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A Mac n’ Cheese Redux

Since we’ve launched the new blog, we’ve be looking back at all our old posts. Some we’ve reread with nostalgia.  Others make us wince as we scroll past some terrible photos alongside minimal text. Basically, it’s made us realise that we’ve come a long way with this little food blog of ours. So I thought it might be interesting to revisit some of my old recipes that didn’t get the photos they deserve on the first go around. And since some of you back home are starting to drift into cooler temps and comfort food beckons, I thought it only appropriate to make one of my go-to meals: mac n’ cheese.  I was worried that this Hong Kong mac might not match up to previous version made in the US and the UK. Since fresh cream is not available here, I had to substitute with whole milk.  But even with the sub, I’m happy to report that this attempt was just as good, if not better than those I’ve made in the motherland. The original copy from the first post is below with a few recipe tweaks and new, sexy photos.

mac n' cheeseyTom and I have pretty similar tastes when it comes to food, but there is one big point of contention between us. I like saucy mac ‘n cheese. He likes the dry, baked version. I don’t know if this is an “English” thing, but either way, I had to come up with a recipe that works for both of us. This incorporates a little oven action without compromising the creaminess. You can easily riff off this recipe by switching out the cheeses, veg, or meat to your liking.

  • 6 slices of bacon, cut into chunks
  • one bunch of chives
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp of butter
  • 2 Tbsp of flour
  • 1 large block of mature cheddar cheese, preferable a UK variety
  • 750-1000 ml of whole milk or cream
  • 1 very large spoonful of mascarpone cheese
  • 2 generous glugs of English ale
  • 325 g of pasta
  • 6-8 wheat crackers, preferable Carr’s Melts Original or Rosemary

Preheat the oven to 170C/350F. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Grate the cheese and set aside. In small nonstick pan, cook the bacon until crispy. Drain the fat and set aside.

baconFinely chop the chives and set aside.

Japanese spring onionsIn a saucepan, gently heat the milk and hold until ready to use. In a separate large pot, melt the butter. Add the garlic and cook gently for 30sec to 1 minute. While this cooks, add the pasta to the boiling water.

The next step begins the “cheese” sauce. It starts as a bechamel which is a basic white sauce made up of fat, flour, and milk or cream. Once the cheese is added, it technically becomes a Mornay sauce. This is the foundation of the dish, and it’s also the easiest to muck up. I’ve botched my fair share of sauces, but if you go slowly and pay attention to the consistency, you can avoid any trauma in the end.

Keep the pot on low heat, and add the flour to the butter and garlic to make a roux. Whisk continuously so it doesn’t burn, and cook gently for 2 minutes. When the roux reaches a golden colour, whisk in a bit of the hot milk. It will form a thick paste, but as you continue whisking in a little bit more milk over time the bechamel will start to take on the right consistency. Stop adding cream when the sauce is thick and coats the back of your spoon.

bechamelNext, add the ale and then the cheddar gradually. Make sure to stir continuously so the cheese melts and doesn’t burn on the bottom.

aleStir in the mascarpone until it’s melted into the sauce.

mascarponeKeep the heat low on the cheese sauce, and check the pasta. It should be on the al dente side since you will continue cooking it in the oven. Drain, but save a mug of the water.

noodlesTo the cheese sauce add the chives, bacon, and pasta. Toss all ingredients until they are evenly coated. If the mix is too thick, add a little pasta water. Season to taste.

mac n' cheese mixtureIn a plastic bag or some grease proof paper, crush the crackers into a course crumb.

crushed rosemary crackersSpoon the mac n’ cheese into individual oven proof ramekins and sprinkle with the cracker crumbs. Bake for 10 minutes or until bubbly, then serve.

oven

7 Comments

  1. Am on diet. Stop persecuting me. Want now.

    • I fear I will always fail at diets because I will always have the cravings of a 40-year-old American male who likes beer, ribs, and anything smothered in cheese and chilli.

  2. That mac&cheese looks heavenly…never been able to find a mac&cheese which satisfied me in HK. Even the one from Red SOHO doesn’t satisfy!

    Probably a blessing for my waistline though.

    • Thanks so much! It’s actually pretty easy to make despite my hemming and hawing over the bechamel. Never tried the mac at Red, but might have to give it a go as a comparison.

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