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Disclosure: I received a free copy of Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese. Thanks, Little, Brown and Co! The link to purchase the book from Amazon is an affiliate link, which means I will get a few cents per sale. The affiliate earnings do not affect the price you pay.
When I was asked to review Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese, I jumped at the chance. I am a huge fan of noodles with cheese. That’s not to say that I have always loved macaroni and cheese, though. I did not really like the baked macaroni and cheese that I grew up eating. I used to tell people that I didn’t like macaroni and cheese, but I found out later that I just didn’t like my Mom’s macaroni and cheese. Sorry Mom, but there you have it.
The good news is that, since adulthood, I have rarely had macaroni and cheese that I don’t like.
Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese
Stehpanie Stiavetti and Garrett McCord have put together what could rightfully be called a Compendium of macaroni and cheese: almost every possible iteration of noodle from macaroni to orzo to egg noodles put together with almost every possible iteration of cheese from homemade paneer to Humboldt Fog to fromage blanc. Stove top, baked, casseroles, stuffed meats, soups, salads, even desserts, our idea of what constitutes macaroni and cheese is expanded until we can start to see the endless possibilities.
And that, I think, is really what a good cookbook should be. It should show us the possibilities and then invite us to play and make our own combinations.
The bar is high here. Just take a look at some of these recipe titles, and you’ll start to get a feel for the spirit of the book:
Asparagus Salad with Ricotta Salata, Fava Beans, Mint, and Farfalle, p. 43
Soba Noodles with Parmesan and Pan-Seared Brussels Sprouts, p. 79
Chili-Mac with Redwood Hill Smoked Goat Cheddar, pp. 82-83
Pastitsio with Kefalotyri and Lamb, pp. 119-120
Peppers Stuffed with Miticrema and Toasted Orzo, p;. 146-148
La Tur with Conchiglie, Nectarines, and Apricot Jam, p. 190
As you can tell, even from this short list, these are far from your mother’s macaroni and cheese. And while all are comfort food, many also bring sweetness or brightness or crispness or textural contrast to your plate. Stiavetti and McCord ask macaroni and cheese to be all that it can be, and it more than steps up to the plate, so to speak.
So, what did I make? We enjoyed a lovely, rich stove top macaroni and cheese last night, Grand Ewe (a sheep’s milk Gouda) with Golden Raisins, Pine Nuts and Macaroni.
I could not find the Grand Ewe (read: they didn’t have it at Kroger), so I used a good quality cow’s milk Gouda that was just barely sharp and nutty. The other change I made was to use rotini rather than elbows, just because rotini is so cute. I also almost doubled the recipe. I didn’t really measure anything except the milk, but I feel pretty confident that if what I made was even partly as good as the original, this is truly a winning recipe.
And easy to make, too. It’s a mornay sauce made with the Gouda and some mascarpone (which is gilding the lily a bit, but why not, I ask you?) with the addition of golden raisins and toasted pine nuts. The pine nuts add not only a welcome crunch but also underscore the buttery-nuttiness of the Gouda, and the bright fruitiness of the raisins save the dish from being too rich. It is well-balanced and just about perfect.
Look, here it is now, reprinted with permission from Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese by Stephanie Stiavetti and Garrett McCord, Little, Brown and Company, 2013.
- 10 ounces elbow macaroni
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup golden raisins
- 8 oz Grand Ewe Sheep's-milk Gouda, , rind removed, shredded
- 1/4 cup mascarpone
- 1 cup coarsely chopped pine nuts, , toasted lightly, divided
- Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain through a colander and set aside.
- To prepare the mornay sauce, heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. As soon as the milk starts to steam and tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan, turn off the heat. Place the butter in a medium saucepan and melt over medium flame. Add the flour and stir with a flat-edge wooden paddle just until the roux begins to take on a light brown color, scraping the bottom to prevent burning, abo9ut 3 minutes. Slowly add the milk and stir constantly until the sauce thickens enough to evenly coat the back of a spoon--a finger drawn along the back of the spoon should leave a clear swath. Stir in salt, pepper, and golden raisins. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add Gouda and mascarpone, and stir until completely melted. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.
- Pour sauce over pasta and stir in half of the pine nuts. Serve in bowls, topped with the remaining pine nuts for garnish.
Alternative Cheese: Ewephoria sheep's-milk Gouda, Cypress Grove Lamb Chopper, or Trader Joe's generic sheep's-milk Gouda. If all else fails, you can use a regular cow's-milk Gouda, which will still shine.
Wine Pairings: dry Riesling, Merlot
Additional Pairings for the Cheese: olives, prosciutto, apples
The Beloved and I both really enjoyed this macaroni and cheese. The raisins seriously made the dish, although I could make a case for using dried cranberries and then serving it as a side dish for Thanksgiving, the holiday where carbs are king!
Are you a macaroni and cheese fan? Have you picked up a copy of Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese yet? And do you have macaroni and cheese at Thanksgiving at your house? We never had, but that may change, thanks to my newly expanded idea of what macaroni and cheese can be.
Thanks so much for reading, and I hope you have a lovely day.