Formerly consigned to a slow death in the realm of pre-packaged microwave meals for students and small children the humble macaroni cheese appears to be experiencing a renaissance. With the rise in popularity of American style burger joints and takeaways; sides such as “mac n cheese” have piggy backed their way into the modern culinary consciousness. This cheesy revolution is not solely at home in the world of trendy hipster eateries. Even Michelin starred chefs such as Tom Aikens and everyone’s favourite food scientist Heston Blumenthal have thrown their hats into the ring. Finding myself in such good company I decided that I would give it a go; and so I gathered up the required ingredients for the first time since doing so in food technology aged 14.
Before I get started I will say that I decided against using macaroni in my mac n cheese. I think that this is acceptable but if you feel differently then I understand. Instead I chose to use a style of pasta called trompetti. I did so because it was a much more interesting shape; no other reason than that. For the cheese I went for a mix of cheddar, mozzarella and buffalo mozzarella. I felt this would give a really good mix of flavours and textures plus this is what I had in the fridge. I also decided to spice mine up a bit to make it a little more interesting.
For the mac n cheese
- 300g trompetti pasta
- Extra Mature cheddar
- buffalo mozzarella
- two finger chillies
- crushed dried chilli
- milk, butter and flour for the sauce
- two chicken thighs
- red onion
- smoked and hot paprika
What I did
To begin I trimmed the chicken thighs and placed into a heat proof dish. I added some chopped chorizo, roughly chopped onion and peppers. I sprinkled over the paprika and some salt before drizzling with oil and combining. This was then placed into a pre heated over at around 200C for half an hour.
Whilst the chicken is cooking get the pasta going as per the packet instructions or however you like to cook it. For the sauce melt the butter in a saucepan and add the chopped chillies and garlic and cook for a minute or so. Add the flour to form a paste and continue to cook for another minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the milk before returning to the heat and continue stirring until the sauce thickens adding the dried chilli as you do. Alternatively make a bechamel however you like to make it just make sure you include the chilli and garlic. Once the sauce is made stir in the grated hard cheeses and torn off pieces of mozzarella. Season and add to the drained pasta stirring well to combine.
Once you have removed the chicken from the oven get it all on a plate and tuck in. This is not a meal that is going to be fit for a dinner party but it will make a very satisfying midweek dinner. The mac n cheese should be stringy from the mozzarella, have a tart bite from the cheddar and a creaminess from the buffalo mozzarella. It should be reassuringly spicy without blowing your head off as the fats in the sauce will help to calm the chilli heat. Combined with the smokey paprika chicken and chorizo this is something to eat on the sofa after a tough day with a cold beer. If you have left over mac n cheese you can reheat it the following day in the oven with some breadcrumbs on top for a quick lunch.
I will be honest here and admit this is not the type of cooking that really excites me; but it is nice to do from time to time. Will the mac n cheese renaissance continue? I am not sure. It is certainly the sort of thing that you can have fun with and is easy to be creative with so why not. At the end of the day it is a simple and effective dish that is very moreish.