Thursday, September 11, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers: Grown Up Mac and Cheese

I have to say that I don't watch Ina Garten on TV. I don't know why. It's not that I don't like her show or her food. Her show just must not be on when I usually watch TV, I guess, so I wasn't really familiar with her food. Lately I'd been noticing more of the Barefoot Bloggers posts. You know, the group that picks a couple of Ina's recipes to blog about each month. Well I started to notice that a lot of the recipes I was bookmarking happened to be Barefoot Bloggers posts. So I decided to jump in and join them and this was a great recipe to start with. Nothing too intimidating about mac and cheese. (Well, there is the blue cheese aspect ...) So I sent off an email asking to join the group and optimistically headed off to the grocery store to gather the ingredients I needed to make Ina Garten's Grown Up Mac and Cheese.

I was a little leery of her combination of Gruyere, cheddar and blue cheese. We really aren't big blue cheese fans around here but I figured "in for a penny, in for a pound!" and bought all three.Unfortunately, dh was home for lunch that day and in my excitement, I had the great idea to fix BLT's using some of those great home-grown tomatoes. They were delicious, btw. So much so we ate all the bacon without giving it a second thought. So my Grown Up Mac and Cheese ended up bacon-less. It was still pretty tasty though.

The blue cheese was much less noticeable than I'd feared and while dh wasn't that impressed upon the first bite, (he's not a big fan of change), he did clean his plate and say that it really was better tasting than he'd originally thought. For myself, while I doubt that I'll make this exact recipe as written again, I did have two helpings. ;-) Though it wasn't overpowering, next time I think I'd leave out the blue cheese. I'm just not a blue cheese fan, I guess. I think it would be awesome without it. (I can just imagine how awesome it would be with bacon. Yum! Note to self: Next time DO NOT eat all of the bacon beforehand!)

My main disappointment was in the breadcrumb topping. Normally I hate it when people use breadcrumb topping because they almost always use those dry, tasteless, pre-packaged bread crumbs. Blech! These were made from fresh bread (but white bread? Really? Wouldn't a nice wheat work too?) The taste and texture were perfect (even with the white bread. LOL!) and they browned to a beautiful color and consistency. But by adding the fresh basil and baking it for 40 minutes, the fresh basil turned an unappealing black color. I picked up a bottle of freeze-dried basil at the store the other day. I wonder if that might hold up a bit better in the oven? I may try that sometime.

All in all, it was an easy recipe and pretty tasty too. I made a second batch, using only cheddar cheese for the girls and they are still raving about it. That's really saying something since their favorite mac and cheese usually comes in a blue box. Thanks to Heather of Randomosity and the Girl for picking this weeks recipe. You can find the original recipe here. And you can check out the Barefoot Bloggers Blogroll to find out what everyone else thought about this grown up version of an old favorite recipe.

Grown Up Mac and Cheese

Recipe courtesy of Ina Garten

4 ounces thick-sliced bacon
Vegetable oil
Kosher salt
2 cups elbow macaroni or cavatappi
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
3 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
2 ounces blue cheese, such as Roquefort, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
2 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place a baking rack on a sheet pan and arrange the bacon in 1 layer on the baking rack. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the bacon is crisp. Remove the pan carefully from the oven - there will be hot grease in the pan! Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and crumble when it is cool enough to handle.

Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. Melt the butter in a medium pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or 2 more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, blue cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and crumbled bacon and stir well. Pour into 2 individual size gratin dishes.

Place the bread slices in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until you have coarse crumbs. Add the basil and pulse to combine. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top of the pasta. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.


Esi said...

Welcome to Barefoot Bloggers!

Cole said...

This recipe sound WONDERFUL, but I'm with you, I think I'll leave off the blue cheese. My mother was raised by a single mom who never had the time to teach her to cook and consequently never taught me so at 30 years old I'm just now starting to figure out how to cook without the microwave! I can't wait to try this one!