Mac & Cheese Duel

Mac and cheese.  Such an important benefit of life.  There are many versions out there - but the Merrimint sisters set out to see who could do it better.  Lauren always makes Pioneer Woman's fancy macaroni for Christmas, but that's a very special one.

Here's each of our takes on the classic - sister macaroni duel!  Whose version would you recreate?

Lauren: I opted for a classic, Martha's Macaroni and Cheese as found on Smitten Kitchen.  It celebrated sharp white cheddar and gruyere, and was finished with a delicious crispy top.  Served with steamed veggies & side greens, it's as classic as it gets.

Martha's Macaroni and Cheese
(I halved this recipe)
Click here for recipe

Stephanie:  This weekend, P and I went to a fabulous new (to us anyway) spice shop in Old Town, a lovely and quaint neighborhood of Chicago.  We found an amazing dried porcini-infused sea salt.  In dire want to test out our new loot, we decided to build a mac and cheese dish off of it.

Our final product- a gorgonzola and cheddar béchamel, wrapped around al dente penne topped with porcini sea salt and white truffle oil.  A tad rich? yes.  Luxurious? definitely.  Amazing? there aren't even words.  We opened a light and crisp bottle of white and made the most of this Monday.

Gorgonzola, Porcini, and Truffle Macaroni and Cheese
(Serves 6)

1/2 lb pasta- I used penne because that is what was in the pantry, but feel free to use your favorite
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
2 cups whole milk
a pinch of nutmeg
4 oz mild or medium cheddar, shredded
2 oz gorgonzola, broken into small pieces
1/2 cup panko
1 teaspoon porcini sea salt- an alternative would be to grind dried mushrooms into a powder and mix it in equal parts with sea salt
1 tablespoon white truffle oil

1.  Preheat oven to 400F.  Boil pasta 2 minutes less than package instructions direct.  Drain and rinse with cold water.
2.  While pasta is boiling, make your roux.  Heat your milk over low heat to warm it up.  Melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  Once melted, add the flour all at once, whisking vigorously to ensure smoothness.  Cook about 3 minutes, ensuring you don't cook so long that it starts to darken.
3.  Add the milk, whisking to create a smooth sauce.  Once well incorporated, add the cheeses and continue to whisk to combine thoroughly.
4.  Season the mixture with nutmeg, a touch of salt, and a decent amount of black pepper.
5.  Mix the cooked pasta into the mixture, stirring gently until completely combined.
6.  Top with panko.  Bake at 400F for 30 minutes, or until the top begins to brown.  Broil for another couple of minutes to get a nice golden color on top.
7.  Remove from oven, and top with porcini sea salt and truffle oil.  Serve and enjoy.

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