Even More Over the Top Mac and Cheese

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Well, time to revisit the recipe since a number of people asked for it at a New Year’s Eve party we attended at Domanico Cellars. The original recipe is here, but this is the one I specifically made on NYE

The Software

1/2 lb of elbow macaroni

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 lb. good quality bacon, preferably thick cut

1 1/2 tablespoon powdered mustard

3 cups whole milk

1/2 cup onion, minced (about 3/4 of a medium onion)

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 large egg (lightly beaten)

12 oz Sharp Cheddar  shredded

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Black pepper to taste

The Recipe

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Shred the cheese and separate into 2 parts, one containing 1/4 of the cheese and 1 containing 3/4 of the cheese.
  • Cook the bacon, reserving the fat. Mince into 1/4 inch pieces when cooled.
  • Mince the onion. Add to the pan that you cooked the bacon in with 1 tsp of bacon fat and cook over medium heat until browned and slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil in a 4 qt pan.
  • Add pasta and cook for about 5 minutes to al dente and drain.
  • While the water is coming to a boil, melt the butter in a 3 qt pan over medium heat.
  • Whisk in the flour and cook until pale blond (about 3 minutes) stirring about every minute.
  • Whisk in onion, paprika and mustard until combined (about 1 minute)
  • Slowly add the milk and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until slightly thickened, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Slowly add 2 ladles full of the milk mixture to the egg, whisking as you add it. This will temper the egg to keep it from cooking and turning into scrambled eggs. I usually do this in a measuring cup. If there are any lumps (i.e. cooked egg), start over with another egg.
  • Add the egg mixture into the pot and stir a couple of times to combine.
  • Add 3/4 of the cheese to the sauce and stir until the cheese is melted, 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the pasta to the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add the bacon to the pasta and combine.
  • In the pan that you cooked the onions, add one tablespoon of bacon fat over medium high heat. Add the breadcrumbs and toss. Cook until they become golden brown, about 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Put pasta and sauce in a 4 qt casserole dish, cover with the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs and bake in the over for 20 minutes.
  • Let stand for 5 minutes and serve with your favorite hot sauce (or not)

IMPORTANT – don’t fully cook the pasta – it will finish cooking in the oven and it will be completely mushy if you cook it fully on the stove. Also, don’t rinse the pasta after you drain it.

Notes Timing is important on this recipe, so I highly suggest preparing all of your ingredients before you start cooking – it really makes the job much easier when you are not trying to measure something while watching something else. I also highly recommend freezing the cheese for about 10 minutes prior to shredding – it makes it much easier. The shredding can be done in a food processor or using a box grater. Don’t buy the pre-shredded cheese, it really doesn’t taste the same and shredding yourself will take you 2 or 3 minutes extra and it will be worth it. I really like Beecher’s Flagship Cheese in this recipe, but if you aren’t local to Seattle, you probably won’t be able to find it, so just use your favorite cheddar.  I really like Skagit River Ranch’s bacon for this recipe, but any good quality bacon will work. The pasta and sauce can be made in advance and then put in the oven later – just put it in the casserole dish, covered in the fridge and when you are ready to cook it, remove it from the fridge, uncover and let it sit at room temp for 15 minutes while you warm the oven. The leftovers also make really good fried mac and cheese the next day, that is, if there is any left.

 

A Grilled Cheese Sandwich, Reinvented

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Photos by PW

One of the benefits of living in Seattle is that you have access to some interesting stuff – great foraged mushrooms in the fall, nettles and fiddleheads in the spring, geoduck and spot prawns throughout the summer, great cheese makers and some of the best ice cream in the U.S. There are also a ton of places that do some really creative things with the local bounty.

Case in point is Molly Moon’s Ice Cream Shop. They have made some interesting seasonal flavors in the past from things that you would not necessarily expect to find in ice cream, most of which are worth trying. They recently produced an ice cream using another local ingredient – Beecher’s Flagship Cheese. I tried it on a recent trip into the Molly Moon shop in Wallingford and found it interesting, but not something that I necessarily would order. I commented to Mrs. Iron Chef that I was surprised there were no special sundaes on their menu board around the Beecher’s ice cream.

After thinking about it, the gastronomic wheels started spinning and I had a brilliant idea of what to do with the ice cream. If my forays into molecular gastronomy have taught me anything it is that the goal of cooking should be to take familiar flavors and present them in new ways without really changing the taste of the original. This lead me to the brilliant conclusion, if someone makes an ice cream using one of the cheeses that I love on a grilled cheese sandwich, then why don’t I just turn that sandwich into a sundae?

At a recent dinner party, I unleashed my creation on the unsuspecting guests. I have found that the easiest way for someone to not like something new is to tell them what it is before they eat it. In this case, I did not reveal what everyone was eating until after they finished and the creation was generally pretty well received.

So I present to you, Molly Moon’s Beecher’s Flagship Grilled Cheese Sundae.

 

It really does taste like the some of its parts - a grilled cheese sandwich.

The Software
1 lb. heirloom tomatoes, seeded and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon dry vermouth
1 pinch kosher salt
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
3 slices bacon, cooked crispy and sliced into 1/8 inch lardons
1 cup brioche crumbs
1 pint of Molly Moon’s Beecher’s Flagship Ice Cream

The Recipe

Brioche crumbs

  • Cut 3-4 slices of brioche into 1 inch cubes. Place on a sheet pan and dry in a 275 degree oven for 90 minutes or until the bread is completely dried out.
  • Remove and pulse in a food processor until a coarse crumb (about 5 pulses, one second each on my machine).
  • Store in an air tight container if not using right away.

Tomato Compote

  • Add the tomatoes, vinegar, salt and vermouth to a medium sauce pan over medium heat and cook until the tomatoes break down, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Transfer the tomatoes to a blender and puree until smooth.
  • You are looking for roughly the consistency of a really thick tomato sauce. If your compote is too thin, return to the heat and reduce, stirring occasionally. If it is too thick, you can add water to thin it out.
  • Let cool

The Sundae

  • In a ramekin, take a tablespoon of the tomato compote and put it in the bottom. Add one scoop of the ice cream and top with the brioche crumble and bacon lardons. Serve to an unsuspecting public.

The recipe should serve 4 to 6 people.

Notes
I used some really nice heirloom tomatoes that were sweet enough that I did not need to add any sugar. If the tomatoes you are using are not very sweet, add some sugar to the cooking process, a small amount at a time and let dissolve before adding any more. You are looking for slightly tart to balance the sweetness of the ice cream. I suppose that any bread would work for the crumble, but I really like the buttery flavor of brioche. I used Skagit River Ranch’s uncured bacon for this recipe because I like the balance of smoky and sweet it has. Use whatever bacon you would normally use on a grilled cheese sandwich for the recipe.