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Smoky Four-Cheese Tortellini Mac & Cheese

Smoky Four-Cheese Tortellini Mac & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

Autumn is upon us, and you know what that means? It’s Mac & Cheese weather again! After doing the dance of joy in my kitchen, I decided to go big. Like Dr. Frankenstein, cobble-many-ingredients-together-and-see-what-happens, big.

Smoky Four-Cheese Tortellini Mac & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

Not just pasta, but a filled pasta! And one filled with four cheeses, no less. And not just cheese, but silky, nutty, so-deep-it-must-be-a-Philosophy-major, smoky Beecher’s Smoked Flagship cheese. Over the top, yes. And yet, it hits just the right note – like pairing leopard print with hot pink and somehow pulling the whole outfit off. Pull it off, we did. Sublimely so.

Smoky Four-Cheese Tortellini Mac & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

Since I was hitting Pike Place Market for some luscious Beecher’s cheese (regular Flagship and Smoked Flagship) I decided to grab my tortellini (cucina fresca Four Cheese Tortellini) there as well. So if you really wanted to, I guess you could call this Pike Place Mac & Cheese.

Smoky Four-Cheese Tortellini Mac & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

I based this recipe on my favorite macaroni & cheese recipe, Beecher’s “World’s Best” Mac & Cheese. It seemed appropriate seeing as how I was using Beecher’s cheeses for this recipe. First thing, gather your ingredients. This recipe is a pretty simple one and allows the subtle flavors to shine through.

Smoky Four-Cheese Tortellini Mac & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

Start by cooking your pasta in a large pot according to package directions. Since I used a fresh tortellini, it was done in four minutes. Drain, then set aside.

Smoky Four-Cheese Tortellini Mac & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

While the pasta is cooking, shred your cheeses. If you don’t have Flagship in your store, you can either order it online direct from Beecher’s or substitute a nice sharp Cheddar and another smoked cheese. If you can, take the time to order the Smoked Flagship & Flagship from Beecher’s – the flavor is just outstanding.

In the same pot in which you cooked the tortellini, melt the butter. Once the butter is melted and just turning toasty, add the flour and whisk to combine. Cook over medium heat, whisking often, for about two minutes. Add the milk, and continue whisking often until the sauce begins to thicken, about ten minutes.

Smoky Four-Cheese Tortellini Mac & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

Once the sauce is thickened, add the chipotle powder, garlic powder, seasoned salt and seasoned pepper. Whisk to combine, then add both cheeses. Remove the pot from heat and stir everything together until the cheeses are melted. Add the tortellini back to the saucy pot, and give everything a good stir.

Smoky Four-Cheese Tortellini Mac & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

Done! Now pop that amazing tortellini mac & cheese into a bowl, garnish if you feel like it, and enjoy! Simple, right?

Smoky Four-Cheese Tortellini Mac & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

How was it? Luscious. Subtly smoky. Everything I’d hoped it would be. Four elbows up, and I’ll be adding it to my regular mac & cheese repertoire. Delicious, and perfect for your Autumn table.

Here is my recipe, loosely based on Beecher’s famous mac & cheese recipe.

Smoky Four-Cheese Tortellini Mac & Cheese
Author: 
Recipe type: Main Dish, Side
Cuisine: Mac & Cheese
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 as a side
 
Smoky Four-Cheese Tortellini Mac & Cheese
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1½ cups fat-free milk
  • 8 ounces Beecher's Flagship cheese, grated
  • 8 ounces Beecher's Smoked Flagship cheese, grated
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon seasoned salt
  • ½ teaspoon seasoned pepper
  • 10 ounces fresh tortellini
  • parsley for garnish, if desired
Instructions
  1. In a large pot, cook tortellini per package directions. Drain and set aside.
  2. In the same large pot, melt butter. Add flour and whisk to combine. Cook over medium heat, whisking often, for two minutes. Add milk and continue whisking often until sauce begins to thicken (about ten minutes).
  3. Add chipotle powder, garlic powder, seasoned salt and seasoned pepper. Whisk to combine, then add both cheeses. Remove pot from heat and stir until cheeses are melted.
  4. Add tortellini back to the pot and stir to combine.
  5. Serve and scarf down immediately!

