A reader writes that she and friends had a girls' night out at the famed Chateau and Bar Marmont in Los Angeles and they decided to splurge with an order of mac 'n' cheese. It was the best they ever tasted.
Marmont executive chef Carolynn Spence provided her recipe, which is perfect if you're into the rich and creamy variety. The Tallegio cheese - an Italian cheese - lends a creamy tang and the flavors are rounded out with hints of coriander, mustard and nutmeg.
The soft Tallegio has a distinct flavor, but if is not available, Limburger, fontina or brie can work.
TALLEGIO MAC 'N' CHEESE
1 1/2 hours; serves 12
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 small onion, diced small
2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
1 teaspoon whole yellow mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, or to taste
6 cups milk
4 ounces American cheese, small cubes or grated
8 ounces Tallegio cheese, small cubes, divided
1 1/2 pounds pasta, cooked, preferably torchio shapes (orecchiette, elbows or another fun shape will also work)
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook to soften, 5 minutes.
Stir in the flour to form the roux. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the roux goes from a light white color to a blond golden color, about 5 minutes. Add the bay leaf, peppercorns, coriander seeds, yellow mustard seeds and the nutmeg, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes to distribute the flavors.
Whisk in the milk a little at a time. Increase the heat and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 30 minutes to cook out the flour flavor, stirring occasionally to make sure the flour doesn't sink to the bottom of the pan and burn.
Remove the pan from heat and strain into a new pot, discarding the spices. Add the American and half of the Tallegio cheeses, stirring until the cheese is melted and incorporated. Taste the sauce, adding 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste.
Add the pasta and the remaining Tallegio cheese, stirring to coat the pasta completely. The mixture at this point will seem a bit wet but will thicken as it bakes.
Pour the mixture into a 13-by-9-inch or similar large baking dish and bake until the mixture is thickened and bubbly, about 20 minutes. The mac 'n' cheese should have a nice crust on top. If not, place it under the broiler to darken a little.
Remove from heat and cool slightly before serving.
Nutrition per serving: 477 calories; 18 g protein; 54 g carbohydrates; 3 g fiber; 21 g fat; 12 g saturated fat; 61 mg cholesterol; 8 g sugar; 436 mg sodium