Sunday, February 3, 2013

Mac and Cheese--with a French Twist

Years ago, when my younger son was still a preschooler, he came home from a play date and said that for lunch he ate the best macaroni cheese in his life. I felt terrible that my son had the best macaroni and cheese (since I do not make it ) at someone else's home so I decided to obtain that special recipe and replicate it at home. The next day when I approached those kids' nanny about that subject, she said "Oh, we buy macaroni and cheese, the one from Kraft". I could not believe that my son's best in the world macaroni came from a 99 cents Kraft box.

Since that incident I have managed to introduce Philip to many of my home made dishes which now he likes very much and often asks for. But once in a while he gets nostalgic about that special macaroni he had at his friend's house. So I had no other choice than finally to make it myself.

I checked and compared several recipes. They often called for many other ingredients than the obvious pasta and cheese. Depending on chef's personality and origin, eggs, powdered milk, evaporated milk, and the use of different types of cheese accounted for the differences between one recipe and another.

But, instead of experimenting with any of them, I decided to go with my instinct and used simple but high quality fresh ingredients, recommended in one of the French magazines I once read.

Just after a bit more than half an hour I put a plate of my first macaroni and cheese in front of my son. He could not believe his luck. When the plate was empty in no time he admitted that this was the best mac and cheese he had in his still very short life.

Macaroni and cheese
(Serves four)

1/2 lb elbow pasta,
2/3 cup shredded Gruyère cheese and 2/3 cup shredded good quality Cheddar cheese,
1 cup crème fraîche (if you don't have it, you could use Mexican crema fresca or ordinary sour cream),
2 tbsp butter,
2 tbsp breadcrumbs,
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook pasta in a medium pot until al dente, soft but still firm.
2. Preheat oven to 370F.
3. Grease a medium oven proof dish with a tbsp of butter,
4. Mix both cheese and cream, salt and pepper.
5. Drain cooked pasta and fold in the cheese-cream mixture. Transfer to a baking dish.

6. Top with remaining butter and breadcrumbs.
7. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the top of pasta is dark gold.
Serve with cucumber or green salads