Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Ultimate Mac and Cheese Showdown

May Wine Club will go down in fatty infamy, for it is the day Wine Club had a mac 'n' cheese throwdown and it was amazing. We sampled six types of mac, literally saving up our calories for dinner that night. Not a single mac wasn't delicious, and every single one had its own special spin on the classic. 

That, my friends, is a mac and cheese sampler. I was happy as a clam! And now YOU'RE going to be even happier, because I have recipes under the jump and you can now follow Wine Club's favorite things Pinterest board.

Healthy Avocado Mac

Jen made a healthy mac, using wheat macaroni, avocado, monterey jack cheese and cilantro to give it a bit of a kick and unique flavor. It tasted really fresh and delicious. She based her recipe off of this one, with a couple modifications (like the wheat pasta).

10 ounces dry elbow macaroni
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 avocados, peeled and pitted
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
2 cups shredded Pepper Jack cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh avocado chunks, for garnish, if desired

  1. Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Salt the water and add in macaroni. Stir and cook until Al Dente, about 8-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, make the avocado sauce by placing the garlic, avocados, lime juice, cilantro, salt and pepper into a food processor or blender. Process until smooth and creamy. Set aside.
  3. To make the cheese sauce, place butter in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat. When butter is melted, whisk in flour to create a paste. Whisk in milk until smooth. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sauce starts to thicken. Add in Pepper Jack cheese and stir until cheese is melted and sauce is creamy.
  4. Place macaroni in a large bowl. Pour the avocado sauce over the macaroni and stir until well coated. Add the cheese sauce and stir until macaroni is coated and creamy. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve warm. Garnish with fresh avocado chunks, if desired.
Note-the lime juice keeps the avocado from browning. The mac and cheese is best eaten the first day, but it is still good the second day.

Stacie's Cheddar Mac with Bacon & Broccoli

Stacie's bowtie mac and cheese won her first place in a friend's mac competition in 2013 and was a delicious combination of flavors, both bold and subtle. 

4 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups cold milk
1 bay leaf
4 ounces shredded parmesan cheese
8 ounces extra sharp white cheddar (I use Sargento’s® Chef Blends™ Shredded 4 State Cheddar™ Cheese – 7.5 oz.)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 pound pasta (ziti/rigatoni/shells…whatever you like or have on hand)
1 head broccoli, cut into florets, florets sliced into bite size pieces
6 slices center cut bacon, cooked, cooled and crumbled
1 tablespoon fresh, chopped parsley (Dry works, too)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a 13 x 9 inch baking dish.
  2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Stir in garlic. Add the flour and continue stirring for one minute. Add the milk all at once along with the bay leaf. Cook, whisking the mixture until it comes to a boil and thickens, about 5-8 minutes. Add the cheeses, turn the heat to low and simmer until melted. Stir in cayenne pepper and nutmeg. Remove the bay leaf and season with pepper to taste.
  3. Boil pasta in rapidly boiling water until almost tender (I add Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Kosher Salt to the water). Add the broccoli to the pasta and cook until broccoli is barely tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer the pasta mixture to the baking dish. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon, fresh parsley and a handful of parmesan cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes.
  4. Uncover the last five minutes to let the edges brown slightly and make sure the cheese is boiling.

Erica's Southwestern Mac

Erica winged her recipe for a Southwestern mac and damn if it wasn't one of the best macs I've ever had! I'm actually craving it just thinking about it. 

1 box of elbow macaroni or shells
1 block of Velveeta cheese (the non-refrigerated version)
1 small onion, diced
2 green onions, diced
1 can of corn (drained)
1 can of diced fire-roasted tomatoes (drained)
1/4 to 1/2 cup of skim milk
Chili powder to taste
Southwest seasoning to taste
*optional: minced jalapeno or hot pepper of choice for extra fire

  1. Cook pasta in large spaghetti pot as directed on package for al dente pasta. Drain well and put back into pot on low heat.
  2. Cube Velveeta cheese and mix into pasta with onion. Gradually stir in milk until smooth.
  3. Stir in most of the corn, green onions and diced tomatoes, leaving some of each for garnish.
  4. Add seasoning and chili powder to taste.
  5. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until well-blended, then remove from heat.
  6. Garnish with remaining corn, green onions and diced tomatoes evenly over top.
  7. Bake 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown on top. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Ashleigh and Lauren's World's Best Mac & Cheese

Ashleigh and Lauren spoiled us rotten and made the much-lauded, Oprah-approved Beecher's Mac. They literally had to go to Wegman's 3 hours away while visiting family to get the cheese and let me tell you, IT WAS WORTH IT. This mac had layers of flavor and every bite was amazing; I had two heaping portions and I wish I'd had more.

Butter or vegetable oil, for baking dish
6 ounces of penne
1 ounce of grated cheddar cheese
1 ounce of grated gruyere cheese
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of chipotle chile powder

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or oil an 8-inch baking dish and set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Cooke penne according to package directions, but 2 minutes less than recommended to get it al dente.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together cooked pasta and sauce (that's a whole 'nother recipe) gently but thoroughly. Pour pasta into a prepared baking dish; sprinkle with cheeses and chile powder.
  4. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Melissa's Comfort Food Shells & Cheese

At press time, I don't have this recipe, but I'll let you know if I get it! Melissa begged a coworker for her recipe for the best comfort food mac ever, so it might need to stay top secret per the Girl Code. But let's just say it involves one secret weapon: condensed milk.

Amber's Smoked Gouda Mac with Candied Bacon

And last but not least, I combined all of my mac and cheese experiments into this, what I consider my penultimate mac. I will admit it was at its peak deliciousness when it was fresh, but I had some reheated mac 3 days later for dinner and it was amazing.

For Mac
1 Box of Elbow Macaroni
2 cups of shredded gouda
2 cups of shredded cheddar (I used Cabot)
2 tablespoons of butter
1 teaspoon of flour
2 cups of heavy cream (I eyeballed this, frankly)
Salt & Pepper
Cooking spray
Optional: Chives & crushed potato chips for topping

For Bacon
Thick Cut Bacon Strips
1 cup of whiskey or bourbon
Plate full of brown sugar mixed with cayenne pepper

  1. Prepare macaroni as directed on packaging.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.
  3. Meanwhile, bring whiskey to a boil and simmer until it reduces by about half
  4. Create an assembly line for your whiskey reduction, bacon and brown sugar. Dip each strip of bacon in the whiskey, then press both sides of each strip into the brown sugar mixture. Set aside on the foil-lined baking sheet.
  5. Bake the bacon for about 7 minutes, then flip and cook 5 more. It's very important to keep an eye on the bacon because all that sugar will burn! Remove when it's reached your desired crispness and trim the bacon into small bites.
  6. In a skillet or saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of butter on medium heat. Working quickly, sprinkle flour into the melted butter and whisk to create a thick roux.
  7. Add your heavy cream and allow it to bubble up, then stir it and allow it to happen again and again until it's reduced down to desired thickness.
  8. Stir in the cheese 1 cup at a time, adjusting cream levels as needed. Add paprika, nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Once the cheese sauce is perfect, add the macaroni to the sauce and fold in to coat completely. Stir in the bacon bites and mix well.
  10. Transfer the entire mixture to a baking dish sprayed with cooking spray, top with additional cheese, bacon, chives and crushed potato chips before placing in the oven to get melty and bubbly. Once the cheese is melted, turn on the broiler for a minute to get it bubbly and brown and perfect.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Yay. This is awesome. Thanks for posting.