Let’s just admit it, mac and cheese is right up there as the ultimate comfort food.
Pasta covered in ooey gooey cheese, what more does one need to make the belly smile with contentment? Well, I may have the answer to that right here.
Every year we entertain with our share of cheeseboards. Try as I might, there is always leftover cheese and cold cuts of some sort. And of course, these get turned into sandwiches or become snacking throughout the week. But then one year, I was inspired by Joel and Dana, fellow Toronto food bloggers over at ‘Well Preserved’ to turn some of that luscious cheese into the ‘Day After’ or ‘Holiday’ mac and cheese. What a fabulous idea. Every year it tastes different, since the cheeses on the boards change on a whim. So one batch may be a combo of cheddar, swiss, emmental and manchego. Another time it may be gorgonzola, chevre, gouda and cheddar. Etc. Etc. Etc.
Then one year after our annual Fondue party, I looked at all the leftovers, and realized that the dry cured meats and sausage would also make a fabulous addition to that brilliant mac and cheese. And while I was at it, why not add a couple of the pickles and olives that were also on last night’s board? So that’s how this Charcuterie Board Mac and Cheese got started!
What can go into this stove top mac and cheese? Just about anything you want. Chopped spicy chorizo, smoked csabai sausage or any other dry cured sausage. Why not throw in the genoa salami, some sliced up prosciutto or serrano ham? Anything pickled will work wonderfully: capers, pickles, olives, sun dried tomatoes, etc. Did you use a bomba style antipasto sauce on your board- go on, throw some in.
How to make this mac and cheese will astound you. There is no roux, therefore there doesn’t have to be gluten in this recipe. Of course, that is resting on the fact that you will be using gluten-free pasta. But how will the sauce form? you ask. Most sauces are thickened in some way with flour, creating a béchamel sauce. Not this sauce. It comes together with two simple ingredients: heavy cream, and cheese. The recipe is originally one from Melissa Clark’s book, ‘Dinner, Changing the Game’. When I first read the recipe, I thought, really? This is all that’s needed? And then I tried it. And I was hooked.
Making the sauce is as simple as taking the heavy cream, cooking it over medium high heat until it has reduced by half, and then adding in all the cheese, and stirring till it has melted. That’s it. And it works!! So no more butter and flour and milk being cooked together till thickened and then adding the cheese. Trust me- between the butter and milk, there is actually more fat in the traditional bechamel sauce than in this quick cheese sauce. And it thickens to become the gooey-ist cheese sauce covering every piece of pasta. The first time I made it for Jim he was blown away with how rich and yummy it was. And it took mere minutes on the stove top.
I’m going to show you how to make it for two people. It is pretty rich, in fact, it will probably feed three people. Or if you have kids, this could easily feed four little ones. But obviously the recipe is easily doubled to feed a family of four or five. Add a side salad or coleslaw and you’ve got a meal that will make everyone happy.
This will be one of those recipes that you will turn to whenever you don’t know what to make. The hardest part will be grating the cheese. But if you have pre-grated cheese in the house, you are ahead of the game. This isn’t health food. This isn’t calorie free food. This isn’t meant to help you jump start your game plan to the new and improved you. But it is meant to make you smile, and sometimes this is enough. If you are truly concerned, just eat a smaller portion, surround it with a green salad, and call it a day!
Charcuterie Board Macaroni and Cheese
This stove top macaroni and cheese comes together in mere minutes, thanks to this mind blowing sauce. Adding in all the fun leftovers from your cheeseboard platter the night before takes this macaroni and cheese to a new level.
- 8 oz about 1 1/3 cups of macaroni (if using a different shaped pasta, it may be closer to 1 1/2 cups)
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 1/4 cups grated cheeses any combination of cheeses you have on hand
- 1/4 cup chopped olives pickles, capers etc
- 1/4 cup chopped dried cured sausage or charcuterie or more as you see fit
Boil the pasta in a medium sized pot, according to the directions, stopping at al dente. Drain from pot and set into a bowl.
Take the same pot and heat the cream over medium high heat. Cook until it has reduced by just half, just a few minutes, so watch it.
Add the cheeses and stir until the cheeses have melted and created a creamy sauce. If you find it too thick, you can always thin it with a bit more cream.
Put the pasta, the chopped olives and pickles, and the chopped dried sausage into the pot and stir until the cheese sauce has covered everything.
Inspired by Melissa Clark's Book, 'Dinner, Changing the Game'
Some cheeses you may consider are: cheddar, gruyere, emmental, manchego, chevre, beemster, gouda, swiss, gorgonzola. If using some drier cheeses, just make sure you have some melting cheeses as well.
This will serve two comfortably, three small ones in a pinch!