Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese

smoked-gouda-mac-and-cheese

Winter in the mountains is long and cold and requires copious amounts of comfort food. We are having spring-like weather this week, a lovely treat, but I know better than to think we won’t have another blizzard or two before it really warms up. This time of year though, I do start thinking about favorite winter comfort foods that I have not yet made this season.  This recipe for Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese is one of those. Not to say that the dish wouldn’t make a great side for 4th of July BBQ or a Thanksgiving potluck.

This recipe is inspired by the smoked gouda mac and cheese served at Crave, a now defunct tapas place here in Boone that was once our spot for family celebrations.  My version is based on one that I found in a Special Collector’s Edition of All-Time Best Recipes, published by Cook’s Illustrated.  Their suggestion that you cook the mac and cheese on the stove, then just put it under the broiler to brown the bread crumbs is right on if you want crunchy topping, tender pasta and creamy sauce.
Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese

Ingredients:
  • 1 pound Cavatappi pasta
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, divided
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups low-fat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon Cholula hot sauce
  • 8 ounces Smoked Gouda cheese, grated
  • 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • 2/3 cup Panko
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
Directions:
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil in a dutch oven over high heat.  Stir in the pasta and tablespoon of salt.  Cook according to package directions (about 8 minutes) until just past al dente so that it is a bit tender.
  2. Drain the pasta and set aside.
  3. Return the dutch oven to medium heat.  Melt the butter, then whisk in the flour.  Cook the flour for about 1 minute, making a blond roux.
  4. Slowly whisk in one cup of milk, stirring constantly until all the lumps are dissolved.
  5. Whisk in the remaining milk, dry mustard, cayenne, and hot sauce.
  6. Turn up the heat to medium high and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly and bringing to a gentle boil so it will thicken properly.
  7. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and reduces to a heavy cream.
  8. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cheeses, remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and black pepper.
  9. Add the pasta back to the pot, stirring gently to combine.
  10. Return the pot to medium low heat.  Cook, stirring frequently, until hot.
  11. Adjust the oven rack to the lower third of the oven and preheat the broiler.
  12.  Spray a 9 X 13 glass or ceramic baking dish (or 10 ramekins) with olive oil cooking spray.
  13. Mix together the Panko and olive oil.
  14. Pour the macaroni and cheese into the pan and sprinkle evenly with the bread crumbs.
  15. Broil until the topping is deep golden brown, 3-5 minutes, rotating the pan if necessary so that the bread crumbs brown evenly.
Yield: 10-12 side servings
Prep time: 40 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
 
The Smoked Gouda adds big flavor to the mac and cheese while the Monterey Jack adds a creaminess you can’t get from using the Smoked Gouda alone. I used Cavatappi pasta rather than ordinary macaroni because I wanted to make it a little fancier.  I’ve given up trying to make the dish with the Barilla-plus pasta I usually use.  It may have more protein, fiber and Omega-3s, but the texture just doesn’t work for mac and cheese. 

Bon Appétit

Sweet and Spicy Steen’s BBQ Sauce

New Orleans and the South Louisiana region are home to a number of “specialty items” that aren’t widely available so are on my at-least-semi-annual visits — Camellia red beans for red beans and rice, olive salad for muffalettas,  Savoie’s Roux in a jar for making gumbo in a hurry, Cafe Du Monde Beignet Mix for my children who insist there is only one beignet, various perishables  and one of my favorite”secret ingredients”, Steen’s Pure Cane Syrup.
The Steen Syrup Mill has been producing cane syrup in south Louisiana for over 100 years.   They harvest the ripe cane at its sweetest, grind it down to extract the juice, then cook it in open kettles until it is thick and dark.  In addition to sauces, I like to use it in cures and on pancakes.
Local food historian Poppy Tooker speaking a couple of years ago at the  International Food Blogger Conference in New Orleans on sustainability,  promoted the idea that the way to save the region’s “endangered local foods” like Steen’s cane syrup (as well as Creole cream cheese and rice calas) is “Eat it to Save it”.  This is my contribution.
Sweet and Spicy Steen’s Barbecue Sauce
Ingredients:
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
  • 5 cups roughly chopped red onion
  • 1/3 cup minced garlic
  • 5 cups ketchup
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup Steen’s syrup
  • 1/4 Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons liquid smoke
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Directions:
  1. Melt the butter in a dutch oven over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions to the dutch oven and saute for 10 minutes or until the onions wilt and begin to turn translucent. Add the garlic and continue to saute for about 5 minutes, until the excess liquid has cooked off.
  3. Stir in the ketchup, apple cider vinegar, Steen’s, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke and red pepper flakes. Add the salt and pepper. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Use an immersion blender to puree the sauce, or cool the sauce before transferring it in batches to a conventional blender. After pureeing, simmer the sauce for 3-5 minutes. Taste to correct seasonings and remove from the heat.
Yield: 6 cups
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
I made this batch of sauce to serve with pulled pork sandwiches topped with Creamy Cole Slaw (a serving will be about two tablespoons per sandwich).  Since I planned to store and serve the sauce in plastic squirt bottles, it needed to be completely pureed and very liquid.  The longer the sauce cooks, the thicker it becomes.  If needed, the sauce can be thinned with a combination of water or chicken broth and vinegar.  I also use a thinned down version of the sauce to baste ribs or chicken while barbecuing and a cooked down version to sauce the meats just before I take them off the grill.
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