Sunday, May 8, 2011

Decadent Skillet Macaroni and Cheese

'Fancy' or 'grown up' macaroni and cheese is quite popular these days. I'm perfectly happy with juvenile and straightforward mac and cheese, but sometimes it's nice to dress it up a bit. This is a one skillet recipe for a macaroni and cheese that is not béchamel based. In otherwords, you don't have to fret over making a sauce that can be tricky if you're not careful and you only use two pans: 1) to infuse the cream with mushrooms, herbs, and pepper and 2) to cook the pasta & sauce. This dish is easy and a great dish to serve to guests. Oh, and mascarpone is the hero of this dish. Mmmm mascarpone....

Decadent Skillet Macaroni and Cheese
-Serves 4-6 as a main course

1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms
1 sprig rosemary (about 1 tablespoon of 'leaves' if you removed them)
1 heaping teaspoon of whole black peppercorns
2 tablespoons unsalted butter 
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock + 2 cups of water
3 cups tubetti, macaroni, or shells 
1 cup heavy cream 
2+ tablespoons milk 
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
7 tablespoons mascarpone

- Bash the rosemary sprig and black peppercorns in a mortar and pestle, or with a rolling pin. In a small skillet heat the 1/2 cup of cream plus two tablespoons of milk almost to a boil. Remove the cream from the heat and add the dried mushrooms, rosemary, and peppercorns. Let the cream, mushrooms, and herbs steep for at least 20 minutes. Strain the cream through a sieve. You should have close to one cup of cream remaining, add milk to bring the volume up to 1 cup.

- Melt butter in a large skillet or saucepan over medium-low heat. Toss in onion and shallots, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until soft and golden, about 15 minutes. Pour in broth and bring to a boil. Add pasta, stir it, and let it cook at a steady simmer until it has absorbed almost all the broth, 20 to 25 minutes. (There should be a ¼ inch or less of liquid at the bottom of the pan.)

- Pour in cream and allow it to simmer for about 3 minutes, until it thickens slightly. Stir in Parmesan and mascarpone, cook for 1 minute, and taste for salt and pepper. Pull the pan from the heat, cover, and let rest for 3 minutes before serving.

Loosely adapted from "Pasta Risotto" by Dorie Greenspan
Wall Street Journal (3/26/2011)

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