Lockdown Recipe of the Day: Luxe Mac & Cheese
If the starting point is roasting onion, tomatoes and garlic with thyme and star anise, you know this is no ordinary Mac & Cheese.
(Serves 4 greedy people)
500 g macaroni
1 large onion, cut in half
3 fat cloves garlic, whole, not dehusked
3 large ripe tomatoes, whole
4 or 5 thyme sprigs
1 or 2 star anise
3 Tbs olive oil
200 g bacon, diced
750 ml full cream milk
1 bay leaf
200 ml cream
3 Tbs butter
2 heaped Tbs flour or cornstarch
2 large eggs, lightly beaten with a fork
200 g Cheddar cheese (or Gruyère, or a mix of the two), grated
More grated cheese to sprinkle on top
Salt and pepper to taste
Before you start making your sauce, roast the halved onion, garlic cloves (whole, in their husks), whole tomatoes, thyme and star anise, drizzled with olive oil and lightly salted, in a hot (200℃) oven for an hour. Leave aside while you set about all the rest. When cool, chop the onion and tomato, squeeze out the pulp from the garlic, discarding the husks, and set all of that aside.
Cook the macaroni in salted boiling water until al dente, drain and set aside. (Do this once your sauce is already on the go.)
Fry diced bacon in the pot that you will use for the béchamel. Set the bacon aside with the roasted items. Don’t discard the bacon fat, it is going to lend depth to your mac & cheese sauce (unless it’s overly fatty bacon and the amount of fat is excessive).
Heat the milk to just off boiling point with the bay leaf, then turn off the heat. In the pot in which you fried the bacon, add the butter to the bacon fat and melt. Turn off the heat, stir in the flour/cornstarch thoroughly to make a smooth roux. Return the pot to a low heat. Make the béchamel by adding some of the milk at a time to the roux, stirring incessantly, until it is used up. Continue stirring over a low heat for about 10 minutes while the sauce thickens and the flour is cooked out.
Add the roasted ingredients/bacon to the sauce and combine well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Turn off the heat. Add the grated cheese and stir until completely melted and incorporated. Add the cream and incorporate thoroughly with a wooden spoon. The sauce should have cooled down sufficiently to add the two beaten eggs and stir in well without risk of the egg scrambling. If in doubt, cool for a few minutes more before adding the beaten eggs.
Grease (with butter) a deep oven dish big enough to hold this large quantity. Pour the sauce in first, then add the cooked macaroni, and combine well using two wooden spoons. Sprinkle grated cheese generously all over the top. Bake in a 200℃ oven four about 40 minutes or until the cheese topping is as beautifully golden as the one in the picture. DM/TGIFood
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