Thursday, October 6, 2011

Beecher's "World's Best" Mac and Cheese

Lots of people claim to have "the best" this or that...and sometimes the hype is just that. And other times? The claim is totally true. This is one of those times. The lovely people at Seattle-based Beecher's Cheese recently sent me a mac and cheese gift pack so I could make a batch of their "World's Best" Mac and Cheese and tell you all about. This really IS the best mac and cheese I've ever eaten...but don't take just my word for it. None other than Oprah has proclaimed this one of her "favorite things." If that's not an endorsement, then I'm not sure what is!

The gift pack arrived, and I excitedly opened it up. Inside was their Pure Flavor cookbook, a bag of penne pasta, one pound of their delicious Flagship Cheddar, and 1/2 pound of their Just Jack cheese. This was enough cheese to make two batches of their amazing cheese sauce...with a bit of cheese leftover to munch on the next day. Beecher's is some of my very favorite cheese, even before I received this gift pack. When we visited San Francisco two years ago, we discovered Beecher's Flagship Reserve Cheddar at Cowgirl Creamery inside the Ferry Building Marketplace. One bite, and we were in love. Beecher's cheeses have a wonderful sharp flavor and a fantastic depth of flavor. 

I knew this decadent mac and cheese was going to be a very special dish, so I saved it for when my best friend came to visit us last weekend. She was a great sous chef, hand grating all that cheese for me while I did the rest of the prep work for dinner. Once she had literally a mountain of grated cheese filling two bowls, it was time to make the cheese sauce and boil the penne. The super-cheesy sauce makes enough for two batches of mac and cheese. One batch is just enough to perfectly fill an 8x8 pan. It doesn't look like a lot of food, but this stuff is so rich and cheesy that it was plenty for the three of us, with a bit leftover for an mid-afternoon snack the next day!

"World's Best" Mac and Cheese
from Beecher Cheese's Pure Flavor Cookbook

Step 1:  Preheat oven to 350. Spray an 8x8 baking dish with non-stick spray. Cook 6 ounces of penne pasta for two minutes less than the package directions -- it finishes cooking as the mac and cheese bakes. Set aside while you make the cheese sauce.

Step 2:  To make the cheese sauce, melt 1/2 stick of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in 1/3 cup flour and cook for about 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Slowly add 3 cups whole milk. Cook until the sauce thickens...about 10 minutes. Give it a stir every minute or so to keep it from scorching. Remove the thickened sauce from the heat.

Step 3:  Add 14 ounces (3.5 cups) Beecher's Flagship Cheddar, 2 ounces (1/2 cup) Beecher's Just Jack Cheese, 1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder, 1/8 tsp. garlic powder, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Stir until all the cheese is melted an incorporated...this takes a bit of patience, but keep stirring until the sauce is smooth. 

Step 4:  Combine the cooked pasta and 2 cups of the cheese sauce (half the batch) in a large bowl. Scrape into a prepared baking dish. Top with an additional 1/4 cup shredded Flagship Reserve Cheddar and 1/3 cup grated Gruyere. Just before popping into the oven, sprinkle an additional 1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder on top. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes...until the cheese is melted and the whole dish is bubbly. Let the pan sit for five minutes before serving.

Keeping with a comfort food theme, I served this mac and cheese with mini meatloaves and salad. This mac and cheese is rich, creamy, and over-the-top cheesy! And I mean that in the best way possible...we all declared this mac and cheese sinfully good. It's rich, so a little serving was all any of us could eat. Every bite is full of intense cheese flavor.

If you'd like to try Beecher's "World's Best" Mac and Cheese at home, there are two ways. One is to buy it pre-made at select local retailers. The other is to purchase the "World's Best" Mac & Cheese Kit at the Beecher's website and whip up a batch (...or two) in your very own kitchen.

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