combine.

Then add the chopped fresh herbs.

Then slowly add the milk and stir constantly until thickened.

Once the milk has thickened, add the cheeses and salt and pepper.  Stir until all the cheese is melted and the sauce has thickened up even more.

Then add the cooked pasta and stir to coat the pasta with the sauce.

Pour the pasta and sauce into a casserole dish and top with some extra cheese.

In a separate bowl, melt butter and mix with any type of breadcrumb, I used Panko - because they were in my pantry.

Bake in a preheated oven until the breadcrumbs are golden and the sauce bubbles - mine took about 20 minutes.

Let stand for about 5 minutes and then serve.

I liked that I'd get a little bit of each different herb in each bite.  The Tarragon really stood out the most overall in the dish.

This mac and cheese was great as is, and if you're brave enough to make it with the mushrooms I think it would be just fine too!

Just leave out the activated charcoal.

This is the Cane girl - signing off.

Herbed Mac & Cheese
(The recipe below reflects my alterations to the original from Brown Eyed Baker)
4 Tablespoons butter, divided
Salt & Pepper
2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3 ounces shredded Gruyere cheese, divided
3 ounces shredded white cheddar cheese, divided
6 ounces macaroni pasta
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I used panko)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Bring water in a pot to a boil.
  3. In a separate pot over medium heat, melt 2 Tablespoons of butter.
  4. Add in the flour and whisk to combine, cooking for about 30 seconds.
  5. Then add the fresh herbs and stir to combine, cooking for about 30 seconds.
  6. In the boiling water in the other pot, add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 6 minutes.  You want the pasta to be ready to go when the sauce is ready.
  7. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly until the milk thickens.
  8. Add 5 ounces of each type of cheese to the milk, adding a handful at a time and stirring each addition until melted.
  9. Salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Once the pasta is cooked and drained, add to the prepared sauce.
  11. Pour the pasta mixture into a casserole dish and top with 1 ounce of each type of cheese.
  12. In a separate bowl, melt the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter.
  13. Add the breadcrumbs to the melted butter and stir to coat the crumbs with the melted butter.
  14. Sprinkle over top of the cheese.
  15. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 - 20 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the breadcrumbs are golden.
  16. Remove and let stand for about 5 minutes.
Source:  Slightly adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

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