Finding Comfort in Sin: Shiitake, Shallot and Sage Macaroni & Cheese with Smoked Gouda

Shiitake, caramelized shallots and sage in smoked gouda cheese sauce with a panko topping

For those of you who follow my Twitter feed, you already know that I inexplicably managed to tear my back up while writing some preliminary notes for my pending novel…the term “pending” being used very loosely… And I wasn’t even writing the GOOD part. With a tentative release date sometime in the early-to-mid(-to-late) 21st century, you just can’t buy that kind of obscure publicity.

And for those of you who do not yet follow me on Twitter, how dare you?? May the shame and public humiliation prompted by my current indignation haunt you through all your remaining days – or at least until you repent and come tweet me a little love. Your choice, as always.

In addition to the incomprehensibly blinding and hysterically unprovoked back pain, I have also spent the past few days reconciling the fact that, after a full week, my “FOCKITALL” movement has yet to effect global social reform. So, yeah… Needless to say, I’m pretty bummed. Who knew that universal paradigm shifts  and global harmonization of all mankind took so damn much work…

However, you and I have been through much together – your insight is unparalleled and I know that you know, straight down to the darkest recesses of your foodie-fueled soul, that my crusade against willfully stupid things that piss me off shall continue, unabated… The only real question born of this crushing temporary agony of spirit and deltoid is, “what the heck am I going to cook when I once again conquer gravity and can craft some serious comfort food from a fully upright position?”

If you are an American, know an American, used to date an American or have ever read a book about an American, you probably know that this is more of a rhetorical question than an actual soul-searching inquiry. Comfort Food = Mac & Cheese.

screen capture from the movie film Mac and Me

Not to be confused with ‘Mac and Me‘ which, to the best of my knowledge, has never comforted anybody…and which gave me nightmares until my mid-20’s.

Of course, if I were just about to regurgitate a basic Mac & Cheese recipe that has been beaten into submission time and again, this would not be a Sauce Boss blog. After no fewer than 36 blisteringly boring hours in involuntary repose, I’ll be damned if I’m going to stop short of the most pompous and awesome Mac & Cheese ever envisioned.

Olympic judo competitor kicks another in the nuts

Dear Kraft Foods Company, I respectfully submit…

That said…

shiitake mushrooms, gouda, smoked gouda, shallot, sage leaf and macaroni on wooden cutting board

Shiitake, Shallot and Sage Mac & Cheese with Smoked Gouda

Primary Ingredients:
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium shallot, diced (~1/3 cup)
1 small sage leaf, bruised
6-8 oz shiitake mushroom caps, sliced (stems can get quite rubbery)

Crumb Topping:
2 cups panko bread crumbs
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp parmigiano-reggiano cheese
pinch kosher salt

Sauce:
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
3 1/2 cups whole milk
8 oz smoked gouda cheese, grated
6 oz gouda cheese, grated
1 tsp dry yellow mustard powder
1 pinch kosher salt

Pasta:
1 Lb (16 oz) dry elbow macaroni or similar pasta

While preparing your ingredients, pre-heat the oven to 350ºF.

Cook the diced shallot and sage leaf in hot olive oil until shallots begin to caramelize.

shallots caramelizing in a pan with olive oil and sage leaf

Add in the sliced shiitake caps and cook the blend down until mushrooms are nicely softened.

shiitake mushrooms cooking in a pan with a wooden spoon

Personally, I prefer to take it easy on my sage so I remove the wilted leaf before setting aside. For the sage fanatics among you, feel free to dice or chiffonade one or more sage leaves and add them while caramelizing the shallots and softening the mushroom, then just leave them in the mix and set aside.

Crumb Topping:
Stir the minced garlic into 3 Tbsp melted butter and drizzle this mixture over your panko in a medium-sized bowl. Blend in your grated parmigiano-reggiano and a pinch of kosher salt. Mix well and set this bowl aside as well.

macro photo of shredded gouda cheese

With cheese this sexy, you just know it’s gonna be “gouda”… (HA, I’m so proud of myself for resisting that one for this long!!)

Cheese Sauce:
Melt the remaining 4 Tbsp in a saucepan and add in the flour. Whisk the mixture on medium-low heat until it begins to bubble. This should only take a couple minutes but be careful not to let it begin to burn and discolor.

Add in milk, cup by cup, whisking constantly. After 5 or 6 minutes, you should have a smooth sauce with a heavy cream consistency.

While whisking non-stop, gently raise the heat on the sauce until it simmers, then quickly reduce the heat again to maintain a slight simmer for about 10 minutes, whisking occasionally.

