Valentine’s Day Black Truffle Mac ‘N’ Cheese
I am a firm believer that everyday should be Valentine’s Day, so I tend to stay in for a cozy dinner on February 14th instead of dining out on expensive set menus that often are lacklustre at best. This Valentine’s Day, after returning to Hong Kong on a late night flight from Beijing on the 13th (the Mister also arrived last night from Tokyo) we decided to stay in and whip out our decadent black truffle from Perigourd, France to add a bit of extra sparkle to a home-cooked meal.
Warm gooey carbs trembling with rich velvety cheese is the theme of the evening, and the extra shavings of decadent truffles give this comfort meal true star quality. After all, what can be better than truffled Mac’n’Cheese to warm the heart?
(Photos taken during a similar truffles dinner a week previously)
What you’ll need (serves 6, pending on greediness):
- 2.5 cups macaroni pasta (dried)
- 3/4 cups panko
- 6 tbls butter
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp thyme
- 5 shallots, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 cup flour
- 3 cups milk
- 1/2 cup cream
- 2 cups grated Gruyere
- 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
- 2.5 cups grated cheddar
- 1 cup grated parmesan
- 1 tsp finely chopped truffles
- 1 tbls truffle oil (optional)
First things first, grate and combine all of the blue cheese, cheddar, 1/2cup of the parmesan and 1 cup of the Gruyere in a large bowl. Set aside.
Pre-heat oven to 200celsius.
For prized ingredients like the truffle, I like to use equally outstanding flavours to compliment and enhance the experience. Hence, for this dish, I use only mature sharp cheddar and 24-month aged parmigiano-reggiano.
For the breadcrumb topping, mix in 1/2 cup of parmigiano with 3/4 cups of the panko crumbs. Stir in 3 tbls of melted butter, and if you have truffle oil available, also drizzle in 1 tbls of the intoxicating perfume.
Start boiling water for the pasta. Only cook the pasta halfway through, as it will further cook and infuse with the creamy sauce in the oven.
Dice / mince shallots finely.
Melt the remaining 3 tbls of butter in a saucepan and lightly sauté the minced shallots, paprika, thyme and bay leaf. The key here is to only slightly soften the shallots so it should take only 3-5minutes on medium / low heat.
Once softened, the shallots should have this consistency and colour.
Take out the bay leaf and stir in the flour to thicken the sauce.
Remember, the thickened sauce will burn quickly, so keep the milk / cream nearby to pour immediately into the saucepan!
Whisk the floury mixture into the milk and cream while keeping the pan on low heat. Slowly whisk for around 8-10 minutes until the mixture begins to thicken – patience is key here!
Transfer the hot creamy lava to a bigger bowl (since my saucepan was obviously not the right size!) and mix in the potpourri of cheese.
The cheese will slowly melt and further thicken the mixture. This is a good time to adjust for seasoning. I like to add 1 tsp of salt at this time, but please customise this to your own preference. Just remember, the cheese would have already added some savouriness to the sauce.
The Money Shot! Grating and finely chopping slivers of the previous truffle.
Add the finely chopped truffle to the cheesy mix.
Finally, envelope the half-cooked pasta in the luxuriously creamy bath.
Pour all this heavenly goodness into a baking dish. I love my cast iron Le Creuset for this. (the little flicks of black truffle are like magic fairy dust!)
Top off with a generous sprinkling of the remaining Gruyere cheese, and dust with the previously prepared panko crumbs.
This baby is oven ready! Slide it into the pre-heated oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the panko crust is golden.
Garnish with shaved truffles!