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Title: What We're Eating Address: www.whatwereeating.com Author: Amanda and Tyler From: Ocean Beach Blogging since: July 2005 Post Date: January 5, 2007 Post Title: Orgasmic Mac-n-Cheese

T: I gotta say, Amanda, this mac-n-cheese was out of this world. I believe it came from another planet. It was outrageously tasty. A: Why, thank ya, Mister T! Mac-n-cheese happens to be one of those foods that I find totally decadent and just absolutely love (when it's made well).

T: I grew up eating boxed mac-n-cheese, like, 95 percent of the time. I never had much real mac-n-cheese. And when I did, it was not creamy at all.

A: I grew up with a similar mac-n-cheese experience. On occasion, my dad would make mac-n-cheese and throw in tomatoes and good cheddar, but it was always dry and gritty. A common outcome when you don't use the béchamel-based cheese sauce and just try to toss the macaroni with some cheese and bake it.

T: Yeah, that's the way I would have thought to do it...make some box mac-n-cheese and throw some cheddar on there or boil some macaroni and then just put cheddar on it. Either way, I'd be sucking.

A: I'm sure if you did any research before you made it, you wouldn't do that. There are tons of recipes out there.

T: If I did any research. Chances are, if I were doing this, it would be two in the morning, and I would have had a few ice-cold Natural Light beers, and I wouldn't be sensible enough to "do research."

A: Heard that! Fortunately, you have me.

T: I want more of this mac-and-cheese.

A: I actually wasn't sure if you would like this one as much as previous ones, since you still aren't mushrooms' biggest fan.... My inspiration for this one was the earthiness found in mushrooms (and truffle oil).

T: I don't know, I like mushrooms in the right scenario...just don't want to sit around and eat them raw. But I was a massive fan of this mac-and-cheese. Like, OMG, Mandy, that was the best mac-n-cheese I've had. I give it a 4.9 out of 5. You've got mac-n-cheese nailed.

A: Damn, yo! That's a crazy high score! I was a huge fan of the dish too. Maybe not a 4.9-out-of-5 fan, but, still, I give this one a 4.75 out of 5, which happens to be a pretty damn high rating.

T: If I'm not mistaken, that's the highest score we've ever given anything on this blog.

A: Hmmm...I feel like I remember one other meal that might have scored higher, but I can't think of what it was.

T: I'm sure it had plenty of cheese in it. Cheese helps anything get a higher score. Cheeeeese. Back to the mac-n-cheese...

A: Yeah, so there is only one thing I would do to this dish if I could afford it -- use real truffle and not truffle oil! But, seeing as how I'm currently in search of new employment, that can't really happen.

Wild Mushroom Macaroni and Three Cheeses with Truffle Oil, by Amanda

1-1/2 cups sliced crimini mushrooms, 1-1/2 cups sliced shitake mushrooms, 2 tbsp oil or bacon fat, 1-1/2 tbsp sherry vinegar, 3 tbsp butter, 3 tbsp flour, 3 cups whole milk, 4 oz. herb chèvre (crumbled), 4 oz. sharp cheddar (shredded), 4 oz. Parmigiano Reggiano (separated into two 2-oz. piles, 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, 2 tsp fresh rosemary (minced), 1 tsp fresh sage (minced), 3 tbsp white truffle oil (yes, this is some rich mac-n-cheese), 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, 1/2 cup panko, 8 oz. elbow pasta, kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a large pot of water over high heat and cover. Place a large sauté pan with 2 tbsp oil or lard over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the mushrooms to the pan and sauté for 7 to 10 minutes or until the mushrooms are fully cooked and slightly caramelized. Toss or stir occasionally. Season with a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper and then deglaze the pan with sherry vinegar. Allow all of the vinegar to cook out and then remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside.

Cheese sauce: Add 3 tbsp butter to a medium-sized saucepan and place the pan over medium heat. Once all the butter is melted and hot, whisk in 3 tbsp flour. Cook the flour, whisking, for about 30 seconds, just long enough to get rid of the raw flour taste, but not long enough for the flour to start caramelizing. Add the thyme, rosemary, sage, and red pepper flakes. Continue stirring and allow the herbs to sauté for about another 30 seconds. Slowly pour in the milk while whisking continuously, so the roux and milk incorporate smoothly and there are no lumps. Allow the béchamel to come to a simmer (it won't gain its full thickness until it does), stirring occasionally.

While waiting for the sauce to come to a simmer, start the pasta. Liberally salt the pot of boiling water with a few handfuls of salt. Add the pasta to the water and cook for a minute or two less than the suggested time on the box.

Once the béchamel has reached a simmer, stir in the chèvre, cheddar, 2 oz. of Parmigiano, and truffle oil until all the cheese has melted. Turn off the heat and taste the sauce for seasoning levels. Season with salt and pepper to taste. In small mixing bowl, mix together the panko and remaining 2 oz. of Parmigiano Reggiano.

Strain the pasta once it's finished cooking. In a mixing bowl, toss the pasta, cheese sauce, and mushrooms together. Pour the macaroni and cheese into a deep glass or ceramic loaf pan and sprinkle the panko/Parmigiano mixture evenly across the top. Bake the mac-n-cheese in the upper part of the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the topping is golden and the cheese sauce is bubbly. Serve hot. Enjoy!

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