27 February 2013

20 in my 20th: Make Ina Garten's Mac n Cheese

Back in May of 2011, a few days after I turned 20, I had the idea to make a list of 20 things I wanted to do in my 20th year. I did a handful and blogged about them, and then I stopped blogging when life got crazy. I actually still did a few more before my 21st birthday last May though, about half in total. I even have pictures, I just never blogged about it. So, over the next few weeks I'm going to be posting a few 20 in my 20ths that never got their rightful post back when I did them.

#15. Make this mac and cheese

I wanted to make this mac and cheese ever since I saw the Barefoot Contessa episode where Ina Garten makes it. I only have three distinct memories of Ina Garten. An episode of BC where she put a tbsp of butter inside each hamburger patty,  the episode of 30 rock where Liz Lemon fantasizes about Ina inviting over for a bruschetta and a bottle of white wine, and the episode in which she made this macaroni and cheese.

Ina's recipes are always kind of over-the-top decadent, but where Paula Dean's zealous misuse of butter seems startling and unwarranted, Ina is so sweet and soft-spoken that all your calorie woes are easily forgotten.

Enter this mac and cheese.

It has a full pound each of pasta and cheese, a quart of whole milk, sherry, and yeah, a sh*tload of butter. But it also has mushrooms, so.. yeah.

I made this probably like a year ago and it was a. expensive (10 dollars for 3 oz of truffle butter, not to mention the 12 oz of gruyere....) b. time consuming (shopping for all the obscure ingredients, chopping a pound of mushrooms, etc) and c. one of the best thing's I've EVER cooked or tasted. I seriously remember the night I made it, sitting at home by myself with a plate of it in front of me and marveling at how out of this world amazing it was. It was quite a moment. I haven't made it since... mostly because it's hard for me to ever justify making mac and cheese (even though it's one of my favorite things to cook), let alone one that will set me back 60$. But IF the right time should arise again... say for a holiday, or if I could somehow get people to pay me for it... I would gladly do so.

This recipe is pretty much copied and pasted from foodnetwork.com, just with some of my pictures added. I made no variations to the recipe when I made it.

Also forgive the quality of these photos... they were taken in my old, old apartment complex (Lantana). I have since lived in two different homes, both of which have much better lighting. better pretty much everything actually.


2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Good olive oil
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms
3 tablespoons cream sherry
Kosher salt
1 pound pasta, such as cavatappi
3 ounces white truffle butter (recommended: D'Artagnan)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 quart whole milk, scalded
12 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (4 cups)
8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (2 1/2 to 3 cups)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley leaves
1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove caps from mushrooms and slice into 1/4-1/2 inch slices. (I sliced mine 1/2 inch but found that some of the bigger shiitake pieces were a little overwhelming and difficult to eat)

that's a lot of mushrooms..
 Heat the butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch) saute pan, add the mushrooms, and cook over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, until they are tender. Add the sherry and continue to saute for a few more minutes, until the sherry is absorbed. Set aside. (I did this in two batches. seriously, sooo many mushrooms)

doesn't look that appetizing... but just the mushrooms cooked in butter, olive oil, and sherry were so yummy
 Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Add the pasta and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until al dente. Drain well.

Meanwhile, melt the truffle butter in a large (4-quart) saucepan and whisk in the flour.

Cook for 2 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. Slowly whisk in the hot milk and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the white sauce is thickened and creamy. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1 1/2 tablespoons salt, the pepper, and nutmeg.

Combine the pasta, sauce, and mushrooms in a large bowl and pour them into a 10 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish.
Place the garlic and parsley in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until they're minced. Add the bread crumbs and pulse to combine. Sprinkle the crumbs over the pasta and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the crumbs are golden brown. Serve hot. 

I have no idea why I didn't take a picture of it actually served. Hm. Anyways... This was crazy decadent, delicious, and hands down the best mac and cheese I've ever made or eaten. Glad I got the important things done in my 20th year ;)

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