Remove the sauce base from the heat and whisk in your grated cheeses, mustard powder and pinch of kosher salt. Set the cheese sauce aside but make sure to keep it gently warm.

In a suitably-sized pot of salted water, add in your dry pasta and cook to al dente.

A photo of a young al pacino in black and white

No, that’s Al Pacino… Hey, don’t worry – if we aren’t making mistakes then we’re not trying new things.

Drain your pasta thoroughly and return it to the pot, adding in the cheese sauce and primary ingredients. Pour the well-stirred mac & cheese mx into a 9×13 baking dish and sprinkle the bread crumb topping over it.

Cook for about 15 to 20 minutes and enjoy. Honestly, this stuff is insane. If you’re not careful, you may find yourself intentionally tweaking muscles while promoting ill-fated social reform movements, as thinly-veiled excuses to wrap your injured little taste buds in this creamy blanket of awesome.

shiitake shallot and sage macaroni and cheese with smoked gouda and crumb topping

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21 thoughts on “Finding Comfort in Sin: Shiitake, Shallot and Sage Macaroni & Cheese with Smoked Gouda

  1. Congratulations on turning bog-standard mac and cheese into something interesting! As much as I love a bowl of plain cheese and carbs every now and again, your version sounds a bit more like something worthy of dinner party guests 🙂

    • Thanks so much!! I would tend to agree with you, except I am now addicted and any dinner guests who strayed too close to my shiitake mac might get an intentional elbow (pun intended) to the nose 🙂

  2. I loved Mac and Me. LOL.

    Also, I’m pretty sure Mac ‘n Cheese can cure anything…except blind ignorance. But besides that, it can cure anything?

    How’s the back, my friend? I have bloody mary’s…in case you’re needing something to dull the pain.

    Also, I may be drunk.

    • Well you are immune from judgment because you are Grade-A Awesomeness. Plus, wasn’t the alien guy little? So you can probably relate in a very special way 😉

      The back is back at nearly 100%, hence the resurgence of gourmet piss & vinegar. But if there’s a bloody mary in it for me, I could probably fake a few grunts and groans of agony

  3. I have to admit I actually moaned…audibly. I WILL be having Jester work his magic on this one for me. I’m already drooling. Faboo!

    • AWESOME!! Be sure to let me know how you liked it – but be careful because this is probably one of those recipes that was meant to stay hidden from the greedy bellies of man because it is TOO. DAMN. GOOD to put the fork down once you start 🙂

      And thanks so much for stopping by, Ms. Val!! I know how busy you are traveling and living our dreams for us 😉

  4. SB, you have raised the Blogsphere standard for Mac ‘n Cheese to a new shelf in the food larder. I have read so many crappy posts by talentless Americans (no racism here – it’s a fact) about how they open a packet and mix. Hey Presto! Mac ‘n Cheese. Lovely photos too. Keep at it.
    Best,
    Conor

    • Hey, no offense taken on this end – I couldn’t agree with you more. While I think the upper crust (so to speak) of American society is reaching out and trying new things to impressive degrees, the majority of us in this country seem to truly believe that fine dining grows on little cardboard box trees.

      Thanks so much for the encouragement and, quite seriously, if you ever feel like bandying about a few of your secrets to getting that phenomenal lighting you capture in your photos, I’m all ears. Always humbled by your obsessive attention to detail (except for those token missed ingredients)

      • One of these days I will do a post on the daftness that goes into converting our humble kitchen into a photo studio once or twice a week (for me) and the same for Lucy. The Wife is very patient of our activities. The dog is bemused.

  5. I have to try your recipe. I make a similar one using whatever cheese I have on hand.. I like cheddar and some cottage cheese (don’t hate me, I have children!)…sorry to hear about your BACK.

    And I love the FOCKITALL movement, especially the black and white cookie part.

    • Ahhhh, so great to hear from my FOCKITALL friend!! Those cookies are way too addictive – I may have to keep that recipe locked away for special occasions…like…Tuesdays?

      Hey, there is no shame in cottage cheese!! I love that stuff and it must have made for a really intriguing cream sauce. And I was considering cheddar as an accent but just decided to wing it with the smoky element of smoked gouda. Plus, nothing melts like gouda so anything else would just be stomping on perfection 😉

  6. You’re such a geek: No, that’s Al Pacino… LOL
    This recipe does sound great, a definite must try by the end of the week.

  7. Pingback: A cheesy city – Gouda, The Netherlands « Journey Around The Globe

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