Charlotte has been damn cold this January.
I am weary of thinking that mixing cherry ChapStick and Chanel lip colour is an innovation in winter makeup. My go-to Southern quickie car window defrost (warm water) only froze the windshield this morning. I know, I should have used my plastic kitchen spatula as a scraper! I am horrified to realize that after an hour stroll in my black yoga pants (aka the uniform), my fanny does not thaw for another 2 hours after I return inside. Yes, I am weary. Weary of Winter.
I need something cozy and comforting and decidedly grown-up. Enter my knight in winter white, Blonde Macaroni and Cheese. This Mac-n-Cheese has an attention grabbing blend of four cheeses (White Cheddar, Mascarpone, Gruyere and Parmigiano Reggiano). The cream sauce is infused with bay leaf, garlic and a footnote of fine cognac. Topped with the buttery crunch of panko crumbs, Blonde Macaroni and cheese satisfies and seduces. I am feeling better already.
Here is the recipe Sally made.
9X13 inch baking dish
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 cup chicken stock
1 Tablespoon Cognac
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove, smashed
5 Tablespoons all purpose flour
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
small pinch white pepper
8 ounces grated Black Diamond White Cheddar cheese
8 ounces Mascarpone cheese
4 ounces grated Gruyere cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9X13 inch casserole with 1 Tablespoon of butter. Set aside. In a medium bowl, add the panko crumbs, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, 1/8 teaspoon of salt and a small pinch of white pepper. Stir to blend. Add 3 Tablespoons of melted butter. Stir to blend. Cook the panko mixture in a nonstick skillet ,stirring, over medium heat until the panko begins to color. Remove the skillet from the heat. Set the panko topping aside.
2. Cook the pasta to al dente. Drain and set aside. While the pasta is cooking, put the heavy cream, half and half, chicken stock, Cognac, bay leaf and garlic clove into a medium saucepan. Bring mixture to a simmer. Turn off the heat and leave the pan on the burner for 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and the garlic clove from the cream mixture. Keep the cream mixture on the turned off burner.
3. Melt the remaining 4 Tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan. Add the flour,
4. Pour the cream sauce over the reserved cooked macaroni. Stir to blend. Pour the macaroni mixture into the buttered casserole. Top with an even layer of the panko crumb mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes until macaroni bubbles and is lightly browned.
©Recipe Sally James Mathis
©Photography Taylor Mathis