I had a dish in mind that I had seen on the Food Network which won the first prize in the Ultimate Recipe Showdown; The 'French Onion "Soup" Mac & Cheese'. Being a lover of both these classics, I figured a combination of the two could only be the next step to culinary heaven.
Here is the link to the amazing recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ultimate-recipe-showdown/french-onion-soup-mac-and-cheese-recipe/index.html
Having gone through all the ingredients (a must!), I confidently set off to the Oysterbay deli with my shopping list, only to find that they were closed for the holidays! Drat and double drat! I asked a tourist for alternatives (lol) and headed off to Seacliff supermarket, which though expensively priced should stock everything required.
I had to make a few modifications with the ingredients as some were not available; instead of Gruyere, I bough mature cheddar and double gloucestershire cheese to add texture and depth of flavour to the dish.
(NB: For cheese nerds, here's some extra info: There are two types of Gloucester cheese: Single and Double; Single Gloucester is made from milk from Gloucestershire breed cows farmed within the English county of Gloucestershire.
Both types have a natural rind and a hard texture, but Single Gloucester is more crumbly, lighter in texture and lower in fat. Double Gloucester is allowed to age for longer periods than Single, and it has a stronger and more savoury flavour.
It is also slightly firmer. Both types are produced in round shapes, but Double Gloucester rounds are larger. Traditionally whereas the Double Gloucester was a prized cheese comparable in quality to the best Cheddar or Cheshire, and was exported out of the County, Single Gloucester tended to be consumed within the County.)
So back to the important stuff:
Have any of you ever noticed that no matter how much cheese you add to a bechamel sauce, it will not get that lovely deep flavour you find in great pasta dishes in great restaurants? Yes? Well, let me share the secret with you here. You need a strong cheese with a more complex flavour than your basic mellow cheddar. Gruyere is traditionally used in French Onion Soup, but I found that a mature cheddar worked well too. Combining two cheeses also adds to the depth and complexity of the sauce. I will be trying an aged gouda or a smoked cheese next time. Let me know if another cheese works for you!
The second secret to making a great bechamel sauce is that you must whisk the milk gradually into the flour and butter mix (see recipe for instructions). You must continue whisking until the sauce gradually thickens, and then add in the cheese(s), whilst continuing to gently whisk/stir the mixture until all the cheese is melted in. Trust me, you will get the most scrumptious sauce this way!
This recipe is really delicious and the addition of the caramelized onions takes it to another level altogether! Try it and see if you decide to become a reborn Pastafarian too! :)
For more information about the many many different types of pasta available, check out this link: