Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Thomas Keller's Macaroni Gratin (a very dignified mac n cheese)

The 3 year old (read Ro) has been nagging me AGAIN! This time for macaroni and cheese of all the things. I have tried making mac & cheese so many times but it has always failed. I mean taste-wise its kinda fine, but I've never really got the consistency, the sauce or the look (????!!!!) right. Marks & Spencer has a good mac n cheese in their ready to eat section and I've resigned to buying it from there whenever I'm craving it.

So the other day Ro comes home from work and he's craving mac n cheese. I give him the brilliant idea of popping over to M&S and picking up a tub but no, he wants his super awesome food blogger wife (exact words) to make it instead. Sweet talking me into anything works, except cooking. I don't fall for it..never have and I'm pretty sure I never will. I tell him it takes at least 2 hours for me to make it and that I'm craving Chinese instead and he instantly changes his mind. We head to our favourite Chinese joint just down the road and are both happy. Ro more than me for some reason. How can someone juts let go of a craving like that???
Weeks passed and the mac n cheese idea was long forgotten. Everything was fine with the world, until I stumbled upon Ellie's stylish mac n cheese. Now when I crave something, its different..I have to have it no matter what. I've dragged Ro to a zillion stores and restaurants at ungodly hours just because I wanted the perfect churro or the perfect espresso coffee and baked at 10 in the night because I wanted something warm and sweet out of the oven.  He humours me most of the time, but otherwise tells me to piss off or make my own espresso at home.

So anyways, I'd bookmarked the recipe and decided to make it on a day I was lazy. mac n cheese, how long can it take anyway??? Apparently quite long. Its only after I started that I actually read what Ellie had written...30 minutes for the sauce alone...Ro was gonna get back home soon and I didn't have dinner ready (this after teasing him all day saying oh you are soo gonna thank me for tonights dinner). I almost changed my mind and postponed mac n cheese for a day I was proactive, and that's when Ro called to say he was grabbing a couple of drinks with his colleagues and would be home a bit late, but would definitely come for dinner (I didn't tease him any more..yeah sure, was my calm reply).

I started off the cooking process and this is no simple mac n cheese to make but taste-wise it was probably the best mac n cheese I ever had. It cannot really be called mac n CHEESE because its more of the white sauce that adds the richness than the cheese per se. Maybe that's what I liked about it because too much cheese can make it oily and unappetising, It cannot be whipped up in no time and you need to have immense patience. But the recipe is a total keeper, and so I'm penning it down for a day I'm super proactive and want to make gourmet mac n cheese :)
Recipe halved from here, originally from Thomas Keller's cookbook Bouchon
Macaroni- 115 gms (approx. 4 oz) (I used spirali since I already had a pack with me)
Cooked Ham/ Bacon- 1/4 cup, diced (I used bacon)
Grated nutmeg- a pinch
Thyme- 1 tsp, minced
Parmessan cheese- 1/4 cup, grated
Bread crumbs- 2 tbsp
Salt and pepper- to taste
Mornay sauce- 1 1/2 cups (recipe below)

Mornay sauce
Butter- 2 tbsp
White onion- 1/3 cup, diced (half of one large onion)
All purpose flour- 2 tbsp
Milk- 1 1/3 cup
Heavy cream- 1/2 cup + 3 tbsp
Bay leaf- 1
Peppercorns- 2
Whole cloves- 2
Ground Nutmeg- a pinch
Cheddar cheese- 1/4 cup
To make the sauce, place a diffuser (a tawa or so) on medium heat and a large saucepan on it.
Melt the butter and add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook stirring occasionally for about 3 minutes or until the onion turns translucent.
Sprinkle the flour and cook for a further 3 minutes, whisking constantly and making sure the roux doesn't burn.
Whisking constantly pour the milk and cream till they are mixed well.
Bring to a simmer and then add the bay leaf, black peppercorns and cloves.
Reduce heat to low and continue to simmer, whisking in between to make sure the sauce doesn't get burnt and doesn't form clumps. If it does, like Ellie says, pour into a new pan and continue the process instead of scraping the bottom.
Let it stay on a gentle simmer for about 30 minutes until the sauce becomes nice and thick, but smooth.
Take it off the flame, remove the peppercorns, cloves and bay leaf and add the cheese. Whisk to melt
You can use this sauce immediately or can make it the previous day or a week in advance and store it in the refrigerator. To thin it out later, if needed, add a dash of heavy cream to it.
Assembling:
Cook the macaroni according to the instructions on the cover. Drain and keep aside.
If the Mornay sauce was just made, then take it off the flame and into it add the cooked macaroni and bacon. Mix well and season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.
It may look a bit loose, but not to worry the macaroni will absorb the sauce while baking.
Pour into a baking dish or individual gratin dishes. Sprinkle with cheese and thyme, followed by bread crumbs
Bake in an oven pre-heated at 190C for 15 to 20 minutes or till the sauce bubbles at the sides.
If you want to brown the top a bit, turn on the grill for about 6 to 8 minutes.
Serve with garlic bread or on its own.
Notes: The taste of thyme and nutmeg was distinct and I loved it. It is obvious so if you don't like it, you can omit the same.
The bacon can be substituted with ham, mushrooms, artichokes might be nice too.
For more tips do head over to Ellie's space.


Sending this to Presto Pasta Nights (#209) hosted by Sweet Artichoke.


PS: I have to tell you that after all the drama, Ro gets back home and gives me a sheepish grin and tells me he grabbed a sandwich on the way cos he was sooo hungry. I had already downed a glass of wine and was feeling a bit light headed or something, I let it pass saying he can take it for lunch the next day..Thanks to the wine, otherwise I would have definitely been a bitch about it!

42 comments:

Biny Anoop said...

wow dat looks amazing..............i want totry making macaroni.........bookmarking this

Reshmi Mahesh said...

Delicious and tempting dear...

GB said...

Thyme and nutmeg--definitely a grown up's mac n cheese! It sounds wonderful and I'm tempted just looking at the screen.

I'm so glad you food bloggers are out there to do the test-piloting of recipes! :)

Suja Sugathan said...

So much tempted by these pictures,looks superb.

Shabs.. said...

LOL nish.....U r so funny.....It happens at times when I prepare something under pressure, my son's helping hand in cooking which i dont really enjoy and trying to finish cooking just in time, when a call comes saying that he wont be for dinner!Nothing makes me annoyed than such late messages:) Love the dish, for me, i never got a perfect mac n cheese tooo...urs look gr8!

Tanvi said...

Mac n cheese with bay leaf n nutmeg? That sounds so so good!

Suhaina said...

ur pictures are killing me...enough I cannot take it any more......
Simply superb clicks and wonderful recipe too.

Suhaina said...

That looks really fantastic...yumm.

Satrupa said...

Not a major fan of mac n cheese ... but enjoyed the writeup and the lovely clicks :)

Fathima said...

looks yummy... amazing pics, love the honey comb looks on one of the pics!

Hari Chandana said...

Sounds interesting.. Lovely clicks !!
Indian Cuisine

Nandini said...

Wow! It looks nice and awesome!

Sharmilee! :) said...

Lovely clicks and tempting me a lot

Jun said...

It looks so good. Have to save this recipe for later.

Vimitha Anand said...

The cheese is tempting me a lot... Yummy breakfast...

Ellie (Almost Bourdain) said...

Glad you enjoyed the dish. It's not a fast dish to cook but well worth the effort. Thanks for the shout out :)

Ananda Rajashekar said...

Soothing pictures Nisha! somehow i'm getting repulsive with cheese, not doing much of it, but addition of nutmeg and herbs is ramming me! cravings i'm obstinate :)

Sneha Benny said...

I am in love with the recipe. Bookmarking it.

Priya said...

Wat an irresistible gratin, can finish it in no time..yumm!

Treat and Trick said...

Looks tempting and yummy!

Suman Singh said...

You can't go wromg with mac and cheese and this looks DiVINE!!

kitchenmorph said...

ingredient list is fantastic...but i may have to wait for one of my proactive days to do this. thank you for sharing!

divya said...

looks yummy... amazing pics, love the honey comb looks on one of the pics!

Nostalgia said...

Nice one! Pictures and pathrams.. very good.

Tina said...

delicious nd beautiful..

Prathima Rao said...

Now im so craving for this irresistible mac n cheese!!!
Prathima Rao
Prats Corner

miri goes phishing! said...

nish....i have not made a mac n cheese this complicated...but it does sound like the efforts would come thru in the final dish...i'm gonna try this out when i want to impress someone....;)

Yummy Team said...

It looks amazing, Nisha..Will give it a try sometime..

Swathi said...

That looks awesome delicious, I will try.

Priya (Yallapantula) Mitharwal said...

Wow, that Gratin looks drool-worthy. Love your pictures :)

Hey, I was wondering if you saw about "MAITRI - A Friendship Chain" event. If not, please do take a look and try to participate, it will be fun :)

http://mharorajasthanrecipes.blogspot.com/2011/03/maitri-friendship-chain.html

Send me an email @ priya.mitharwal@gmail.com

A Busy Nest said...

This is some serious macaroni and cheese! Gratin...oh my!

Kankana said...

It happened with me once. I got too excited and messaged my hubby that he is SO gonna enjoy dinner and then realized that i had to keep the chicken marinated for overnight :D
This mac and cheese looks delicious and sometime it's ok to take time specially when it's your fav!

kitchenmorph said...

forgot to tell you abt erin @ bigfatbaker.blogspot.com/ she has an interesting collection and she's a sweet girl herself!

Kairali sisters said...

The pictures are mindblowing Nisha, this is a great looking mac gratin, i am a huge fan of any gratins :)

Alison said...

Not NEARLY enough cheese. Martha's mac and cheese is the best.

Mélange said...

A very fabulous gratin..And the classy pictures make it worthy more..Hey,I enjoyed reading you..

Sarah Naveen said...

Adipoli!!

Sweet Artichoke said...

Looks perfect and yummy! And of course, if bacon can be replaced by artichokes, I will not resist!!
Thanks for sending this gratin to PPN!

Pavithra said...

The gratin will not looks so beautiful than this.. absolutely awesome.. Beautiful done and beautifully shot :)

Lena Rashmin Raj said...

im a huge fan of this Nish.. tried 2 times and it was a disaster... bookmarked ur recipe.. :0

Cool Lassi(e) said...

Love the way to put it as a dignified Mac and Cheese..He he.Now I am now curious to see how an undignified MNC would look like!

Renee said...

Oh I wanna try this. bookmarking it. Btw..pls join networked blogs on FB. Only b'cos I'm a FB addict, and will thereby get an update the minute you post. And I don't wanna miss a blog!