I've owed you all a new mac and cheese recipe for quite a while, and I think you'll forgive me for the hiatus after you make this mac. Packed full of aromatic herbs, with a sharp cheddar bite, this is the perfect mac and cheese for the bizarre autumn we find ourselves in. I love mushrooms, but my husband wont eat them, so I kept them large enough in this recipe for him to be able to pick them out (he's not actually a picky eater, I swear!). Key to using mushrooms in this recipe is the dry-frying method, which I've mentioned before and is now a nonnegotiable technique in my kitchen. It allows the mushrooms to sear and caramelize without steaming in their own liquid, and lets the mushrooms shine on their own. I like to top this dish with Frizzled Herbs, which are my new fave garnish, and while it adds some fanciness to the mac and cheese, it's not required for this meal to be tasty!
HERBY MUSHROOM MAC AND CHEESE
serves 6 - 8
5 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbs + ½ c unsalted butter
3 sprigs rosemary
10 sprigs thyme
3 sprigs sage
3 sprigs oregano
4 ea garlic cloves, smashed
4 c whole milk
2 tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp ground white pepper
1 lb pasta, shape of your choice
½ c flour
1½ lb/12 oz sharp white cheddar, grated
½ lb/4 oz parmesan, grated
Place a large sauté pan over medium high flame, and when hot, add in the mushrooms to dry fry. Do this in two batches if necessary, so as not to crowd the pan and steam them. To dry fry, cook the mushrooms until golden and squeaky, then flip. Cook until golden on both sides, then add in one tablespoon of butter to finish, and sauté until the butter foams.
Transfer cooked mushrooms to bowl, and turn the heat down to low on the pan. Let the pan come down in temperature a little bit, then add in the herbs and garlic, and let them become fragrant, about 2 minutes. Pour in the milk and season with salt and pepper, and let the flavors infuse over the lowest heat possible for at least 10 minutes, without simmering. Stir occasionally, scraping the bottom of the pan to bring up any mushroomy bits into the sauce.
Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil, then cook pasta to al dente according to package instructions.
Use a slotted spoon to scoop the garlic and herbs from the milk mixture, then add in the remaining butter and the flour. Raise the heat up to medium, and whisk in the flour and butter. Continue to whisk often, allowing the sauce to thicken, about 10-12 minutes.
Preheat a high broiler.
Stir the mushrooms into the sauce, then turn off the heat. Set aside ½ cup of each cheese, and stir in the rest. Fold in the pasta, then transfer to a baking dish if you like. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top, then place under the broiler until golden and bubbling. Top with Frizzled Herbs and serve immediately.