 

Smoky Four-Cheese Tortellini Mac & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

Try it, you’ll like it!

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KINGBestofWesternWashington-VoteForMac&CheeseChick

Guys, I have amazing news – we’ve been nominated for King 5’s Best of Western Washington in the Best Food Blog category! You don’t have to live in Seattle or anywhere near it to vote, so I’d love some cross-country and international love. The contest runs through October 24, 2014.

I am so excited, and would love your support! If you’re so inclined, please vote for us here – we’re hovering around 9th place & would love to win this!

And, more importantly, THANK YOU for your love, comments and support of this little blog. It started off then I decided to follow my unlikely passion for mac & cheese and it’s developed into an amazing and supportive community – YOU! I am so very thankful for each and every one of my readers.

Vote here to make Mac & Cheese Chick the Best Food Blog in King 5’s Best of Western Washington!

Mac&CheeseChick

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Field Trip! Station in Williamsburg, Brooklyn - Mac & Cheese Chick

We’re in New York City at least twice a year, and in the past few years we’ve been branching out from Manhattan itself. Which is how we ended up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn recently. And conveniently located just outside the subway is Station.

Field Trip! Station in Williamsburg, Brooklyn - Mac & Cheese Chick

Kismet, no? I think so.

Since we arrived at around 11:00am on a Sunday with no prior brunch reservation (amateurs, we are…), they were booked solid. But, we could grab a seat at the little bar if we wanted.

Field Trip! Station's Black Truffle Mac & Cheese Gnocchi in Williamsburg, Brooklyn - Mac & Cheese Chick

Four seats total, butts facing every other diner in the place…oh, what the hell. Why not, I wore clean underwear. So we sit. And our waiter comes over looking harried but competent. He hands us menus, but we already know what we want.

Field Trip! Station's Black Truffle Mac & Cheese Gnocchi in Williamsburg, Brooklyn - Mac & Cheese Chick

The special up there? The holy-crap-on-a-cracker special that says “Black Truffle Mac N Cheese Gnocchi”? Yeah, we want one of those. And if it’s good enough, we just might order another one.

The harried pace continues around us but interestingly enough, since we are facing the wall (and a giant mirror) we feel like we are a million miles away from the hubbub going on in the dining area directly behind us. Sitting at the little bar, it is as if we have the best seats in the house to the show that is Sunday Brunch in a popular restaurant. Fascinating.

Field Trip! Station's Black Truffle Mac & Cheese Gnocchi in Williamsburg, Brooklyn - Mac & Cheese Chick

The Black Truffle Mac N Cheese Gnocchi (it SO deserves the capitals at the beginning of each word) is gently placed in front of us, as if we were supposed to bow to it. And perhaps that is exactly what is necessary. For it is THAT good. Luscious, decadent, amazing, my-thighs-would-never-recover-if-I-lived-in-Williamsburg good. Black pepper bite that breaks up the fight between creamy and creamy. I’m honestly lucky I didn’t swoon right off my bar stool. Because that would have been embarrassing.

In the name of all things holy, this dish must still be on the menu when I return to Williamsburg. If not, there will be a serious reckoning. Five elbows *woop-woop!* enthusiastically up for this one – go there now. No, really. NOW.

Field Trip! Station's Black Truffle Mac & Cheese Gnocchi in Williamsburg, Brooklyn - Mac & Cheese Chick

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Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Aged White Cheddar

Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Aged White Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

If you follow my blog, you already know that the folks at Pirate’s Booty were kind enough to send me four boxes of their new Mac & Cheese to try.

Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Aged White Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

This is the third box I’ve tried – three down, one to go! All four varieties of their new mac & cheese line are made with organic pasta (certified organic by Oregon Tilth) and ingredients you can actually pronounce. Good deal!

Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Aged White Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

Here’s what you’ll need to prepare this mac & cheese.

Box, butter, and milk. Easy! As with the other varieties I’ve tried, Pirate’s Booty recommends 1/2 tablespoon of butter but I like my mac and cheese rich, so I went with a full tablespoon. And to rationalize counteract balance the additional butter, I used fat-free milk.

Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Aged White Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

Following the directions on the box, I added the pasta to six cups of boiling water and cooked it for seven minutes. After draining the pasta, I added it back to the pot and threw in the butter, milk and cheese powder.

Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Aged White Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

I gave the mixture a good long stir, as I have learned that it can take a bit of stirring to remove all cheese clumps and ensure a nice, velvety sauce. Once mixed, I let the pot and its contents sit for about three minutes before plating, as this time allows the mac & cheese to thicken just a bit.

Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Aged White Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

 

So how was it? Three and a half elbows up. The mac & cheese had a creamy, mellow flavor with no powdery aftertaste – delicious!

Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Aged White Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

 

DISCLAIMER: Pirate’s Booty sent this product to me for review. This not a compensated review, but they were kind enough to send the product to me gratis.

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Field Trip! The Blind Rabbit in the Anaheim Packing DistrictField Trip! The Blind Rabbit in the Anaheim Packing District

Every year, we are down in Orange County (I grew up there – if you call it “The OC” I will upchuck upon you) for an annual conference. And each year, I love getting together with childhood friends and reconnecting.

Field Trip! The Blind Rabbit in the Anaheim Packing District - Mac & Cheese Chick

This year, there was a big buzz about the opening of the Anaheim Packing District – so of course, I needed to go check it out myself. I met up with a friend of mine on a Saturday around 11:30am. We agreed to meet up a little early as we’d heard that parking could be difficult and we didn’t want to be surrounded by a hungry mob. My friend mentioned that she’s heard there was a hidden speakeasy within the space, and so that made it to the top of list of spots to find while there.

Field Trip! The Blind Rabbit in the Anaheim Packing District

Once we met up (it’s been so many years!), we set out finding the speakeasy. Along the way, we sampled some delicious meats and cheeses from Wheat & Sons (my friend completely confounded the gentleman helping us at the counter, to the point that both I and the rest of the staff were giggling at the ongoing exchange) and ended up grabbing some to-go as we looked for the speakeasy.

As it turned out, the speakeasy, The Blind Rabbit, was almost across from Wheat & Sons. And, we were just a little early as they didn’t open until noon. That didn’t stop my friend from popping in the open door and striking up a conversation with the staff. We ended up grabbing two overstuffed chairs around a nice low table (it felt as though we were in our living room, in a good way) rather than bellying up to the bar.

Field Trip! The Blind Rabbit in the Anaheim Packing District - Mac & Cheese Chick

Since we knew we were “home” and here for the duration, we got cozy and after asking if it was okay, unwrapped our Wheat & Sons parcel to nibble. And the entire staff, by the way, was amazing, knowledgeable, and friendly. Aces, every one. You see that libation above? The one with the big ole ice cube and a hunk of bacon perched atop?

Field Trip! The Blind Rabbit in the Anaheim Packing District - Mac & Cheese Chick

That’s a Bacon Old Fashioned (bacon-infused bourbon, Grade-B maple syrup & Angostura bitters) and it is waaaaaay better than you could ever imagine. So much so that I had three of them. Hey – I was there for over five hours. And I am now trying to find out to make bacon-infused bourbon; if you have a recipe, I’d love to try it!

Field Trip! The Blind Rabbit in the Anaheim Packing District - Mac & Cheese Chick

But amazing drinks aside, around the middle of my second Bacon Old Fashioned we realized that we were both ready to grab something more substantial for lunch.

After perusing the Blind Rabbit menu, we decided to split the Duck Confit Mac N’ Cheese (truffle oil, topped w/Panko crust + micro fine herbs). Of course we did.

Field Trip! The Blind Rabbit in the Anaheim Packing District - Mac & Cheese Chick

How was it? Weeeeeellllllllll, I want to tell you that it was amazing. Unfortunately, the parts appeared better than the sum. It had a nice afterburn from a little cayenne pepper and it had a nice overall mellow, creamy flavor. Unfortunately, it was on the dry side and that exponentially worsened after it sat for more than two minutes. I’m giving it three elbows, but there is definitely room for improvement here. I was a bit sad, as I really wanted to love it (it sounds amazing!!!), but a third Bacon Old Fashioned helped ease the pain a bit.

Me? I’ll probably be back next time we’re in town for the drinks and the staff – and hopefully, the next mac & cheese I try there will knock my socks off.

