Thursday, June 23, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese with Mushrooms and Garlic

Macaroni and cheese. It has such a great ring to it. A match made in Heaven. It can come from a blue box, or better yet made from scratch with REAL CHEESE! There are so many varieties of cheese, mix-ins, even toppings that can turn a mac and cheese from boring to sublime. Entire cookbooks are devoted to these two main ingredients bound together with heat and often a bechamel base. Stove-top or baked. I like both, but generally find myself making baked mac and cheese more than the former. I just love that crust on top, and it's hard to replicate with stove-top, even if you sprinkle bread crumbs on top. It's just not the same.

A couple months back, I made a Buffalo chicken macaroni and cheese that I fell head over heels for. It got me thinking of other fun and flavorful ideas for one of my favorite food combinations. I immediately thought of mushrooms, a great meaty addition without adding actual meat. I think mushrooms and garlic were always meant to bathe together with white wine. So I took 10 cloves of garlic and minced them up. The rest, my friends, is history. With the addition of some garlic oil and garlic bread crumbs, I went to town. Although the final result is decidedly cheesy first and foremost, with each bite of garlicky mushrooms, and garlicky crunch from the breadcrumbs, this was a great adult mac and cheese that kids would enjoy too (and a great way to include veggies into one of their favorite foods... and also keep vampires away, just saying). And although sharing is caring, serving this bubbly mac and cheese in individual oven-proof bowls is genius (who doesn't like getting their own mini-casserole?).

Macaroni and Cheese with Mushrooms and Garlic
Serves 4

8 oz short pasta, such as shells or elbow macaroni (whole-grain is fine)
2 T. plus 2 tsp. garlic oil*
10 oz cremini (baby portabella) mushrooms, sliced
10 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup white wine
2 T. unsalted butter
3 T. flour
3 cups low-fat milk, heated to a simmer
8 oz sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
2 oz Monterey Jack cheese, grated
1 1/2 T. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 cup garlic bread crumbs**

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

Meanwhile, heat a non-stick sauté pan over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of the garlic oil. Add the mushrooms and cook until golden and tender, stirring frequently, about 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and add the garlic and cook for another couple minutes until softened. Add the white wine and cook until the wine is absorbed by the mushrooms, another 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Melt the 2 tablespoons butter with 1 tablespoon garlic oil 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 to 8 more minutes on medium heat until thickened, allowing it to bubble and simmer, but not come up to a full boil. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and whisk in the 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. Fold in the garlicky mushrooms. Pour the pasta mixture evenly into 4 oven-proof bowls to make individual portions, or alternatively into a baking dish.

Toss the garlic bread crumbs with the remaining 2 teaspoons garlic oil and mix to combine. Distribute the  mixture over the pasta. Bake for 20 to 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.

*To make garlic oil/garlic confit: Place garlic cloves in a small saucepan and cover with vegetable or olive oil.  Heat slowly over low heat until the garlic is completely tender (this may take 45 minutes to an hour so keep an eye on the garlic and don't let it brown). Remove the garlic from the oil. This is your garlic confit, and you can reserve it for another use. Let the oil cool. Alternatively, store the garlic confit in the garlic oil and just use either one as needed.

**To make the garlic bread crumbs: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Place thin rustic bread slices on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and place the sheet in the oven. Toast the bread until golden brown and dry, rotating the tray so the bread toasts evenly, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately rub the toasts with a whole clove of garlic. Allow to cool. Process the bread in a food processor until the crumbs are fine. Set aside.

I'm submitting this macaroni and cheese to My Meatless Mondays hosted by My Sweet and Savory and Presto Pasta Nights hosted this week by Briciole.

Get Grillin’ with Family Fresh Cooking and Cookin’ Canuck, sponsored by Ile de France Cheese, Rösle, Emile Henry, Rouxbe and ManPans.


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