In the last couple of weeks I confessed to never having eaten macaroni and cheese, and have since gone on to make a “classic” version of this traditional dish – an experiment that I’m happy to say had generally positive results. But I’ve also been intrigued by some of the more extravagant recipes that I discovered along the way, and have been looking forward to trying something a little more inspired – something that the true macaroni and cheese purists would definitely disapprove of.
According to my research, this suggests that I need to try something that includes more than one kind of cheese, as well as something else – perhaps ham, bacon or lobster. It would seem as though the possibilities are endless, and it certainly hasn’t been difficult to find numerous alternative recipes. As my only other attempt at macaroni and cheese made use of a recipe from the American food magazine Saveur, it seemed sensible to look to them again, and from their suggested 10 variations I couldn’t resist this one that includes three types of cheese, as well as lobster.
Although I’ve never used fontina before I can see why it could work really well here. Indeed, the combination of the cheese – which also included mascarpone and cheddar – along with the milk, meant that it fulfilled more of my expectations and preconceptions about macaroni and cheese than the more traditional version I tried last week. It’s definitely creamier and cheesier, and I preferred both the flavour and the texture of this ‘luxury’ version.
However, it is a pretty expensive dish to make, and in that respect – along with both the calorie count and total amount of saturated fat – it certainly doesn’t represent an ‘everyday’ sort of macaroni and cheese. It’s also worth pointing out that their recipe (apparently) serves eight – ten people. I’m certain that this is something of an over-estimate, but I can’t quite decide whether Saveur:
(1) assumes that everyone is catering for people with teeny tiny appetites;
(2) made a mistake (this is not enough for 8-10 people);
(3) calculated the cost of the ingredients, and concluded that this is the maximum amount that anyone would actually be prepared to make;
(4) designed it as a side-dish.
When I made half the amount for two (which according to Saveur should have fed 4-5 people) we ate almost all of it. Yikes. Admittedly, we probably ate more than we had to, but it’s also – surely deliberately – a delightful and decadent dish that’s designed to be eaten on special occasions, which are exactly the times that we tend to indulge.
But on the whole, I would recommend it, and actually would choose it over the traditional version. It’s even likely that I’ll make it again (although probably not often), and if so, I’ll omit the lobster which really didn’t contribute much at all, which is a shame. It worked well served with a simple green salad that also included chopped fennel and a few olives, as well as a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice and mustard.
Recipe: Luxury Macaroni and Cheese
12oz elbow macaroni
4 tbsp unsalted butter
¼ cup flour
4 cups milk
11 oz fontina, grated
8 oz mascarpone
3 tbsp fish broth
3 tbsp brandy
1 tsp Tabasco
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper
8 oz cooked lobster, cut into 1 inch chunks
1/3 chives, chopped
2 scallions (spring onions), thinly sliced
2 oz cheddar, grated
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until smooth. Stir in the milk and cook, continuing to stir, until the sauce has thickened. This will probably take about 10 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in two cups of fontina, along with the mascarpone, broth, brandy, Tabasco, and nutmeg. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the reserved pasta to the cheese sauce. Stir in the lobster, as well as half the chives and scallions.
Transfer the mixture to a 9 inch x 13 inch baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining fontina and the cheddar. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before serving, garnished with the remaining chives and scallions.