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Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

To make a short story long, my parents are moving up to my area soon. That means parental-unit visits on a regular basis, which I LOVE. That also means field trips around the Pacific Northwest, one of which brought us to Garden Treasures, a lovely farm stand operation in Arlington, WA recently.

Actually, we’d been by several times – always zooming back & forth along State Route 530 and never taking the time to stop, but pining to do so each and every time we passed. So finally, we made the time. And lost about an hour…but it was a wonderful hour! We explored the whole place, wanting to take home much more than we actually ended up with. But one of these items was a verrry interesting block of lavender cheddar cheese.

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

The small bin containing the Golden Glen Creamery cheeses is just off to your right as you first enter the big red barn. And if you’re not local or just not inclined to head to Arlington, you can purchase their artisan cheeses online. There were several varieties available, but I wanted something a little different so I went for the lavender cheddar.

We headed home after our visit, giddily happy with our purchases and me already dreaming up lavender cheddar mac & cheese possibilities. After several variations, I settled on a simple preparation which adds a touch of fresh thyme flavor to offset the flavorful lavender.

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

Time to gather my ingredients. Since I went local with the cheese, I also went local with the pasta (Casarecce from Lagana pasta, one of my local favorites for fresh pasta), the lavender and the thyme (both from my garden). And if you want, we can call the Tillamook butter close enough to local, as well (it’s just over in the next state, after all…).

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

To begin, I melted a tablespoon of butter in the microwave and once melted, added the Panko breadcrumbs and fresh thyme and gave it a good stir. Once everything was well-mixed, I set the mixture aside.

Pop the oven on to 350 degrees, Pam an 8×8 oven-safe pan, then prepare the pasta according to the directions on the package. Once cooked, drain and set aside. By the way, the fresh Lagana pasta gave off the most intoxicating yeasty scent as it cooked – I wanted to scoop up the scent and bottle it!

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

 

While the pasta is cooking, shred your cheese. In the same large pot over medium heat, melt the remaining two tablespoons of butter and once melted, add flour and whisk to combine. Continue cooking and whisking for about three minutes, or until the roux turns toasty-colored.

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

Slowly whisk in the milk and continue to cook until the mixture begins to thicken (about five minutes). Reduce the heat to low.

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

Add seasoned salt and seasoned pepper and whisk to combine, then add the lavender cheese and stir until the cheese is melted and everything in the pot is happily mixed. Add the cooked pasta and stir once again.

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

Grab your Pammed pan and scoop the macaroni and cheese into it, topping it with the buttery thyme breadcrumb mixture. Let it bake for thirty minutes, then remove from the oven and allow it to sit for at least five minutes.

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

Yes, I know it’s tedious to have to wait five minutes, but just do it. It allows the mac & cheese to firm up just slightly and believe me, you’ll be happier for it. Feel free to sprinkle some additional fresh lavender and/or thyme over the dish just prior to serving.

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

The casarecce had a nice firmness and the cheese sauce took to it perfectly. The lavender imparted a delicate, not overpowering, flavor (I know lavender can be a polarizing herb, just like cilantro) and blended beautifully with the buttery thyme breadcrumbs. The medium cheddar provided a solid flavor as well – all in all, each flavor balanced the next and nothing overwhelmed anything else. So what did I think? I give it 3.5 elbows. The lavender gave the dish such a wonderful light and summery feel!

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

Here is my recipe.

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs
Author: 
Recipe type: Side Dish, Main Course
Cuisine: Mac & Cheese
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 as a side
 
Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs
Ingredients
  • 16 ounces fresh casarecce pasta (or other short pasta)
  • 1 pound lavender-infused medium white cheddar, shredded (or, 1 pound medium white cheddar plus 1 tablespoon culinary lavender)
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups fat-free milk
  • ½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, melt 1 tablespoon butter in microwave. Add Panko breadcrumbs and fresh thyme and stir to combine. Set the bowl aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pam an 8x8 oven-safe pan and set aside.
  3. Prepare the pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain, then set aside.
  4. In same large pot over medium heat, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Add flour and whisk to combine. Continue cooking and whisking for 3 minutes or until roux turns toasty-colored.
  5. Slowly whisk in milk and continue to cook until mixture begins to thicken (about 5 minutes). Reduce heat to low.
  6. Add seasoned salt and seasoned pepper and whisk to combine, then add lavender cheese and stir until melted. Add cooked pasta and stir to combine.
  7. Scoop macaroni and cheese into Pammed pan, topping with breadcrumb mixture. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove from oven and let it rest for 5 minutes. Feel free to sprinkle fresh lavender and/or thyme over the dish just prior to serving.
  8. Serve and scarf down immediately!

