bits and pieces

Thursday, September 23, 2010

4 Cheese Mac n' Cheese - with Crab and Cremini

Thanks to the mac and cheese for a month website (warning: this website is potentially dangerous if you have a cheese-problem - thanks Wisconsin) I got into the terrible habit of making incredibly extravagant excuses for mac and cheese. It's trouble once the mac n' cheese starts becoming a vehicle for increasingly absurd food combination. It got so bad that my roommate proclaimed she would not eat a mac and cheese i had made unless it contained at least FOUR types of cheese.

Many miles from Montreal I am feeling increasingly homesick for la belle provence. Illogically these weak human emotions led to an asiago, gruyere, parmesean, bococcini, crab and cremini mac and cheese. Other than the sheer excess of my cheese consumption, once you've made a successful mac and cheese you realize how easy the basic recipe is and you can create your own monstrous creations.

3 cups of macaroni noodles (that's 3 cups dry macaroni noodles)

2.5 cups of cremini mushrooms
1.5 cups of crab (I was poor and sad and used imitation crab. forgive me)
1 red onion, diced.
2 cloves of garlic, minced.
a little butter/olive oil to sautee this stuff in.

2 tbsp butter
a little less than a quarter cup of flour
3 cups of milk
a few dashes of paprika (you can also use mustard powder or cayenne)
cheeeeeeeeeeese. approximately 1.5-2 cups of cheese. I used about 1 cup of gruyere, 1/2 a cup of asiago, a handful of parmesean and 6 little mini bocconcini balls

other things you will need:
a few pots and pans
a cheeeeeeeeeeese grater
a nice mac and cheese dish

This recipe SEEMS long at first, but it's a really really basic recipe. All you need are noodles, a roux (French white sauce), and cheese. Making the roux is the hardest part and it's dead easy. The crab + mushrooms/whatever you want to put inside are just the fun extras. Different cheeses will obviously make your mac and cheese taste different and allow you to use additional flavours and ingredients (artichokes, spinach, asparagus [seriously], bacon, broccoli, etc).
  1. Figure out how much mac and cheese you will make. I used a dish that looks like this one and I probably used about 3 cups (dry) of macaroni noodles. If you don't have macaroni you can also use other types of noodles as long as they're curly/wiggly/textured as this is what soaks up all the delicious flavour and goodness.
  2. Pre-heat your oven to 425.
  3. Prep your crab, mushrooms, onions, and garlic. Leave these aside for a minute. Roughly chop your crab, thickly slice your mushrooms, dice your onions, and mince your garlic. Look at all those cooking verbs.
  4. make your noodles, drain, and set aside. You can do the next couple steps of this recipe while this is going on.
  5. start to sautee your onions and garlic in a frying pan in a little bit of butter/olive oil (if you want to be even more excessive you can carmelized your onions by adding a bit of brown sugar and a splash of balsamic). once your onions are starting to go all translucent-y, add your mushrooms and crab and a splash of white wine and cook until they're tenderized and delicious. Set these aside.
  6. NEXT - this is the key step to making a mac and cheese - you have to make your roux. A roux is just a basic white sauce. It's really easy and once you have the noodles+roux+cheese you have a mac and cheese. Anything you add after that is delicious excess. SO - a rouuuux. Fast and easy and a great basic to know. In a sauce pan melt your 2 generous tablespoons of butter (no olive oil substitution here). Once it's all melted, add your 1/4 cup of flour and mix until it a weird paste. Cook for about 30 seconds to a minute in this paste form. Then simply pour in your 3 cups of milk and whisk it all together until it's combined. Bring it to a gentle boil and then lower it to a simmer. Stir this and it'll start to thicken. Add a few dashes of that paprika (cayenne works too). Once it's a thick sauce-like sauce set it aside.
  7. So now you have 3 pots of stuff. One of pasta, one of crab-mushroom-onion-stuff, and one of your rouuux. Obviously the logical step is to combine these but wait, you forgot the most important thing of all - your fromage! Mix your gruyere (which is delicious and tastes like bacon), and most of your asiago into your rouuuux and then combine all of your mac and cheese parts and put it into your baking dish.
  8. Sprinkle your remaining asiago and your parmesean on top. You can also add a sprinkle of bread crumbs for a yummy crust. (here i put my little bocconcini balls on top and added a drizzle of balsamic just for fun.
  9. Bake your mac and cheese 20 minutes. take it out and let it sit for 5. eat your mac and cheese and tell me how tasty it was. I ate it for 3 days in a row.
For people who don't like crab/fancy pretend mac and cheeses/culinary excess - the most basic mac and cheese recipe goes: make your pasta, make your roux (see above) and add a some paprika AND cayenne (for a little zip), mix in your cheese, and bake for 20 minutes at 425. The end.

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