Saturday, February 13, 2010

Fondue-Inspired Macaroni and Cheese

One of the winter Olympics powerhouses is the ever-neutral country of Switzerland.  I've been there before, and can attest to their love of cows, chocolate, and cheese.  A popular Swiss dish that has made its way onto French menus as well is cheese fondue, a gooey pot of melted cheeses served with an array of bread cubes, pickles, and more for dipping.  A traditional combination of cheeses used in fondue consists of Gruyère and Emmenthaler (Swiss cheese).  I decided to use fondue as the inspiration for my next Olympics-related dish, macaroni and cheese done the Swiss way (and also my way).  I didn't make a straightforward fondue with the cheeses, but instead went with the classic bechamel and cheese concoction that starts many a mac and cheese.  I wanted it to be super cheesy with a nice crust, the way any good mac and cheese should be.

I also chose to bake them off in individual oven-proof bowls as opposed to a larger casserole, although either way works.  I found that each oven-proof bowl could easily serve one very hungry person, or could be split to feed two (I only ate half of one for lunch since it was pretty rich, but am looking forward to eating the rest tomorrow!).  I also decided to freeze a couple of the assembled mini casseroles to enjoy them at a later time... 'tis the joy of making them in smaller vessels.  I can just put one in the refrigerator the night before I want to enjoy it to defrost and then bake it off.  You can bake them right out of the freezer too, but I think it will take a lot longer to heat all the way through if it's rock solid.  In any case, it turned out to be quite possibly the best mac and cheese I've had!  Gruyère and Emmenthaler are a couple of my favorite cheeses and I didn't skimp on the quality, and opted to get aged versions of both, nice and flavorful.

Swiss Macaroni and Cheese
Serves 3 to 6

1/2 lb penne pasta
2 T. butter
2 T. flour
2 1/2 cups low-fat milk, heated to a simmer
8 oz Gruyère cheese, grated
6 oz Emmenthaler cheese, grated
2 slices bread, crusts removed (I used Italian whole wheat bread)
1 tsp olive oil
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the bread into pieces and put in the food processor.  Process until you have fairly fine bread crumbs.  Set aside.

Mix the shredded cheeses together in a bowl, and reserve 1/2 cup for the topping.  Set aside.

Bring a pot of water to boil.  Add salt and the pasta, and cook until just shy of al dente (it will continue cooking in the oven).  Drain and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the flour to make a roux and whisk until it is nice and smooth.  Cook for a couple minutes to cook out the raw flour flavor, but do not allow the roux to brown.

Add the hot milk a little at a time, whisking in between each addition, until all of it has been added.  Cook, constantly whisking, about 5-8 more minutes on medium heat until thickened, but do not bring it to a boil.  Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Remove from the heat and whisk in the shredded cheeses, a little at a time until completely combined.

Once the cheeses are all combined and melted, add the pasta and stir to coat.  It will be very saucy.

Divide the pasta and cheese mixture between three oven-proof bowls.  Alternatively you can use a casserole dish, or even large ramekins, depending on your preference.

Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top of each.

Drizzle the olive oil over the fresh bread crumbs and toss with your fingers to mix.  Distribute the bread crumbs over the pasta.

Bake the pasta for 20-25 minutes until nice and bubbly, and golden brown.  Allow the pasta to cool for a minute before serving, as it will be extremely hot.



Jessie said...

this is my kind of mac and cheese, I love the crust on top while it's cheesy on the inside so delicious!

Victoria K. said...

Thanks! It's a truly decadent treat, but I just have to indulge every once in a while :)

~~louise~~ said...

Ah, comfort food extraordinaire...I love that you baked them in individual ramekins. I never remember to do that...Thank you so much for sharing...

P.s. Popped in from 5 star foodie. Bookmarked!!!

Victoria K. said...

Haha, thanks, Louise! I'm so glad you made it over to Mission: Food and that you enjoyed the recipe. My goal was to make it as comforting and decadent as possible, and I think I succeeded. Also, thanks for the bookmark :) I promise not to disappoint, haha.

Anonymous said...

Mmmm... I love the crusty topping and all the delicious melted cheese goodness, yum!

Victoria K. said...

On the one hand I was worried if I added too much olive oil to the fresh bread crumbs they'd get soggy, but then I worried if I didn't add enough it wouldn't get crunchy when it baked. Well, I used very little, and the crust was SUPER crunchy! Turned out perfect :)

Lucine said...

That pic is just soooo mouthwatering! I can't WAIT to try this on Friday!!!

Victoria K. said...

I can't wait to have it again, haha :)

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