Mac and Two Cheeses with Caramelized Shallots

I said this blog was going to be healthy, right? Well…everyone needs to indulge sometimes. Ben’s sister was in town a couple of weeks ago and macaroni and cheese is one of her favorite meals. Thank you, Lisa, for giving me an excuse to make this!

I found this recipe when I was gradually incorporating dairy back into my diet. I started with goat’s milk based products because its milk is easier to digest than cow’s milk. (Quick fact: did you know that goat milk more closely resembles human breast milk than cow’s milk?) Fortunately, our local grocery store has an extensive cheese selection that includes things like goat cheddar, goat gouda, and many, many variations on chevre.

Now that I can eat dairy I use an extra sharp, cow’s milk white cheddar for the base of the recipe. Since I live in Oregon, I have a bias in favor of Tillamook, but I’ve also used Dubliner and loved the result. What’s special about this mac and cheese is that it’s topped with caramelized shallots and chevre instead of breadcrumbs. The shallots are sweet and rich, and the chevre makes the final dish slightly tangy and extra cheesy.

a stockpot of raw shallots

a stockpot of raw shallots

white cheddar cheese sauce

white cheddar cheese sauce

The recipe can be a bit time consuming but it’s not really difficult. The most labor intensive part is chopping all of the shallots, so if you have a food processor or a pair of helping hands, utilize them. I stick to using the Tinkyada brand for pasta and you’ll want to cook it a minute or two less than the package requires because it will keep cooking in the oven. The recipe tells you to toss the grated cheddar with some flour before adding it in. I prefer to make a standard roux with a little butter and flour, then add the cream and hot sauce, and finally incorporate the cheese on its own. For flour you have many options. If you have a gf all purpose flour like a Bob’s Red Mill gf blend, go for it. My personal favorite is using potato flour because it’s an effective thickener and doesn’t alter the flavor. My final note on the recipe is that you can add a little extra Cholula if some heat makes you happy. As written, the Cholula gives just an extra hint of flavor.

before the oven

before the oven

ready to eat!

ready to eat!

I also have to admit that while preparing this meal, I narrowly averted a cooking disaster. I must have done the grocery shopping quickly because instead of regular half-and-half I apparently purchased French Vanilla flavored half-and-half. It almost made it into the stockpot before I caught my error, but even after the catch I was halfway through cooking and without a key ingredient. The only milk we had was 2% so I just went for it. The outcome tasted almost as good as the original, and was definitely not as heavy. To be honest, I kind of missed the richness because I only make this once or twice a year, but if you’re looking for a way to lighten this up you can definitely follow my (mistaken) lead.

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The final photo is of Lisa, my future sister-in-law, toasting with a glass of wine from the Willamette Valley, just South of Portland. We went wine tasting that afternoon and discovered it was the beginning of harvest time. I’m including some harvest pictures in case you’ve never had the chance to witness a wine harvest. It was quite a sight! And if you want to share any recipes that inspire you to indulge, please share in the comments!

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Mac and Two Cheese with Caramelized Shallots via www.epicurious.com

Bon Appétit            December 2008

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