The BBC - It's more than just a TV station in England...
To me, it's my favorite Mac and Cheese...
There are three "secrets" to making this (or any) Mac and cheese.
- Use a pasta that holds the cheese... LOTS of cheese in every bite with shells!
- The secret is in the sauce, recipe to follow
- Blanch the Veggies and add after the Mac and Cheese has been baked
You go to all that effort to make a great cheese sauce. Use a pasta that holds that sauce. Those elbows that the blue box mac and cheese has made famous is not the best pasta for this dish. Take a look at the photo below. See those pools of cheese sauce inside the shells. Delivers big cheese taste in every bite!
Cook the pasta to an al dente stage, I boiled mine for only 8 minutes. We are going to bake it later, so it will finish cooking in the oven.
For my BBC Mac and Cheese, I diced up 1/2 pound of bacon and fried it up just barely done (we are going to bake it later, so not too crispy).
Next up, the sauce.
Pick a good melting cheese (or two or three) as a base. When I make a Mac and Cheese, I like to use a young Gruyère cheese as a base, and then toss in a couple of extra types in the pot. It is a great way to use those leftover bits of cheese that collect in your cheese drawer. (BTW, remember I am hosting a contest for BSI this week. This would certainly qualify, as I added 2 extra leftover bits of different cheeses to the Gruyère sauce. Click HERE to see the details of my BSI secret ingredient contest (along with a great prize). But I digress from the sauce tips).
How, you might ask, can you tell if a hunk of Gruyère cheese is young or old? Easy... the young cheese is soft when pressed. The texture of a swiss or cheddar. An older hunk is harder and would crumble. More the texture of a Parmesan. A young Gruyère cheese melts easy, has a nutty, assertive, complex flavor that holds up well when the bacon and broccoli are added.
I also like the look of a white cheese sauce (Gruyère is white), as opposed to the yellow you might get with a yellow cheddar. But, that's just me.
OK, here's my cheese sauce recipe...
First, make a Roux...
3 TBS Butter
3 TBS Flour
Heat and melt the butter, add the flour slowly so it does not clump and stir, stir, stir. Do not burn your roux, stir constantly for about 8-10 minutes, until it darkens and you can smell a nutty aroma. The roux will act as a thickening agent, and will help to melt the cheese evenly. the nutty taste the cooked roux adds just makes the sauce more complex (not complicated, but complex in taste).
Once the roux is proper, start adding the sauce mixins...
1 rounded TBS of Dijon style Mustard
2 TBS Worcestershire Sauce
1 1/2 cups Milk (I use whole milk)
Blend everything, and bring to a slow simmer. Now start adding the cheese...
1/2 cup Gruyère Cheese, cubed
1/4 cup Sheep's Milk Cheese, cubed
1/4 cup Blue Cheese, cubed
Be sure to cut the cheese into cubes so it melts easier. Stir constantly until the cheese is melted.
Layer the pasta into a casserole dish (I used 2 single serve dishes (shown in the photos), as well as an 8X8 dish. Mix in 1/2 the cooked bacon now. Next, add the cheese sauce to the top. No need to mix, as the sauce will ooze down into the pasta. If you do mix, the cheese will pool on the bottom and not in the pasta shells. Take the other 1/2 of the bacon and top.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. While that is baking, let's blanch some broccoli...
And finally... The blanched Broccoli!
Blanching is a terrific cooking technique for AMAZING crisp, colorful vegetables. I have gone on record as a big fan of snappy, crispy vegetables. I have also been ranting and railing against overcooked, soggy vegetables. Such a terrible thing to do to a poor helpless veggie.
Blanching is very easy...
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. How much saltyou use depends on the amount of broccoli you use as well as the amount of water. The water should ideally taste faintly salty.
- Fill a large bowl with water and ice. Make sure to leave enough room for the broccoli to comfortable fit.
- Once the water has reached a boil, put the broccoli into the pot and allow it to boil for 3 minutes.
- Remove the broccoli from the pot and put it directly into the ice water, making sure the broccoli is covered with the water completely.
- Wait 1 minute then remove the broccoli from the ice water then serve immediately.
That's it. The broccoli has that wonderful deep green color. It has a snap texture to the bite. It is cooked through, but not cooked to mush.
And, we are all but done...
Pull the baked Mac and cheese out of the oven, top with the broccoli and serve hot.
With the bacon and the veggies, this is a wonderful weeknight meal in itself. Or, a very complex side dish for an event meal.
Best of all, this is better than it looks!