I entered a recipe contest, you guys. The contest, which I heard about at the Food & Wine Conference in Orlando a couple of months ago, was sponsored by Cabot Cheese to help publicize their Farmer's Legacy Cheddar Cheeses. The Beloved and I had had one of the Farmer's Legacy cheeses, White Oak Cheddar, long before I even heard about this contest. I even used the White Oak Cheddar in the Envy Apple Salad I posted a few months ago, although I didn't name it then since it was a sponsored post for the fine New Zealand fruit folks. And now you know.
The contest challenged entrants to use at least 2 ounces of one of Farmers' Legacy Cheddar Cheeses in an update to a family recipe, and I chose to update my mom's baked macaroni and cheese.
I'm not sure if you've heard me tell the story about how I thought I didn't like macaroni and cheese when I was a kid. It turns out, I wasn't really a fan of my mom's mac and cheese though. Sorry Mom, but there you have it. I'm not sure why I didn't like my mom's macaroni and cheese. I mean, what's not to like about cheesy noodles? Still, I dinstinctly remember being Not Thrilled whenever it showed up on the dinner table. Maybe it's because we always ate it covered in ketchup (I was only following my dad's example), or maybe it's because mom has a very light hand with the salt. And you know how I feel about salt.
So, how does a recipe that I admittedly didn't even like become the basis for a recipe contest in which I will (positive thinking) win $5000 with another $5000 going to the charity of my choice? This is a fair question. When I decided to give mom's baked macaroni & cheese a reboot, I called her up to ask how she made it. And it sounded pretty much like how I make my macaroni and cheese. Sneaky! I made a couple of variations, added a couple of eggs for richness, enough salt to bring out the flavor of the cheese, and a crispy panko topping, and I was in business.
Let me take a minute to tell you about the cheeses I used. The White Oak Cheddar is simply spectacular. It melts well, and it's also delicious on its own. It's buttery, somewhat sharp and complex. The Alpine Cheddar is described on the packaging as nutty and smooth with hints of Swiss and Parmesan. That hits the nail on the head. It does taste a bit like a mixture of cheeses with some of the sharp saltiness of Parmesan and the lovely mellow nuttiness of Swiss. Using the two cheeses together made for a cheese sauce that tasted like it contained many cheeses and not just two.
If you're a fan of old-fashioned baked macaroni and cheese, all bubbly and golden brown straight from the oven, then look no further than my Double the Legacy Baked Macaroni and Cheese. Best of luck to all the entrants. Please check out the Cabot Cheese Cabot Farmer's Legacy Recipe Pinterest board to see all the entries.
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- ⅔ cup (3 oz) sweet onion, small dice
- 1 ½- 1¾ teaspoons kosher salt, divided use
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 Tablespoons all purpose flour
- 3 cups (24 oz) half and half
- 2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- 3 oz (1/2 package) Cabot Farmer’s Legacy Collection Alpine Cheddar Cheese, coarsely grated
- 3 oz (1/2 package) Cabot Farmer’s Legacy Collection White Oak Cheddar Cheese, coarsely grated
- 2 large eggs
- 12 oz penne or favorite short pasta shape, cooked to al dente according to package directions.
- ¾ cup panko bread crumbs
- 1 oz (1/6 package) Cabot Farmer’s Legacy Collection Alpine Cheddar Cheese, finely grated
- 1 oz (1/6 package) Cabot Farmer’s Legacy Collection White Oak Cheddar Cheese, finely grated
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon melted butter
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the 3 Tablespoons of butter over medium heat.
- When the butter is sizzling, add the diced onion, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and ½ teaspoon black pepper.
- Cook, stirring to keep the onions moving, until they are translucent and just starting to color, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add the flour and cook another 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Pour in the half and half all at once, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
- Once the dairy mixture has reached a boil, stir in the mustard powder, sweet paprika and garlic powder. Reduce the heat to medium-low to low and maintain a low simmer for 5 minutes to thicken the sauce, stirring frequently to keep the sauce from sticking.
- Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the two cheddar cheeses, a bit at a time, until all the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth. Stir in the remaining ½-3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt, to taste.
- Allow the sauce to cool while you cook and drain the pasta.
- Whisk the two eggs into the somewhat cooled sauce until well-combined.
- Thoroughly fold the pasta into the sauce. Distribute the pasta among 4-6 large (1.5 cup to 2 cup capacity) ramekins.
- Evenly divide the panko mixture on top of the ramekins of macaroni and cheese, and press down gently.
- Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake at 350F in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes, or until bubbling.
- Broil for 1-2 minutes until the topping is of your desired deep golden brown.
- Stir together the panko, three cheeses, salt and pepper.
- Evenly drizzle in the melted butter and work it in until all the panko is moistened.
Please wish me luck in the contest--this is kind of a new thing for me. And best of luck to everyone who entered. Folks have come up with tons of ideas for using Cabot Farmers Legacy Cheese in their family recipes.
Thanks for spending some time with me today. Have a lovely day.