Today we have Beth Anderson in the garden. Everyone please fill your plates with refreshments, pour yourself a tall cool glass of your choice of beverage and find a nice shady spot to relax.
Mary: So Beth, please tell us a bit about yourself.
Beth: When I discovered one of the 2011 Murder We Write bloggers was going to be Mary Martinez, I went back and took another look at her lovely website and blog. This time it registered that from time to time she shares great recipes with her followers, and as one who is constantly printing out recipes because gourmet cooking is one of my favorite things, after writing, of course, I asked her if she’d like to hear about my search for the Perfect Mac and Cheese recipe. She said yes, so here’s the background:
Last fall, when I was visiting my daughter and son-in-law in Washington State, one of our dinners out was at a small but well-known restaurant called Geppetto's Italian Bistro in Yakima, Washington, smack in the middle of Washington Wine Country. A truly wonderful gourmet restaurant, even their pizzas were paper-thin delicate and almost too beautiful to eat, although I did. My daughter ordered the Mac and Cheese she’d heard so much about and gave me a taste of it. I knew in that moment that I had entered the closest trip to paradise you can find here on earth. It was like no other macaroni and cheese I’d ever tasted. But what exactly had they put in it to give up that elusive perfection? We talked about it off and on for weeks after I got home and neither of us even came close to knowing what it was.
I wanted that recipe. Had to have it. Would have it if I had to tear the whole Internet apart to find it.
I searched everyplace I knew of to search. No author or mystery buff ever looked for a clue like I did for whatever was in that beautiful, multicolored, delectably creamy sauce. I looked in my own cookbooks. No luck, not even Julia or Jacques had that one. I’d know it when I found it, I was certain of that. I knew it was just a matter of one, maybe two things that set it apart.
I was getting desperate, unwilling to give up The Search when one afternoon, after staring at my computer for a while, it finally hit me. If anyone would have it, if it wasn’t a top secret recipe locked up in the National Archives, Bon Appetit would. Mentally smacking myself upside the head because I hadn’t thought of them first, I began my search in their online recipe files and it wasn’t long—in looking for clues time—before I saw The One. It had to be. HAD to be! Now, I had always known about nutmeg in many cheese dishes, and Gruyere cheese in some of them. But who would ever think of also adding two teaspoons of fresh chopped thyme leaves and Brie cheese? You could not taste the thyme but you knew something was there. And who ever heard of adding Brie to mac and cheese?
Well, Bon Appetit did.
I made it that same night after a hasty trip to the store to collect everything I needed, which actually was most all of it because Brie never lasts long in my house and neither does Gruyere. I actually tore up the entire kitchen trying to make it the way the recipe said and learned one thing. Unless you love grated knuckles, either grate all the cheese before you even start the rest of the recipe, or have a food processor handy. Either way, you’ll still have to cut up the Brie by hand. Do it all first or you and your kitchen will be sorry. I had pots and pans and bowls stacked up three feet, I’m not kidding you, and all because I didn’t grate/prepare the cheese first. So for your gastronomic pure pleasure, here it is:
Cheesemonger’s Mac and Cheese
8 servings, unless you’re me. Then, six. Maybe.
1-1/2 cups coarsely grated Gruyere cheese
1-1/2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese, about 6 ounces
1-1/2 cups diced rindless Brie (cut from a 1 pound wedge)
5 Tablespoons unsalted good butter, divided
¼ cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
¾ teaspoon nutmeg (scant, more will overpower)
4 cups whole milk (fat free will never do it for this dish)
1-3/4 cups fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless French bread
1 pound Penne pasta
8 teaspoons whipping cream (if making 1 day ahead, and you can)
Their Tip: It’s easiest to remove the rind and dice the Brie if you put it in the freezer for 15 minutes to firm it up first. My tip: Keep the rind, it’ll have Brie on it and it’s great on appetizer crackers another day.
Grate and mix all cheeses. Set aside 1 cup for topping; cover the one cup and chill. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and stir until mixture turns a golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add thyme and nutmeg. Gradually whisk in milk. Simmer until thickened and smooth, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Add cheeses from large bowl. Stir together until melted and smooth.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add breadcrumbs, toss. Stir until golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to plate. (This, by the way, is one of the secrets, it adds a lot of beautiful buttery flavor and crunch.)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cook pasta in boiling salted water until tender but firm to bite. Drain. Transfer to large bowl. Pour cheese sauce over, toss. Either pour it into a large capacity oblong bowl or divide among eight 1-1/4 cup custard cups. Sprinkle with the remaining one cup of cheese. (DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover all with foil and chill. When you uncover them drizzle each with 1 teaspoon cream. Cover with foil and bake 15 minutes. (My tip: Made in a large pan, it takes closer to 20/25 minutes.) Uncover. Sprinkle partially baked chilled or just assembled cups with breadcrumbs. Bake pasta until beginning to bubble and tops are golden, about 20 minutes, longer if it’s one big dish.
That’s it! All you need with it is a nice tossed salad and a fairly light dessert because this cheese dish is extremely rich and filling. And if you’d like to pair it with a nice white wine, try Alexandria Nicole 2009 Shepherds Mark. You get it in Washington Wine Country or also online. Bon Appetit!
Beth Anderson is a multi-published, award winning author in several genres including romance and mainstream crime fiction. A full time author, she lives in a Chicago, Illinois suburb. She has appeared on Chicago's WGN Morning Show, The ABC Evening News, as well as numerous other radio and cable television shows. She has guest lectured at Purdue University and many libraries and writers' conferences. She loves music, particularly jazz. Her website and blog are both at http://www.bethanderson-hotclue.com
Links to my author pages on Amazon and Barnes & Noble:
Website and blog: http://www.bethanderson-hotclue.com
Publisher's Website: Krill Press http://www.krillpress.com/books.html
Book blurb for RAVEN TALKS BACK by Beth Anderson:
Raven Morressey is living the good life. Nice home, husband, three healthy children, and it's finally summertime, when life is again lovely in Valdez, Alaska. All this explodes one morning when builders, digging up her back yard, uncover a recently murdered headless, handless female body covered with scarification—hundreds of colored designs cut into the skin to resemble tattoos. As if this isn’t enough, where the corpse’s head should have been is a large rock with a face painted on that resembles an Alaska Native mask.
Raven's eight year old son, Timmy, is the first one to see the body and is suddenly unable to walk or respond in any way. On that same day, Raven hears the voice of her long dead Athabascan father coming from Timmy, who is unaware of the ancient hunting chants he sings in his sleep and the words he suddenly speaks in Raven’s native tongue—a language he does not know.
Jack O’Banion, Valdez’s Chief of Police for the past few years, faced with his first murder case in Valdez, begins his official investigation. Everywhere he goes he finds nothing but deception. The town seems to have closed into itself and nobody will tell him anything that might help him solve this case. Then one murder quickly morphs into two, then three, and the Alaska State Troopers are hot on his back to find the killer now.
Between Raven’s voices and the visions she develops, and Jack, whose career as well as his contented life in Valdez are on the line, they both feel they have to find the killer and restore some sanity to the town—not to mention their own lives, which are quickly unraveling out of control.
Thank you, Beth, for joining us today. Your recipe sounds yummy, I can't wait to try it. Please drop by anytime.