Ultimate Mac and Cheese
One of the best comfort foods ever is mac and cheese and there are a lot of recipes out there that deliver quick stovetop results, but none like the one we present here for depth and complexity of flavors as well as the ability to smoke it adding even more flavor. Yes, there are several steps here and they might seem hard on first glance, but once you learn the flow, it's really not that hard and the results will speak for themselves; trust us.
This recipe starts with preparing a roux. Here at Casa M, if we're going to make roux, we make a big batch since it doesn't take any longer to make more, it lasts pretty much forever, and stores well (refrigerated or not), so if you like gumbo, chile con queso, mac and cheese, etc. the roux recipe can be doubled, tripled, quadrupled for later use. Be sure to stir the roux constantly while tending to it since it is easy to scorch and a mistake here will impact the flavor of the final product. The next step is making a Béchamel sauce. Here again, Béchamel is the mother sauce of many other sauces and keeps pretty well in the refrigerator, so feel free to make more than what you need here. The final step in the sauce preparation is making the Mornay. Typically at Casa M we call this recipe Mac and Mornay, albeit a modified form of Mornay. Making the Mornay sauce should be done right before you're ready to cook since it should be poured over the pasta while hot and letting it sit after mixing it with the pasta will start cooking the pasta. The final product of this exact recipe should be pasta that is al dente with a sauce that is fully set and "casserole" like such that you serve "pieces" not scoops, however the texture is adaptable as needed. The cheeses here are selected intentionally. Some melt well, some set well. The balance is up to you, if you want a more creamy end result, reduce the amount of Parmesan and Cheddar and increase the amount of Munster and Gruyère accordingly. The amount of blue cheese adjusts the overall "sharpness" of the favor profile. Feel free to adjust to taste. Sometimes we even sprinkle blue cheese on the top of the baking dish before we put it into the smoker since blue cheese melts so well and adds an amazing amount of flavor.
As always, from our table to yours... #SpiceConfidently #EssenceOfFlavor #ChemistryInTheKitchen #CasaMSpice
— Mike Hernandez
For the Roux:
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
For the Béchamel Sauce:
- All of the roux from above
- 1 Tablespoon shallots, minced
- 1 quart whole milk
- 1 Tablespoon Casa M Spice Co® Chain Reaction®
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
- 1-1/2 teaspoon Casa M Spice Co® Cattle Drive®
For the Mornay Sauce:
- All of the Béchamel sauce from above
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 cup Gruyère cheese, grated
- 1 cup Munster cheese, cut into small chunks
- 1 cup sharp Cheddar cheese, cut into small chunks
- 1 cup blue cheese, crumbled
For the Ultimate Mac and Cheese:
- All of the Mornay sauce from above
- 2 pounds dry pasta
- 6 jalapeños, seeded and diced
- 1 bunch chives, diced
Be sure to stir the roux constantly while tending to it since it is easy to scorch and a mistake here will impact the flavor of the final product.- Mike Hernandez
LET’S GET COOKING
Turn your vent fan on low because this will produce a little smoke. In a thick bottomed pan large enough to accommodate the finished Mornay sauce (a little over two quarts) add the fat and start heating over medium heat. Add the flour a little at a time, mixing constantly, until all the flour is incorporated and forms a smooth paste. Stir constantly while cooking and reduce heat as necessary to prevent scorching. As the flour cooks in the fat, it will go from white to blonde to a tan color. When the mixture gets to the tan color, turn the heat to medium. Continue to stir to prevent scorching while the bottom of the pan cools.
Once the pan cools, add the shallots and then start to slowly add the milk stirring constantly until all the milk is incorporated and the resulting sauce is smooth. Add the seasonings while continuing to stir regularly. Adjust the temperature as needed to maintain a simmer, but no more. Cook for 45-60 minutes. The sauce should be smooth, fragrant, and just coat the back of a metal spoon.
While the Béchamel sauce cooks, prepare your pasta. Salt the water well and cook the pasta 2/3 of the time listed on the package. Once the pasta is ready, drain it into a colander in the sink and quench the cooking with cold water, then let it dain/dry while you prepare the Mornay sauce.
Preheat your oven to 350°F (or your smoker to 250°F
Adjust the temperature on the Béchamel sauce back to medium and gradually add the cheeses one at a time allowing each to fully incorporate into the sauce before starting to add the next. Stir constantly to avoid scorching and adjust the temperature as needed. Adding the cheeses slowly helps to regulate and maintain a predictable temperature. Add more milk if the sauce looks too thick. It should be smooth and coat the back of a spoon well. Adjust seasonings to taste at this point.
Oil two square roasting pans or one large rectangular one. Add the cooled pasta to the pan(s), mix in the jalapeños, then pour in the Mornay sauce.
For oven cooking, put the pans in the oven and bake for 60 minutes. After 40 minutes check the pan(s) every 5 minutes. Cover with foil as needed to prevent over browning on top.
For smoker cooking, put the pans in the smoker and smoke for 60 minutes, cover with foil, and continue to cook for another 30-45 minutes until the center reads 185°F.
Remove from the oven/smoker and let cool for 10 minutes, then serve. The leftovers will refrigerate and freeze well.
Garnish with chopped chives and more blue cheese if desired.