Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Orecchiette Mac & Cheese

By Paul Briand

Bottom line: Was my Orecchiette Mac & Cheese as good as it was at the Fuze Restaurant in Avalon, N.J.?

It was a noble effort, but the creaminess and texture and combination of flavors in the original far outdid what I was able to replicate at home.

To review:

My wife Jane and I did some traveling last month and ate a lot of restaurant food. We were particularly taken with the mac and cheese offering at the Fuze. See last week's post.

It took a bit of work to reverse engineer the dish to create a recipe.

From our memory of the dish and from the bits and pieces we know from the menu description, it uses orecchiette pasta, which I hadn't heard of before. It found that orecchiette literally means “little ears,” although some people find them more dome-shaped than ear-shaped. They work well with chunky meat and vegetable sauces.

The recipe also describes it as "crispy spec, oven roasted tomato compote, chive, Wisconsin béchamel, herb and toasted bread crumb."

Here's my interpretation:

16 ounce box of orecchiette pasta
1 pound thick-cut bacon
1 pound aged cheddar, grated
14 1/2 ounce can of roasted diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
2 tablespoon butter
Chive, chopped
For béchamel sauce:
3 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1/4 tablespoon nutmeg

1. Prepare the béchamel sauce
In medium sauce pan, heat butter over medium heat until melted. Add flour and stir until smooth and mixture turns a light golden sandy color. Meanwhile, heat the milk until it almost boils. Then add the hot milk to the butter mixture, a little at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to boil then remove from heat and set aside;
2. Cook bacon until crispy done. Remove and pat away grease from cooked bacon with paper towel. Set aside;
3. Cook pasta according to box instructions. Drain and set aside;
4. Using 2 tablespoons of butter melted in a skillet, sautee bread crumbs and set aside;
5. With béchamel sauce returned to medium heat, whisk in the grated cheese a handful at a time and repeat until all the cheese is melted into the sauce;
6. Place pasta in large mixing bowl, stir in cheese sauce;
7. Crumble bacon into cheese and pasta mixture and stir;
8. Add roasted dice tomatoes to the mixture;
9. Pour entire mixture into medium large backing dish and spread evenly;
10. Top with sautéed bread crumbs;
11. Add palm-ful of chopped chives;
12. Place the baking dish into oven pre-heated to 350 degrees and cook until the mixture gets bubbly and bread crumbs start turning a deep brown.

Mine wasn't as gooey as the original. It needed more cheddar and a good dose of mozzarella. But it was definitely worth the effort.

Really now, can you ever have too much mac 'n cheese or too many mac n' cheese recipes?

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