Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Mac & Cheese with Thyme & Anchovies

Anchovies, thyme, caramelized garlic, a mixture of gruyere, parmesan and cheddar - this is a nice mac 'n' cheese.

This is my first time making mac 'n' cheese, actually.  I had no idea that it was more complicated than I had originally anticipated.  I had always made a cheese pasta by cooking the pasta and then just stirring in the grated cheeses afterwards - a nice mixture of blue cheeses and mozzarella and parmesan is the way to go, by the way.  But anyway, mac 'n' cheese involves a roux and a bechamel and all that.  I made this this morning (and I'm procrastinating now because I don't want to work on my essay), and oh my, the entire house smelled like cheese at 9am, it was glorious.  I had a bit of it for breakfast.  Some of you may think it's too much for breakfast, and it is, but just two forkfuls of delicious cheesy pasta is suitable for any time of the day. 
On a side note, remember this?   I love Friends.  It's one of the few shows that I can rewatch over and over again and still laugh - and I'm actually quite difficult to entertain.
A note on anchovies: I've always liked anchovies.  Fried in a bit of oil then drizzled on top of dishes, or just fried in oil with garlic at the beginning of a dish to add depth.  Or mix it with some soft cheese and put it on top of bread.  You can add it to anything - though if you hate it, you hate it, and this may not be a mind-changing recipe because you can really taste the anchovies in here.
Oh you know what you can add to this?  Make a nice crumble on top - mix fresh breadcrumbs with olive oil, and perhaps more minced garlic and anchovies and put it on top 10 minutes before you pull it out of the oven. 

 Serves 8
Adapted from Jamie Oliver 
45g butter
3 tbsp flour
1 liter milk
6 slices of anchovies, minced
8 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
3 bay leaves
600g dried macaroni 
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
100g Parmesan, grated
100g Gruyere, grated
50g Cheddar, grated
Freshly ground black pepper


Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.

In another large pot, melt the butter over low heat.  Add the flour, turn the heat up to medium-high, and mix with a wooden spoon until it forms a paste.

Add the anchovies and garlic and keep stirring until the garlic becomes golden and sticky- about 3-5 minutes.

Add the bay leaves, and slowly whisk in the milk, adding a little bit at a time, so that you get a smooth sauce.  Bring the mixture to a boil and turn the heat down to low, stirring every now and then. 

Preheat the oven to 220C/435F.  Put the macaroni in the boiling water and cook quite very al dente (it will still cook later in the sauce so you do want it quite al dente).

Drain the pasta but reserve about half a cup of the cooking liquid.  Add the cooking liquid and the pasta to the pot with the sauce.  Stir in the cheeses, thyme and pepper.  Taste and adjust for seasoning - you can add another bit of minced anchovies here if you want. 

If you've made this in an ovenproof pot, then excellent, put that in the oven.  If not, transfer it to an ovenproof dish and put it in the oven.  Bake it for 20-30 minutes until golden and bubbling.

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