 

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

 

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Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Mild Cheddar

Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Mild Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

Recently, the good folks at Pirate’s Booty were kind enough to send me four boxes of their new Mac & Cheese to try.

Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Mild Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

All four varieties of their new mac & cheese line are made with organic pasta (certified organic by Oregon Tilth) and ingredients you can actually pronounce. So, of course I was more than happy to give them a try!

Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Mild Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

Here’s what you’ll need to prepare this mac & cheese.

Milk and some butter – so easy, right? The instructions on the box call for 1/2 tablespoon of butter, but I went with a whole tablespoon to add a bit of richness. Also, I used fat-free milk instead of 2%.

Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Mild Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

Following the box directions, I boiled 6 cups of water, popped in the macaroni, stirred, and let it simmer for 7 minutes. I then drained it and added it back to the pot. In went the milk, butter and cheese powder (apparently the day-glo orange color of the cheese DOES exist in nature, as this product is made with 100% real cheese).

Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Mild Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

After giving it a thorough stir to ensure that all the ingredients melded into an amazing and lovely cheese sauce, I then let the mac & cheese sit for about three minutes to allow the sauce to thicken.

Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Mild Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

The end result? A delicious mac and cheese with a very delicate, mild cheese flavor. Three elbows up! There was no powdery, chemical taste that you find with other boxed brands. For me, I’ll be adding it to my pantry soon!

Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Mild Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

 

DISCLAIMER: Pirate’s Booty sent this product to me for review. This not a compensated review, but they were kind enough to send the product to me gratis.

 

 

 

 

 

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Product Review: Pirate's Booty Shells & Cheese Aged White Cheddar Mac & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

Recently, I was contacted by the good folks behind the Pirate’s Booty brand. I was aware of their popcorn, but this new offering was right up my alley: Mac & Cheese! And not just one, but four different flavors! All four made with organic pasta (certified organic by Oregon Tilth) and ingredients you can actually pronounce. Would I mind trying out these four new offerings?

Product Review: Pirate's Booty Shells & Cheese Aged White Cheddar Mac & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

As my father loves to say, “Do bears go in the woods?” Of course I would love to give them a try! So, after an interminable (really, maybe a couple of days…) length of time, a box bearing four brand-spanking-new boxes of Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese arrived at my doorstep. Woo hoo! I opened the box and took a good look at each box. Organic pasta, 100% real cheese, certified organic by Oregon Tilth, no artificial colors or preservatives, and a bonus: a different game on the back of each box. Even better, a bit of the cheekiness of the brand came through in the pirate humor throughout the packaging.

Product Review: Pirate's Booty Shells & Cheese Aged White Cheddar Mac & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

Arrrrrr, matey! Here’s what you’ll need to prepare this mac and cheese:

Product Review: Pirate's Booty Shells & Cheese Aged White Cheddar Mac & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

Milk and a little bit of butter. Pretty simple, right? The directions call for 1/2 tablespoon of butter (I used 1 tablespoon, because I am firmly in the camp of “more is better” when it comes to butter) and 1/4 cup of 2% milk (I used fat-free). Here’s a close-up of the cheese powder:

Product Review: Pirate's Booty Shells & Cheese Aged White Cheddar Mac & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

I boiled 6 cups of water and added the shells, stirring periodically as they cooked. After draining the pasta and popping it back into the pot, I threw the butter, milk and cheese powder and stirred.

Product Review: Pirate's Booty Shells & Cheese Aged White Cheddar Mac & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

I took some time stirring to make sure that I didn’t have any powder clumps, then after everything was happy I waited about three minutes to plate (to allow the sauce to thicken, as it was a bit thin).

