Stretchy Mac and Cheese
Chef Tyler Florence’s goal when developing this recipe was to create a cheesy, stretchy macaroni and cheese that also didn’t need to be baked for a long time. He decided to use Muenster, since it won the cheese stretch test in his kitchen. But after testing multiple versions, he learned that to make a really stretchy, cheesy mac and cheese, you want to fold cubes of cheese into the pasta—instead of grating the cheese into the sauce—then flash broil it just to melt the cheese and crisp the bread crumbs. The result is a supremely satisfying mac and cheese.
- 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) (2 oz./60 g) unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup (1 1/2 oz./45 g) all-purpose flour
- 2 cups (16 fl. oz./500 ml) heavy cream
- 2 cups (16 fl. oz./500 ml) whole milk
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed
- 5 fresh thyme sprigs
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 lb. (500 g) dry pasta, such as elbow macaroni
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
- 1 lb. (500 g) Muenster (or Gouda or Monterey jack), cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) cubes
- 1/3 cup (1 oz./30 g) panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
- Smoked olive oil or extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
- 2 Tbs. chopped fresh chives
Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat the broiler. Bring a large pot two-thirds of heavily salted water to a boil.
In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour to make a roux, stirring well so that it cooks evenly and turns golden blond. Whisk in the cream and milk a little bit at a time, so there are no lumps. Add the garlic along with the thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Stir to make a béchamel. Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Season the béchamel with the salt and pepper.
Add the pasta to the boiling water, stir well and cook until al dente (tender but firm to the bite), according to the package directions. Drain.
Remove the garlic cloves, thyme sprigs and bay leaves from the béchamel and stir the sauce into the cooked pasta. Immediately add the cheese and stir well, so that the heat and motion melt and stretch the cheese. Transfer to a baking dish and top with the panko. Broil until the panko are golden brown, about 5 minutes. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with the chives. Serves 6.
Adapted from Inside the Test Kitchen: 120 New Recipes, Perfected, by Tyler Florence (Clarkson Potter, 2104)