I loooooove Mac & Cheese… and now that I am grown-up, I look for ways to make mac & cheese but with twists and turns that will still satisfy the cravings, yet also attend a more upscale audience.
I have seen on various Top Chef and Barefoot Contessa episodes how a little bit of truffle butter can give you the essence of truffles without the steep price. Hey… still, a little container of truffle butter is not cheap at $7 each, but it’s not as expensive as shelling out $$$ for the real fresh truffle. Which, to be honest, I do not know if they’re available here in Puerto Rico.
I have been intrigued by the flavor of truffles ever since I had a delicious mushroom risotto with a drizzle of truffle oil at Pikayo’s Restaurant here in San Juan and more recently in a trip to NYC where we had a delicious vegetable cassoulet with truffle butter running thru it. Truffles have a flavor very difficult to explain for me… I guess that’s why I prefer, if you can and dare, to experience it. That’s why they’ve invented a name for this flavor – umami.
So I have adored this little tub of truffle butter in the fridge since before Xmas time… and a few weeks back I said ENOUGH!! I am making something with this butter! And to celebrate the love I feel for my friends, I invited them over to a small Valentine’s dinner party.
WHITE TRUFFLE MAC AND CHEESE
About 4 cups of mushrooms, sliced – I used a combination of white button and cremini mushrooms 3 tbs of butter About 3 tbs of extra-virgin Olive oil 1 pound of elbow or penne pasta, whole grain preferably 1 small container of truffle butter A little bit less than ¼ cup of whole wheat flour 1 quart of milk About 1 cup of gruyere cheese, grated About 1 cup of Italian Blend of cheeses, shredded About ½ cup of Parmesan cheese, grated Sea Salt and Freshly cracked Black Pepper
- First we cook the mushrooms… in a large skillet heat the regular butter and a bit olive oil to prevent the butter to burn too quickly and sauté the mushrooms. I had to do this in batches because my skillet is not that large. When you place them on the skillet, move them around to make sure the butter/oil coats them, but after that leave them alone. Do not touch them for a while and allow them to cook and get browned on both sides before seasoning them with salt and pepper. Set them aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously and cook the pasta until al dente for about 6-7 minutes.
- Meanwhile, we create the cheese sauce for the mac & cheese… in a medium sauce pan add the truffle butter… the smell will intoxicate you, in a good way!!! When the butter melts, add the flour in small increments. I scooped out ¼ cup, but I did not use it all. Whisk the flour into the butter to create a smooth paste and allow it to cook for a few minutes to make sure the flour doesn’t taste like flour in the sauce.
- After about 3-4 minutes, add the milk to the flour/butter paste, called a roux by the cooking gods. Whisk away to make sure you have no lumps and to thicken the milk and crate a creamy béchamel sauce. Bring to a boil for the sauce to reach it’s creamy consistency.
- Remove sauce from heat and add the grated cheeses slowly, whisking as you add to make sure they melt perfectly.
- When the cheese sauce is ready, drain the pasta well, return to the same pot and add the cheese sauce. Add the reserved cooked mushrooms and mix well. Transfer to a greased 9” x 13” baking dish and top with some extra grated Parmesan and Gruyere cheese.
- Bake in oven for about 20 minutes at 350F until the cheese on top gets browned and crusty.