Thursday, November 06, 2008

A different look at Mac 'N Cheese...

Tonight for dinner we had an interesting take on mac and cheese. I should start out by saying though, that if you really enjoy regular mac and cheese that doesn't have any intriguing add-ins, you may want to just think of this South Indian-Style Macaroni and Cheese as a pasta casserole instead!

What sets this dish apart is the spices used to infuse an array of flavors into the creamy milk sauce. Once a couple cloves worth of minced garlic and a bit of fresh grated ginger were perked up in melted butter, deep red paprika, piquant garam masala, fiery cayenne pepper and a dash of turmeric are stirred in to gently toast in the hot fat. Besides lending its warm properties, turmeric also dyes the sauce a rich yellowish tone. A sprinkle of flour is stirred into the intensely aromatic pot of spices and once given a minute to cook out its rawness, a few cups of milk is whisked in.

The flour will begin to activate as the milk bubbles and then you'll notice the liquid beginning to tighten up slightly - it won't be as loose as it once was, but you are not looking for it to get too thick either. At that point, half a pound of shredded sharp cheddar is stirred in to melt, adding to its luscious body. Cooked whole-wheat macaroni, that we drained over frozen peas to take its chill off, are added to the cheesy mixture and the coated pasta is poured into a casserole dish.

I know some can find this next part a little distracting, but we both love a crunchy top to our macaroni and cheese. We used featherlight fresh breadcrumbs, thanks to a couple slices of leftover soft French bread, that we tossed with fresh grated Asiago cheese and a healthy pinch of paprika. To nudge that topping in the right direction and crisp up while in the oven, we lightly coated the crumbs with cooking spray once we scattered them on top.

What I loved most about this dish was while it looked like your ordinary macaroni and cheese (well... if you put peas in it!), upon first bite you know you are about to give your taste buds a reason to get up and dance. A little racy, a bit sophisticated and definitely cheesy, without feeling greasy, this mac remained quite creamy even after the stint in the oven. Taking that into account, we made sure to give it about 10 minutes to cool in the baking dish before portioning it out. We were then able to pull out tidy pieces that held their shape, but just barely thanks to that velvety sauce. With a quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper, I wouldn't classify this dish as hot, but it did leave a charming tingle that may be too much for some... if that is you, just halve the amount so you still get a little kick.


  1. I've been thinking about this recipe for a while now, but haven't had a good opportunity to make it. I'm so glad you did, so I have some sort of confirmation that it should taste good.

  2. Wow, that's an interesting combination. I just can't imagine all that cheese with those spices....but if you're recommending it (and you got Jeff to eat it!) I might have to give it a go!

    When's the next Christmas cookie installment? I'm starting to think about mine for this year......I think I need some new ones to try (hint hint)!

  3. This looks amazing! I think this is going on the to-do pile. I'm always looking for variations on mac and cheese.

  4. Ian - Let us know if you give it a chance!

    Jen - That is what we were thinking, but we decided it worked well for us! Different, yes, but still tasty!

    Michelle - Enjoy!