Thursday, March 20, 2008

Chowhound: Three Cheese Mac and Cheese with Panko Bread Crumb Topping

So, as it continues to rain and be miserable, I started to have a craving for something warm and comforting. Something creamy and fantastic. Being raised on Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, I've never really been an avid mac & cheese person, but in this case, I decided it was time to try the adult version that doesn't involve powdered cheese.

I searched around on the internet for something good, and after locating the heart attack version and the truly bizarre but strangely tempting version (what is huckleberry seasoning???), I went with the recipe that won the Editor's Choice award on Chowhound. It's a three-cheese macaroni, but I changed it a little (seeing a trend?) because of my guilt at not having made anything for St. Patrick's Day. For the butter, I used creamy Irish butter. For the Cheddar, I used Kellygold Irish Cheddar. I increased the amount of flour to 8 tablespoons since the original amount didn't seem to make a good roux for me. I also added some melted butter to the panko so that it would crisp up and brown a little bit better. I think the cooking time needs to be increased since the casserole didn't seem to really get bubbly until about 18 minutes in the oven. The macaroni and cheese turns out pretty sharp tasting, but that's probably due to my selection of Cheddar cheese.

Three Cheese Mac and Cheese with Panko Bread Crumb Topping

1 pound large elbow macaroni
8 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 pound white Cheddar, shredded
4 ounces Romano, shredded
4 ounces Asiago, shredded
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups panko (Japanese) bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In large pot filled with water add 3 pinches of salt and the macaroni and place over high heat. Bring to a boil and let cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt butter. Sprinkle flour over butter and cook 2 to 3 minutes on medium heat, whisking until a roux or paste forms. Add cold milk and whisk vigorously until dissolved. Cook sauce on medium-low heat until thick and bubbly. Add heavy cream, all cheeses, salt, and pepper. Cook until cheeses are fully melted, stirring occasionally.

Add cooked macaroni to cheese mixture and mix thoroughly. Place macaroni mixture in a 13x9-inch baking dish and top with bread crumbs. Place in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until bubbly and top is starting to brown.

For extra crispy topping, place under broiler after baking until bread crumbs turn golden brown.

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