A rotating exhibit of the things I love most about living in San Francisco.

recipe for drunken macaroni and cheese . . . and wine

MUS-e-YUM recipe macaroni and cheese

MUS-e-YUM recipe macaroni and cheese

I’ve tried a lot of macaroni and cheese combinations over the years but this one really stands out. Given that a basic macaroni and cheese recipe is forgiving of experimentation, feel free to change it up to suit your taste (or as is often the case, to make creative use of what’s in the fridge). Be assured though that this combination is pretty damn good!

I chose to feature Manchego cheese (Manchego is a spanish cheese from the La Mancha region) which is at once mild but not bland; it has a fully round, rich flavor which is both nutty and slightly sweet. Enhancing this balance of savory and sweetness, and lending a bit more aromatic character to it, I’ve added some vanilla to the roux. Providing a bit more kick, enough to add a slight bit of sharpness without overpowering the Manchego, I added a small portion of mature cheddar, as well as a white wine reduction which added a warm complexity to the dish.

Here is my recipe for the grandest of comfort foods, macaroni and cheese:

MUS•e•YUM Macaroni and Cheese

  • 2 ½ c (9 ounces) dry pasta, I love Farfalle- it’s curvy enough to hold the sauce well.
  • 2 ½ c whole milk
  • 1 whole white onion, sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 10 whole black peppercorns
  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • ¼ c all-purpose flour
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Manchego cheese, grated (about 4 cups worth)
  • Mature cheddar cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
  • 1 ¼ c White wine ( I had a Riesling on hand and enjoyed it in this recipe but I’d love to experiment with other wines, too )
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • ½ c fresh bread crumbs

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 2-quart baking dish.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare your pasta as directed until it is about half-cooked, soft and tender on the surface with a distinct bite still left in the center, say 5-ish minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water and set aside. Stir through occasionally so that it doesn’t start to stick.

3. Put the milk in a small saucepan and add half of the onion slices, bay leaf and peppercorns. Bring just to a low boil over medium heat, watching the milk closely and stirring frequently to ensure it doesn’t boil over. . . then take the pan from the heat add the vanilla. Let the mixture sit to infuse for 10 to 15 minutes while it cools off.

4. Step #3 takes a long time. So, while you’re waiting on the milk, get out a small skillet and sauté the other half of the sliced onions in some olive oil. This won’t take long, a couple of minutes, or just until they turn translucent and ‘yellowish’. Before they start to brown remove the onion from the pan and transfer to a holding dish of some kind.

5. In the same skillet, still hot from sautéing the onions, deglaze: turn the heat up, pour in the white wine, stir together with all the bits left from the onions, and simmer to reduce it down to say, ½ c.

6. When the milk has finished infusing, get the pot in which you boiled your pasta and in it, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until it foams up (it should not brown), 1 to 2 minutes. Strain the warm milk into the pan and whisk to blend. Continue to cook the sauce, whisking often, until it thickens, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and gradually whisk in the cheeses until fully melted. Now, add the white wine reduction and the reserved sautéed onions. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper, then gently fold in the pasta until it is fully coated with the cheese sauce.

7. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish and sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly over. Set the dish on the oven rack and bake until the macaroni and cheese is bubbling hot and the top is nicely browned, about 40 minutes. Let sit for about 15 minutes before serving.


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