We boomers grew up on the bridge leading from food our ancestors taught us to make from scratch to corporate America’s boxed and frozen versions of those same foods that were hurled at us from the early black-and-white TV screens. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese was among those, along with Cherrios, Fig Newtons, Maypo, Ovaltine, Lorna Doones and Swanson frozen TV dinners.
Almost two hundred years ago, in 1825, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote in The Physiology of Taste, “Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you what you are.” Well, if I’m going to be part Mac ‘n’ Cheese, I don’t want Kraft® glowing in neon red, white and blue on my forehead.
Building this simple and gratifying dish on purchased, dried pasta is fine, but please don’t let the cheese be ordinary. I want an exalted Mac ‘n’ Cheese, un gratin de macaronis élevé avec les truffes, if you will. Bring on the cheddar and the chèvre, the Brie, the Fontina, the Gruyere and maybe some Camembert…….mon frère.
Clifton Fadiman is quoted as saying “Cheese – milk’s leap toward immortality.” Hey diddle, diddle, yes! Shoot for the stars, Elsie, and you too, Nanny!
In the fall of 2009, The Allison Inn and Spa opened their doors in Newberg, Oregon and elevated Oregon’s hostelry to a new plateau. With deep respect for the precious vineyard lands around them as well as the world community at large, the owners of the inn set out to create a landmark resort that would be certified as a green structure by the U.S. Green Building Council. The Inn just received a well-deserved Gold LEED certification. YES – and congratulations!
“LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system, providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.”
The Taste of Oregon posted a review of Jory Restaurant’s Thanksgiving Day meal last December. It was absolutely wonderful and the chef graciously gave us his recipe for Butternut Squash Soup. Imagine how pleased I was to spot a recipe on their Facebook page for The Allison’s Truffle Macaroni & Cheese. So, without further ado, let’s make some fancy schmancy, la-di-da, lip-smackin’ Mac ‘n’ Cheese.
The Allison’s Truffle Macaroni & Cheese
Adapted from a recipe on The Allison’s Facebook page
- 3 cups (720 ml.) macaroni, or other short pasta, cooked al dente
- 1½ cup (360 ml.) cheese sauce (see recipe below)
- ½ cup (120 ml.) toasted breadcrumbs (see recipe below)
- ¼ cup (60 ml.) Parmesan Reggiano, grated
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) fresh parsley, chervil and thyme, chopped (mix to yield 1 tablespoon)
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml.) lemon, zested
- A few drops truffle oil
- Kosher salt and cracked black peppercorn, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 350° F (177° C).
- Heat the cheese sauce and combine with the drained cooked pasta, then stir together well.
- Season the mix to taste, using kosher salt and a little cracked black peppercorn.
- Add any optional ingredients to the mix and stir in well to combine evenly.
- The mixture should be very creamy. If in doubt, add a small bit of heavy cream to adjust the consistency, remembering that it will thicken slightly while baking.
- Pour the mix into an appropriate-sized baking dish.
- Combine the toasted breadcrumbs with the grated Parmesan, chopped herb mix and grated lemon zest; toss together well, then sprinkle the breadcrumb mix evenly on top.
- Bake 30 minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.
- Drizzle a few drops of the truffle oil over each serving to taste.
Ingredients for the cheese sauce: (This recipes yields more than required)
- 1 cup (240 ml.) milk
- ½ cup (120 ml.) heavy cream
- 1½ cup (360 ml.) grated assorted cheeses – Gruyere, cheddar, Fontina work well together
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) butter
- 1 small bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) shallots, finely diced
- Pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Heat the ingredients together in a small sauce pan, and stir to melt the cheeses completely, being careful not to overcook the cheese lest it become rubbery and/or the emulsion break.
- If the mix looks like it needs it, you can bind the sauce lightly by using cornstarch slurry (1 tablespoon [15 ml.] cornstarch and 1 tablespoon [15 ml.] water mixed), adding this after the cheese melts, then bringing to a boil for 30 seconds while whisking to gel the starch.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper, then remove the bay leaf.
Suggestions from Jory Restaurant: You can vary these according to taste to yield different results−fresh chèvre, Montasio, Reggiano, brie, etc. Combine mellow and sharp-flavored cheeses, and balance soft and hard cheese types, as well as various milk types−sheep, goat, cow, etc.
Ingredients for the toasted breadcrumbs:
- ¾ cup (180 ml.) fresh breadcrumbs from white artisan-style bread, crusts removed
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) butter
- Heat the butter in a small sauté pan, and add the breadcrumbs.
- Stir while cooking over medium heat until the breading begins to turn light golden color.
- Remove and allow to cool on a platter. (This can be done a day ahead, if desired, and kept refrigerated.)
Suggestions from Jory Restaurant: Other variations upon the basic mac ‘n’ cheese include adding lobster pieces, shrimp, or crab meat, etc., to the cheese. Play and enjoy!
Enjoy with your favorite wine−from Oregon, of course.
Category: Side Dish
About the Author (Author Profile)
Music, food and photography are at the center of Charles’ life. He performed with the Dallas Symphony, Dallas Opera and was assistant principal bassoonist with the Fort Worth Symphony for more than 20 years. When Charles and Victor moved to Baltimore, Charles created Lone Star Personal Chef and Catering Service and taught cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma. Now in Salem, Charles is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Mountain West Real Estate, taught cooking classes for children at the A.C. Gilbert Discovery Village, and owns and operates Charles Price Photography. Charles and Vic enjoy entertaining and frequently host dinners as fundraisers for local non-profits and charities