Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Gruyere & Emmentaler Macaroni & Cheese

I threw this little bit of heaven together last week when I was in serious need of comfort food and when it comes to comfort food, it's gotta involve cheese. I finally got my mitts on my library wait-list copy of Melt: The Art of Macaroni and CheeseHow the book came on my radar is still a chain of links that I can't even recall, but I took one look at the cover, I knew I must possess it, even if only for 3 weeks. Inside there's one gorgeous, mouth-watering recipe after another. After tagging pretty much every dang page, I got down to some serious study whilst trying to decide where to start.
I am sooo lucky, not only to live in the foodie mecca that is San Francisco, I also have a whole world of amazing artisanal cheeses at my fingertips every day because I work here and I just so happen work along side some the best cheesemongers in the business, like this guy.
Turns out there are endlessly wonderful ways in which macaroni meets and mingles with a vast variety of cheeses.  I shall explore as many ways as my heart, wallet and waistline will permit. 
I have to admit that my first line of editing the number of tagged recipes was cost. Many of these artisanal cheeses can cost upwards of $30 a pound, and when you're tossing meat into the pot, well...it's not an after-work, week-night family dinner.
Fortunately, I don't have to cook for a family. Just me. Eating Mac 'n Cheese all to myself. I decided to start with a simple classic. Gruyere and Emmentaler Macaroni and Cheese. The cheese purchase included Cave Aged Gruyere and Holey Cow, an Emmental-style cheese from the Central Coast Creamery in California. The recipe includes Black Forest Ham cut into 1/2 inch chunks. I bought the sliced version and cut it into small strips. I also included some left-over Italian sausage.
My only mistake was buying the sourdough from my neighborhood super-market. I thought the small "fresh-baked" house-brand boule would be just fine. Wrong. It wasn't until the next day I tasted  the leftover bread  side by side with a fresh Acme sourdough baguette that I saw the light. The boule was remarkably doughy and sour-not in a good way at all. It was so awful, I just let it dry out for bread crumbs.
I've been learning a lot of valuable lessons after almost a year at the market, the most important being spend the extra $ for the good stuff. The more flavorful your components are, the less you need. The less you need, the less you spend.
This turned out beautiful in spite of the bread debacle. The flavors were rich and savory and didn't take much to satisfy. What used to be a 4 serving casserole (in my world) is 6 with ingredients like this and thusly cost effective.
Good Stuff!

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