With more snow blanketing the Northeast, yesterday seemed like a good day for comfort food. In previous mac+cheese experiments, I tried mom's recipe, the crowd-pleasing recipe (Martha's "crack n cheese"), the scientific approach (aka "death by mac n cheese" from Cook's Illustrated), and a few...urm... unique variations.
So, diving back into my mac+cheese experimentation, I've decided that I need to focus on the sauce. Classic French mornay sauce is the base of most m+c recipes. It's basically a white, or bechamel, sauce with cheese added in. And, since we are going all French today, what better recipe to use than Thomas Keller's Macaroni au Gratin from his Bouchon Cookbook.
Other bloggers have used the recipe before (click here for recipe). So, I'll just tell you what I did differently and share my slide show of the process.
Changes: I cut back the amount of sauce to 2 cups instead of 3 since I found so many of the past recipes to be too saucy. I also didn't strain the sauce. And I added some small cubes of cheddar to create little blobs of molten cheese throughout the mac when I realized how little cheese there actually was in the recipe. I also somehow didn't have a bay leaf (oops).
Results: This is definitely more gratin than mac n cheese. It definitely has a French sensibility. The sauce was flavorful and more delicious than my past versions - you definitely tasted the sweetness of the onion and cream, the pepper and nutmeg. (Yum.) But - maybe because it had less butter - it didn't seem as leaden. Most of the other recipes had you butter the pasta before mixing with the sauce - maybe that is the key difference. However, the same problem persists - not cheesy enough! That said, the little blobs of cheddar were a very good idea.
So, I think this sauce may be a keeper. But my next try will have more cheese (Phin is rooting for multiple types), less of the sauce, and definitely blobs of cheddar. Stay tuned!