…of the Great Macaroni and Cheese Cook-Off of 2007. And also for writing a blog. And just for general loserishness.
When I heard that I’m Mad and I Eat was teaming up with Seriously Good (nice to meet you) for a mac-n-cheese-off, I couldn’t wait to join in. Seemed like fun. Good, cheesy fun. Except that I don’t really like mac ‘n cheese. In fact, I think it’s kind of gross. Minor detail.
I like macaroni. I love cheese. All mathematical principles point to my liking, even loving, the two together. But if there’s anything you can’t trust, it’s math. And when the answer to the equation is dried-out, mealy cheese on dried-out, chewy macaroni, well, that’s the part I’ve never been able to get past in every single homemade variation I’ve ever tasted.
Still, I saw an opportunity here. A chance to change my own tune or, failing that, having someone else change it for me. Perhaps, somewhere in this wide world, there existed a pasta and cheese combination tailor-made for me, just waiting to be discovered? I put on my thinking cap and sat. For a very long time.
I considered goat cheese, but suspected I might have a problem achieving the right texture. I heard murmurs of blue cheese and thought that might be a good idea. But, what, don’t I have an original thought in my head? I guess not, because what I eventually came up with was Gruyére and white wine, and where have I seen that before? Hmmmm.
So, I dug out my favorite fondue recipe and promptly started scheming. I chose corkscrew-shaped pasta in keeping with the wine theme. Also, in homage to Silvertone Bar & Grill in Boston (it’s not stealing if it’s in homage), home of the single macaroni and cheese experience I actually enjoyed . I grabbed a bottle of crappy, but not too crappy, white wine and started pouring. Pouring and melting cheese, melting and pouring.
The result? Well, the conversation with my husband went something like this:
Him: You lose.
Me: But, you don’t even know what the other people came up with, yet.
Him: I don’t have to know. There would have to be cigarette ashes in theirs for you not to lose.
Me: But, it tastes just like fondue.
Him: I don’t like fondue.
Me: You don’t?
Him: No. I was lying all those times because you only made me eat it once a year.
Splendid. But, I’m not throwing in the towel just yet. If you like fondue, I do believe you’ll like this variation, especially the torn and buttered bread crumbs on top. I sure did. It stayed moist. It wasn’t mealy, although keep in mind that all real cheese congeals when cool. Best of all, it’s the winiest!
2-3 cups cavatappi pasta
½ lb. Gruyére cheese
½ lb. Emmenthaler cheese
2 Tbsp. flour
1 clove garlic
2 cups dry white wine
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. kirsch (or more)
Dash nutmeg and paprika
1 Tbsp. butter
½ cup fresh breadcrumbs (or just torn-up baguette)
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a medium baking dish. Cook pasta in salted water until tender.
Finely dice cheese and toss with flour. Cut garlic clove in half, rub on inside of medium pot, and discard. Pour wine into pot and heat until hot but not boiling. Add lemon juice. Add cheese in four parts, stirring constantly in between, waiting until the previous cheese has melted before adding more. Add kirsch and spices.
Add half of the cooked pasta to the cheese. Add more pasta until you’re satisfied there’s enough pasta in there, but there’s still some cheese pooling on the bottom. You want that cheese pool. It’ll keep things moist in the oven. I’d err on the side of too much cheese, because you can never have too much cheese, but that’s just me. Pour into greased baking dish.
In a small frying pan, melt butter. Add breadcrumbs and toss until sufficiently buttery. Sprinkle over pasta and bake until bubbly and lightly brown, about 30 minutes. Broil the top briefly, if desired.