Tarragon Mac and Cheese

After eating some tasting menu or another (I do so many, I can hardly keep track), I wanted to replicate a taste combination of garlic and tarragon. This is not an uncommon combination by any stretch of the imagination, but it was after this tasting that I was making the Good Eats baked macaroni and cheese that I decided to make this variant. The tarragon adds a lovely undertone of sweetness that takes what would otherwise be a fantastic macaroni and cheese and turns it into something slightly exotic.


mac-cheese.jpg

Ingredients:

  • ½ lb. elbow macaroni

  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • 3 tablespoons flour

  • 1 tablespoon powdered mustard

  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder

  • 3 cups milk

  • ½ cup yellow onion, diced

  • ½ teaspoon Tarragon, Fresh or Dried

  • 1 large egg

  • 6 ounces extra sharp cheddar, shredded

  • 10 ounces colby, shredded

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • Fresh black pepper

Topping:
  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs

Directions:
Oven to 350°F.*

Cook your pasta. Remember, it's going to bake some more, so leave a little bite there.

Melt the topping butter in a pan and mix in the panko. Set aside.

Take the 3 tablespoons of butter and melt in a large sauce pan. Add the onions and sweat (or sofrito). Whisk in the flour and stir for a few minutes, until there is a nutty smell or until the flour starts turning a shade or so darker of brown. Stir in the milk, herbs, spices, and salt. Simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and add more salt if the béchamel is lackluster in flavor.

Crack the egg into a small bowl and pour in a bit of the béchamel to temper the egg. Mix that, and pour it into the sauce pan. Stir in 2/3 of the cheese. Stir or fold the macaroni into the cheese sauce and pour into a 9 x 12 baking dish, or a deep 8" round casserole, or whatever seems to hold it best. I tend to use the pyrex baking dishes because they have a convenient cover and carrying case for taking to parties.

Cover with the rest of the cheese and cover that with the buttery panko.

Bake for 30 minutes. If, for whatever reason, the panko is not golden brown and delicious, put it back in until it is.

If you are of strong will, let rest for a few minutes before eating. I usually do that. For the second serving.

(Serves 6)

Notes:

Choose your cheddar carefully. While the recipe can be made with whatever cheese you have, the relatively small amount of cheddar is best served by something with a lot of flavor. This means that you will be shredding the cheddar yourself, a task that I usually delegate to the shredding disc of my food processor. The colby is mainly there for mellowing out the cheddar as well as a certain general texture to the taste.

*- Strictly speaking, you don't have to preheat the oven. They tell me that the preheating step is a holdover from an older age where ovens were manual fire-tending things and they would often overshoot the proper temperature before hitting the right one, so you waited until the temperature settled. Modern ovens aren't so fussy, so with a dish like macaroni and cheese (as opposed to, say, a soufflé), you could skip the preheat.

Download recipe (in MacGourmet format).