Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Macaroni and Gouda Cheese Casserole
I have visited the lovely Asheville, North Carolina numerous times including an impromptu getaway with my husband earlier this year. We had a great time sightseeing, white water rafting and eating but I regret not eating at Tupelo Honey Cafe while we there. Known for their farm to table food that features traditional Southern favorites with a modern twist it is considered to be one of the best restaurants in the city.
I didn't realize they had published a cookbook until I found it on the library shelf recently and am now enjoying their creative food at home. The copy of the book is sitting on my kitchen counter with about a hundred post-its marking recipes I want to try. It is quite obvious that a 14 day loan from the library is not going to be enough and I am going to have to purchase a copy of the book for my collection.
First recipe I tried was the Macaroni and Gouda Cheese Casserole. I wanted to make mac n' cheese for Christmas dinner and just happened to have a block of Gouda in my fridge. A total sucker for manager's specials in the cheese case, the Gouda found it's way into my cart. Foreshadowing, perhaps?
This recipe is a bit different than my usual macaroni and cheese recipe in that it doesn't begin with a roux. As I poured in the three (yes, three) cups of cream and cheese, I was skeptical that this was going to turn out. The mixture seemed too loose, almost soupy. But I kept going and was pleasantly surprised with the finished product. The pasta absorbed the cream and the resulting casserole was perfect. Ritz crackers and panko are tossed together to create a bread crumb mixture to be layered on the bottom and the top of the dish resulting in crunch in every bite.
I forced my husband and daughter to try this before I served it to the rest of the family. (The missing portion in the photo.) My daughter is a macaroni and cheese connoisseur and my husband a mac n'cheese hater. Both loved this. Loved it. So much so that I had to fight them off to keep them out of it so I wouldn't be left serving a dish of food that looked like it was attacked by wild animals.
Now my new macaroni and cheese recipe, it combines traditional Southern ingredients and dishes (Ritz crackers and macaroni and cheese) with newer flavors and modern twists (panko and Gouda). I can't wait to continue to cook my way through this beautiful book and am planning another visit to Asheville so I can taste their food first hand!
Macaroni and Gouda Cheese Casserole
adapted from Tupelo Honey Cafe, Elizabeth Sims with Chef Brian Sonoskus
4 ounces Ritz Crackers
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
8 cups water
2 cups elbow macaroni
3 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups shredded gouda cheese (about 8 ounces)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. In a food processor (or with your hands), pulse the crackers, bread crumbs, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, until coarsely ground. Place the mixture in a large bowl and combine with the the melted butter. Set the cracker mixture aside.
Bring the water to a boil in a large stockpot and add 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Add the macaroni and cook over high heat for about 12 minutes, or until just tender or al dente. Drain the pasta and return to the stockpot. Add the cream cheese, remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Cook over high heat, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
Sprinkle half of the bread crumb mixture evenly on the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Pour in the macaroni mixture and top with the remaining bread crumb mixture. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top and bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Turn the oven off and let the casserole rest inside for 5 minutes before serving.