I love comfort food taken up a notch, and it’s what a lot of restaurants like to do. They take your mom’s meatloaf and make it with veal and bison, and all of a sudden it’s transformed into something more than it was. A lot of chefs have done this with mac and cheese: a luxurious dish that can be made even more fancy by the addition of a few other ingredients. So I’m jumping on the bandwagon. And, while it’s warm today, the past few days have been cold and snowy, which left me craving comfort food like mac and cheese to warm me up. And apparently I’m not the only one.
I found the recipe on Epicurious, and modified it a bit (lobster doesn’t quite fit in with a gourmet on a budget dish). Truffle oil, my friends, is what makes this recipe especially amazing. OK, it’s black truffle flavored olive oil, but it’s all I could find, and probably afford.
Budget: $15 for 4 to 5 servings; or $3 to $3.75 a serving.
Recipe details after the jump.
A regular feature in which I cook cheap, gourmet dishes.
- .75 lb asparagus ($2.50 with my VIC card at Harris Tetter)
- 1 lb shell pasta ($1.50)
- olive oil (pantry)
- .5 medium onion, chopped (pantry)
- 1 or 2 celery ribs, chopped ($.30)
- 1 carrot, chopped ($.15)
- 1 to 1.5 cups (about 4 ounces) grated fontina cheese ($7.50 for 8 ounces, about $3.5o for serving)
- .5 to 1 cup (about 2 ounces) grated gruyere cheese ($8.50 for 8 ounces, about $2.15 for serving)
- .75 cup white wine ($6.50 for Yellowtail Pinot Grigio – about $1.25 for serving)
- 1 bay leaf (pantry)
- 1 pint of heavy cream ($3)
- salt and pepper (pantry)
- drizzle of black or white truffle oil ($14 for 3.5 ounces, maybe $.75 for serving)
Total: $15.05 for fabulous mac and cheese.
- Bring 4-6 quarts of water to boil in a your largest pot. Salt well. Meanwhile, chop up onions, celery, and carrots. Break tough ends off of asparagus (just snap them and they’ll naturally break where the tough part ends).
- Saute mirepoix (the onion, celery, and carrots) in a large saucepan with olive oil.
- After about 5 minutes, when vegetables soften, add wine and a bay leaf. Let wine reduce by half.
- Once water comes to a boil, blanche asparagus by letting them cook for a minute and then transferring them into a bowl of ice water or by running them under cold water. Set aside.
- Add heavy cream to sauce pan, bringing liquid barely to a simmer and letting cook on low for 2o minutes.
- Meanwhile, with same pot used to blanche asparagus, cook pasta.
- After 20 minutes, add cheese to sauce. Either remove from heat or turn heat to very low to ensure the fat and the cream won’t separate from each other. Stir continuously until cheese is melted and incorporated. Start with the lower recommended amount of cheese for now. Taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper as needed.
- Strain sauce to get rid of vegetables/bay leaf.
- After the sauce has been strained and pasta has been cooked/strained, return pasta to large pot under low heat. Add sauce and stir.
- If the sauce is looking too thin, add more cheese and stir to melt. Continue to do so until you get the desired, thick “mac and cheese” like consistency.
- Note: I definitely had to use much more cheese than the recipe called for.
- Plate mac and cheese with asparagus on top for a pretty presentation.
- And for the finishing touch: the truffle oil. Drizzle a very small amount (you can always add more) to start – it’s a very strong, but fabulous flavor.