Product Review: Pirate's Booty Shells & Cheese Aged White Cheddar Mac & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

So I know you’re on pins and needles…how was it? Three solid elbows up! There was a nice cheesy tang which I loved, and a good amount of umami on the tongue. I really liked the fact that the cheddar flavor came through and that there was no “powdered-cheese” taste (you know what I’m talking about; it’s the bane of boxed mac & cheeses).

Product Review: Pirate's Booty Shells & Cheese Aged White Cheddar Mac & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

Even better? It really thickened up into a nice, creamy sauce about five minutes after I plated it.

Product Review: Pirate's Booty Shells & Cheese Aged White Cheddar Mac & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

So, should you run out and buy Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese? It’s entirely up to you, but I know I’ll be adding it to my pantry!

 

DISCLAIMER: Pirate’s Booty sent this product to me for review. This not a compensated review, but they were kind enough to send the product to me gratis.

 

 

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Wensleydale Mac and Cheese with Cranberries and Asparagus

Wensleydale Mac and Cheese with Cranberries and Asparagus - Mac & Cheese Chick

Wensleydale. You can’t say it aloud without feeling just a slight bit uppity and with a hint of a proper English accent. Go ahead; try it if you don’t believe me. But what is it, you ask? Well, the folks over at cheese.com do a great job explaining the joys of Wensleydale. It was developed in 1150 by the Cistercian monks in North Yorkshire and while it was originally made from sheep’s milk, nowadays it tends to be made from a mixture of cow’s and sheep’s milk. And just when you think you’ve never heard of Wensleydale before, allow me to remind you of several spots in which it has been featured:

  • Monty Python: It is one of the cheeses that John Cleese asks for in “The Cheese Shop” sketch. Even cooler? The cheese shop owner, played by Michael Palin, is named Henry Wensleydale.
  • Wallace and Gromit: Wallace mentions in both “A Grand Day Out” and “A Close Shave” that his favorite cheese is Wensleydale.
  • Pinky and the Brain: In “Cheese Roll Call” (episode 8, series 1), Pinky sings about his favorite cheeses, of which Wensleydale is one.

So now that you know all about my highbrow tastes in pop culture, back to the cheese.

I came across a nice block of Wensleydale with cranberries at Costco and was intrigued. It looked like a white cheddar studded with bits of cranberry. As I’ve not yet come across a piece of cheese infused with fruit that I haven’t liked, into the cart it went. When I got it home, I looked up the characteristics of Wensleydale and had no idea how to incorporate it (hard, crumbly cheese) into a mac and cheese. Other than the usual of creating a béchamel and then flinging the nearest bit of cheese into the pot. And since that seems to work, I did end up going with a variation on the cheese-flinging theme.

I wanted to add a bit of color contrast to the mac and cheese, as it is Springtime and everything is green and lovely. I thought about fresh dill, but wondered if that and the cranberry flavors would clash too much. After looking around my local market, I came upon fresh asparagus, a quintessential Spring vegetable. Still a little iffy as to whether the flavors would meld well, but heck – they don’t ALL turn out great, right?

Wensleydale Mac and Cheese with Cranberries and Asparagus - Mac & Cheese Chick

Thus decided, I gathered my ingredients. I added some fresh goat cheese at the last minute as I though the tang of the goat cheese would pair nicely with the tart of the cranberries. Our chives were also beginning to bud in the garden, so I snipped a few of those to add to the mix.

Wensleydale Mac and Cheese with Cranberries and Asparagus - Mac & Cheese Chick

First, I cooked the pasta (Bionaturae whole wheat fusilli) in a large pot per package directions, then drained and set it aside.

Wensleydale Mac and Cheese with Cranberries and Asparagus - Mac & Cheese Chick

While the fusilli was cooking, I prepped my ingredients: chives and shallots were minced, asparagus was cut and the Wensleydale was grated.

Wensleydale Mac and Cheese with Cranberries and Asparagus - Mac & Cheese Chick

Since it is a crumbly cheese, you could always just crumble it but since we’re talking a pound of cheese, it was faster to grate it in the food processor.

Wensleydale Mac and Cheese with Cranberries and Asparagus - Mac & Cheese Chick

In the same large pot, I melted the butter and then whisked in the flour. I let the slurry cook, still whisking, for about two minutes. I then slowly streamed in the milk while I continued to whisk. Over medium heat, continue to cook the béchamel while whisking until it begins to thicken (usually about 3 to 5 minutes).

