A few years back, the girlie and I were at a small bistro in the Midwest that served ‘Gouda Mac and Cheese’ as one of their side dishes. Since mac and cheese happens to be one of her favorite foods in the world, she couldn’t help but order it. Now, I don’t eat mac and cheese very often, but even I was impressed by how delicious it was. The pasta was cooked perfectly and the cheese sauce was nothing short of incredible. Rich, creamy, and full of sweet, nutty gouda flavor. I could tell she was in heaven but regretted not ordering more than one.
Although the food was amazing, it was not the kind of place we could afford to eat more than once (maybe twice) a year, but I knew she was going to want it again at some point in the near future. So, as a surprise, I decided that I was going to recreate the dish at home for her birthday.
And this is what I came up with.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Large elbow macaroni
- Smoked Gouda (about 2 cups shredded)
- 1 Pint heavy cream
- ½ Onion (finely chopped)
- Garlic clove (minced)
- White pepper
(Prep a pot for the macaroni with salt, olive oil, and water. It’s nice to have it ready to go so that you don’t have to leave in the middle of making the sauce.)
First, melt some butter in a saucepan on medium heat and add the finely chopped onions.
Cook them down for a couple of minutes until they start to turn clear.
Mince the garlic clove directly into the pot and give it a good stir to avoid burning.
Reduce the heat to low.
Add the pint of heavy cream.
Season with salt, white pepper, and parsley.
Stir for a few minutes to let the cream warm up a bit.
Grate the smoked gouda right into the saucepan.
(Now the “fun” part begins)
Continuously stir (or whisk) the sauce to reduce, gradually working the heat back up to medium.
Note: Two things are extremely important at this stage: 1) Don’t stop stirring, and 2) Don’t turn the heat up too fast. You don’t want the cream to boil.
Stir some more…
…and more, until the sauce starts to thicken.
At this point, bring the water for the macaroni to a boil.
Note: The macaroni takes about 10 minutes to cook so make sure that you are planning ahead for the two to finish at the same time. When the sauce starts to stick to the spoon but still looks a little soupy is right around the time you want to start the noodles (as seen in the picture above).
Keep working with the sauce while the noodles are cooking.
Once it has reached the optimum thickness (what you might think of as a gravy-like consistency), turn off the heat.
Quickly strain the macaroni until it’s relatively dry and add it to the saucepan.
Thoroughly mix the macaroni in with the cheese sauce for a couple of minutes so that it’s evenly coated.
I will admit, I ended up changing a few things for personal preference—i.e. the bistro used regular gouda instead of smoked gouda, a different kind of pasta, and there definitely wasn’t any parsley in it—but other than that, I couldn’t tell you what else was noticeably different…I had only tried it once. All I knew was the consistency was there, the flavor was there, and the love was there…the only thing left to do was hope for the best.
Much to my relief, the girlie was blown away. She claimed that it was better than the bistro’s version, which was saying something because she doesn’t lie when it comes to mac and cheese. I was thankful that it was even comparable, especially after finding out a few months later that the bistro had closed permanently. Fortunately for her, my smoked gouda mac and cheese would live on. It immediately became her new favorite dish for special occasions.
Personally, I can’t eat much of it because of the cream, but getting to see her face light up after each bite is more satisfying to me than the dish itself. It reminds me of why I started cooking to begin with.
Until next time, take care.