Monday, January 25, 2010

Mac'n'cheese mania

Well, the challenge finally closed with a rush of late entries and if you needed any proof that we're a nation fixated on macaroni cheese this contest provided it in spades. 35 of you found time to enter - 23 in the best original recipe category, 3 for the best photograph(s), 5 for the best use of artisanal cheese and 4 suggested drink pairings.

All pose their problems for the judges. The range of ideas in the original recipe category from a Tex Mex mac to a chocolate one (no kidding!) will make Xanthe Clay's and Marlena Spieler's task a tough one. On the other hand it would have been good to have had more entries in the photo and wine pairing categories but as we had some great entries I've decided to award a prize nonetheless.

Some of you may feel that the pictures in some of the recipe submissions are worth of inclusion. I'm inclined to agree but as I didn't invite you all to enter more than one category I don't think we can take them into account. Sorry - those of you who took great photos will just have to bask in the admiration of your peers.

What's going to happen now is that I'm going to put up a series of posts on the entries in each category over the next couple of days then will confer with the judge(s) for that section to come up with a winner. The bad news is that I didn't manage to persuade Emma Bridgewater of the worthiness of our cause (a decision it inexplicably took them two weeks to reach) so they won't be donating us their very splended mac and cheese dish but as I don't want to disappoint you I'm going to get one for the winner anyway.

To kick off the coverage here are three recipe entries which were submitted directly and did not appear on blogs and one drink suggestion. The first two are for the original recipe category, Ms MarmiteLover's for the Artisan Cheese one.

Macaroni cheese with Welsh Rarebit topping
This comes from Elly Curshen of the Pear Café in Bristol


For topping:
25g butter
25g flour
150ml milk
150g mature cheddar cheese, grated
150ml Sharp's Doombar Cornish beer
1 tsp English mustard powder
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
2 egg yolks

For cheese sauce:
25g butter
25g flour
200ml warm milk
2 tsp senap (slightly sweet Swedish mustard - I used a semi grainy one)
150g grated mature cheddar cheese

250g (dry weight) macaroni


Make rarebit topping first;

1. Make a roux with the butter and flour, and leave to cool.
2. Bring the milk to the boil, then whisk it into the roux. Bring to the boil once again, whisking to make sure there are no lumps.
3. Add the cheese, beat in and remove from the heat.
4. Reduce the beer, English mustard and Worcestershire sauce until you are left with approx 2 tablespoons of thick liquid then add this mixture to the cheese sauce. Season well with salt and pepper and beat in both the egg yolks.
5. Leave to one side

Next, make the cheese sauce;
1. Make a roux with the butter and flour, and leave to cool.
2. Bring the milk to the boil, then whisk it into the roux. Bring to the boil once again, whisking to make sure there are no lumps.
3. Add the cheese and mustard, beat in and remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta (3 minutes less than stated on packet, so it is just a little underdone)

When pasta is cooked, drain and add to pan of cheese sauce, stirring well to coat.
Pour into a baking dish (needs to have capacity of approx 2 litres)
Spread the rarebit topping on top of the pasta and bake for 15 minutes at 180, followed by 4-5 minutes under a hot grill, to really crisp up the top!

Serve with peas and the rest of the bottle of Doombar!

copyright Elly Curshen 2010

Mex and Cheese
From Julie Broczkowski of The Magic Fridge, a catering company in Ottawa. (Yes, the fame of the Mac'n'cheese challenge spread that far!)

I adore Mexican food, and this is my Mex take on Mac&Cheese.... Mex and Cheese? I am a cook, not a recipe writer, so my measurements leave something to be desired.

12 oz. (1 box) of whole wheat macaroni (cooked and drained)
A big blob of butter (1/4 cup?)
An onion, chopped finely
1 tablespoon of finely chopped or pressed garlic, 2-3 large cloves
Enough flour to soak up the butter, until the mixture still flows, but not quickly
3-4 cups of milk, depending on how thick you like your sauce
3-4 cups grated cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, or a mixture
½ cup cream cheese
2-3 tablespoons Epicure Selections Nacho Cheese Dip Mix (only available in Canada) or nacho/fajita/taco seasoning
1 can (19oz) lentils, drained and rinsed
1 can (3.5 oz., I think) chopped green chiles (I use Old El Paso brand)

Melt butter in a pan, sautĂ© onion for 3-5 minutes until very soft and slightly browned. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add flour and stir briskly to combine well; cook for 2-3 minutes. Pour in 2 cups of milk and whisk briskly. Cook until it thickens, then add more milk until it is the consistency you like (the cheese will make it even thicker, so take that into account). Stir in 2 cups of grated cheese and add the cream cheese. Whisk and/or stir until cheeses are melted and combined. Add seasoning, lentils and green chiles. Add cooked macaroni, stir well, and pour into a large greased casserole. I like to use a wide shallow one for a better crunchy topping to macaroni ratio. Top with the rest of the grated cheese and bake 20-30 minutes at 400° until cheese is bubbly. If it isn’t browning on its own, put it under the broiler for a minute. Wait 5 minutes to let it cool a tiny bit before serving.

Ms Marmite Lover's mac and cheese
This is the mac and cheese I made with Greens of Glastonbury cheddar for my 9/11/I love New York night. The cheese was very strong but one person said it was the best she'd ever had . . .

Boil 500g of large macaroni in salted water. Slightly undercook, they will continue to cook when baked. Drain and spread the macaroni on a baking pan or large oven proof dish. In another pan: put in half a pack of unsalted butter and 2 tablespoons of flour, sauce flour if you have it. Stir it around, making sure it doesn't burn. Then gradually add 250ml of full cream milk till the sauce becomes a thick liquid. Then add 600ml of double cream, 300g of strong cheddar such as Montgomery or Greens of Glastonbury. Add a large tablespoon of french grain mustard or any mustard you have. You can also add a few shavings of nutmeg if you wish.When the cheese is melted you can take this off the heat. Pour the sauce on the macaroni.Bake for 10 minutes on a medium heat. Add another 100 or 200 grams of cheddar on top. Bake or grill for another ten minutes.

Other options: I like to add green pickled peppercorns which adds heat and bite. Pretty much everything can be changed in this's just an indication. You don't have to use cheddar. Use whatever you have in the fridge. You can make it slimming by using half fat milk and replacing the cream. But really this is a lovely comforting winter's dish, perfect for in front of the telly watching something a bit crap like 'I'm a celebrity' or 'Big Brother'. It's great duvet food.

And if you wanna get fancy schmancy, serve with salad - rocket or lambs lettuce with walnut oil and lemon juice and a lovely white wine such as gewurztraminer.

And a wine pairing suggestion from David Greenman of the Arch House Deli in Bristol

On your best drink match for Macaroni Cheese, I’d suggest a 2005 Gigondas such as Domaine la Haute Marone. Not too overpowering, fruity, with a tang of spices and herbs and not too expensive. Better value than a Chateauneuf. Would perfectly complement a macaroni cheese made with a strong cheese such as Lincolnshire Poacher or a Keens Cheddar.



AmuseboucheUK said...

A CHOCOLATE Mac N Cheese - who ever heard of such a thing!!?? LOL.

Thanks for setting this up - there were some great recipes posted and I shall be trying out many I am sure - No doubt until I am Wobbly Bottom by nature as well as BUY cheese :-)

Fiona Beckett said...

It was a very ingenious entry ;-) I'm going to be listing all the links in each of the sections so you can have a good look at who's entered what.