Wensleydale Mac and Cheese with Cranberries and Asparagus - Mac & Cheese Chick

Once the béchamel has started to thicken, add the shallot, one tablespoon of the chives (reserve the other tablespoon for garnish), and the asparagus. Stir to combine, then add the Wensleydale and goat cheeses and stir again until everything is mixed, melted and happy. Season with salt and pepper (I used about a teaspoon of each) to taste. Finally, drop in the pasta and give it a good stir.

Wensleydale Mac and Cheese with Cranberries and Asparagus - Mac & Cheese Chick

Plate and garnish with the remaining chives.

Wensleydale Mac and Cheese with Cranberries and Asparagus - Mac & Cheese Chick

The taste? Three and a half elbows up. The tanginess of the goat cheese and the cranberries balanced the “green” flavor of the asparagus and the overall rich, creaminess of the sauce. The shallot flavor was delicate but presented itself initially, while the very subtle sweetness of the cranberry flavor hit at the end of each bite. The asparagus added a nice crunch to the overall dish. And if you can’t find Wensleydale locally, you can always substitute a similar hard, crumbly cheese (like a Cheshire or a Caerphilly) and about 2 tablespoons of chopped, dried cranberries.

Here’s my recipe.

Wensleydale Mac and Cheese with Cranberries and Asparagus
Author: 
Recipe type: Main course, Side dish
Cuisine: Mac & Cheese
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 as a side
 
Wensleydale Mac and Cheese with Cranberries and Asparagus
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups fat-free milk
  • 1 large shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • 16 ounces Wensleydale cheese with cranberries, grated (or, 16 ounces hard, crumbly cheese mixed with 2 tablespoons chopped dried cranberries)
  • 16 ounces whole wheat fusilli
  • 7 stalks fresh asparagus, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. In a large pot, cook pasta per package directions, then drain and set aside.
  2. In the same large pot, melt butter. Once melted, whisk in flour. Cook, whisking, for two minutes. Slowly stream in milk while continuing to whisk. Over medium heat, continue to cook béchamel while whisking until it begins to thicken (3 to 5 minutes).
  3. Add shallot, one tablespoon chives (reserve other tablespoon for garnish), and asparagus. Stir to combine, then add cheeses and stir again. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add cooked pasta and stir to combine. Plate and garnish with the remaining chives.
  4. Serve and scarf down immediately!

Very enjoyable for a Spring dinner alfresco, and heck, I might just speak with an English accent for the rest of the day.

Cheers!

Wensleydale Mac and Cheese with Cranberries and Asparagus - Mac & Cheese Chick

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Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

Did you know that April 12th is National Grilled Cheese Day? No? Well, now you do! And in honor of National Grilled Cheese Day, I created a wonderful toasty-golden grilled cheese sandwich featuring Hatch chiles and, of course, macaroni and cheese!

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

I had some leftover fire-roasted Hatch chiles in the freezer (always good to have on hand) and because Hatch chiles and mac & cheese pair so beautifully, I had to incorporate them into my grilled cheese. More on how to roast Hatch chiles here, and I’ll work on creating a how-to post soon.

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

You might think that making homemade mac and cheese is too much work just to put into a sandwich…and you’d be incorrect. This mac and cheese comes together quickly and doesn’t even involve making a roux. Simple stuff! Because I don’t want you to have to wait to enjoy the gooey, crispy, subtly-spicy lusciousness of this grilled-cheese sandwich.

Ingredients roll-call: the usual organic fat-free milk, butter and seasonings, along with a quinoa pasta, Beecher’s amazing Flagship cheese, Tillamook’s zingy pepper-jack slices, Dave’s Killer Bread, and some heavy cream.

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

First up, the Hatch chiles. If you’re using previously-frozen, like me, make sure your chiles are completely thawed before handling. If you’re roasting fresh, check my link noted above for hints and tips. Either way, once the chiles are roasted and cooled (or thawed), carefully peel off the outer skin and remove the stem and seeds from each chile. Reserve the chiles, about one per sandwich.

