last night i went to the 5th annual macaroni and cheese invitation here in pittsburgh. below are some photos. i make a caramelized pancetta macaroni with goat cheese (and a few other french cheeses mixed in for good measure). there were, i think, 14 entries in total. the winning version (no. 11 below) (by a landslide) was a thai flavored dish (some of us surmised he used sirachi in it). it was very good. a lot of cooking creativity at the event.
my recipe was as follows:
Caramelized Pancetta and Goat Cheese Macaroni
2 garlic cloves (roasted)
1/2 pound pancetta (diced small)
2 tbl aged balsamic vinegar
1 large bag cavatappi pasta (enough to serve 8 people)
1 quart chicken stock (low salt)
1 cup heavy cream
1 1.2 cups whole milk
8 oz. fresh goat cheese
4-6oz. soft/ripe french cheeses (i like chaumes)
salt and pepper
chives to garnish
in a dry dutch oven or large sauce pan roast garlic in its skin for 4-5 minutes until it is soft and darkened in color (it is ok if the skin burns some, just keep moving the cloves about). peel the garlic and mince it very fine. set this aside
add a good helping of olive oil to the pan, once hot, add in the diced pancetta and cook on low heat for 6-8 minutes until the pork has darkened/caramelized and most of the fat has rendered out. sieve out the pancetta to a small bowl and add the balsamic vinegar to this, setting it aside.
to the oil/fat mixture, add the dried pasta and toast it for 8-10 minutes, you need to keep stirring it so that the pasta is coated in the oil/fat and does not burn while toasting.
in a separate smaller saucepan melt the butter and add the flour to make a roux, stir the roux for 1-2 minutes, working out any lumps of flour, until it is smooth. add the garlic, milk and heavy cream (add in salt and pepper to taste) and stir on low heat for 10 minutes.
while the liquids are simmering go back to the pasta which should be darker brown in color and smell nutty. add in enough chicken stock to just cover the pasta and cook on medium heat until this is absorbed (this will be similar to making risotto). keep adding in chicken stock as needed. the pasta will continue to absorb the stock. this will take 10-15 minutes.
pre-heat the oven to 400 degF
after the liquid mixture is hot, add in the goat cheese and the other french cheeses of your choice and stir so the cheese melts and the mixture is silky.
when the pasta is al dente (it should have absorbed most of the chicken stock by now), stir in half of the pancetta so it is well mixed. pour the milk and cheese sauce into the pasta, just until it covers the pasta and sprinkle the rest of the pancetta on top. cover with tin foil or the dutch oven lid and put it in the oven for 20 minutes.
then serve, garnished with chopped chives.
you'll likely have some milk/cheese sauce left over depending on the size of your dutch oven. this would be good on eggs benedict tomorrow morning.
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