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

In a large pot, cook the pasta per package directions. I decided to mix it up a bit by using a quinoa pasta, but feel free to use whatever pasta you like – I think elbows or another short shape will work best with this recipe. Drain, then set aside.

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

While the pasta is cooking, shred the Beecher’s Flagship (or extra sharp cheddar) cheese.

To the same large pot, add the heavy cream and fat-free milk and stir gently, bringing the mixture to a gentle simmer over low heat (about five minutes). Add seasoned salt and seasoned pepper and stir to combine. Taste, then adjust seasonings as necessary. Throw in the Beecher’s cheese and stir until everything’s melted and happy. Add the quinoa elbows and stir to combine. Set aside the pot while you prep the sandwiches.

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

Your butter should be softened. If it is not (I know I often forget to rescue the butter from the fridge to soften it for recipes), simply soften it in the microwave using 5-second intervals, turning to a new side after each 5-second interval is up. You should have nice, uniformly softened butter within the first few turns.

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

Butter the outside of two slices of bread, then place one slice of bread, butter side down, in a small skillet pan. NOTE: Do not turn on the heat, just place the bread in the cold pan. We want to build the sammie before turning on the heat. Now, it’s time to layer on the cheesy goodness!

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

First, a slice of pepper jack cheese.

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

Next, a healthy scoop of mac and cheese.

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

On top of that, add a layer of Hatch chile (about one whole chile per sandwich).

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

Another slice of pepper jack cheese,

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

then the other slice of bread, butter-side up.

NOW, turn the heat on low. This is one of those times where patience is a virtue, because you want the sammie to cook slowly and take its sweet time caramelizing and getting all nice and crisply browned on the outside. Allow about three minutes per side (and don’t forget to flip it over to evenly toast both sides!), but check it periodically and of course, adjust to the level of doneness you prefer.

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

Those six minutes ticked by very, very slooooowly, as evidenced by the sad face on our chief taster’s face.

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

Once the sammie is cooked to your liking, remove the pan from the heat and allow it to rest, in the pan, for another few minutes.

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

Then, plate it and have at it!

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

Looks amazing, right? Crispy outside, gooey inside, just perfect! And the zing of chiles comes through at the end for a nice surprise.

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

And in case you like your grilled cheese with a lighter toast, here you go. This recipe makes four whole sandwiches, so you can please all tastes!

My verdict? 4 elbows up – the layers of flavor were amazing and the textures (crunchy! gooey!) made it a stand-out. I’ll be making these again very soon.

Here is my recipe.

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles
Author: 
Recipe type: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Mac & Cheese
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces gluten-free quinoa elbow pasta (or any other elbow pasta)
  • ¾ cup fat-free milk
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon seasoned salt
  • ½ teaspoon seasoned pepper
  • 2½ cups Beecher's Flagship cheese, shredded (or other extra-sharp Cheddar)
  • 8 slices Tillamook pepper jack cheese
  • 8 slices Dave's Killer Bread 21 Whole Grain
  • 4 fire-roasted Hatch chiles
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
Instructions
  1. Roast the Hatch chiles, or if you're using previously frozen chiles, thaw completely. Once the chiles are roasted and cooled (or thawed), peel off outer skin and remove stem and seeds from each chile. Reserve chiles, about one per sandwich.
  2. In a large pot, cook pasta per package directions. Drain, then set aside.
  3. To the same large pot, add heavy cream and fat-free milk and stir gently, bringing mixture to a gentle simmer over low heat (about five minutes). Add seasoned salt and seasoned pepper and stir to combine. Add Beecher's cheese and stir until melted. Add pasta and stir to combine. Set aside pot while you prep sandwiches.
  4. Butter the outside of two slices of bread, then place one slice of bread, butter side down, in a small skillet pan. NOTE: Do not turn on heat, just place bread in cold pan.
  5. Building the sandwich: on the bread in the skillet, layer one slice pepper jack cheese, then one scoop macaroni and cheese, then one Hatch chile, then another slice pepper jack cheese, and finally the remaining slice of bread, butter-side up.
  6. Over low heat, cook the sandwich (about 3 minutes per side, flipping once) until desired doneness. Remove pan from heat and rest for two minutes.
  7. Serve and scarf down immediately!

Go make this one now!

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

 

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