During the second week of unpacking our worldly goods into our new house I was feeling like comfort food. Hot, steaming, cheesy comfort food. I looked in my pantry, my fridge and my freezer, looking for inspiration. A good hearty homemade mac n’ cheese pretty much tops everyone’s list for comfort food. I had some beautiful, luxurious chanterelle mushrooms, bacon and Gruyère cheese kicking around. I sat down, puzzled over what kind of pasta I would like to use, thought out the recipe in my head and wrote it down.
And then proceeded to get a wicked head cold the very next day, from being run down due to the Big Move and the reason why I was craving comfort food all of a sudden became as clear as day.
Nothing is worse than trying to unpack your house with a head cold. I would bend down to get a box and my temples would feel like they would simply drum right out of my head. I would proceed to stand up and I would almost fall over from dizziness. Then the energy sap just when you need it the most. I was one cranky, stompy magpie that week.
But the very worst part is the loss of your sense of taste that comes with a cold. I made the kids their favorite chili and had to ask the husband if it tasted ok and wasn’t too spicy because I couldn’t taste a smidge of it. Luckily I know my own recipe like the back of my hand and it turned out perfectly. Or they were simply too scared to tell the stompy, cranky, cold infected Magpie that her chili sucked. Sometimes self-preservation kicks in with my family, smart cookies that they are.
So another thing I was cranky about is that I had this beautiful recipe all planned out with rich, decadent ingredients. That I wouldn’t be able to taste. So I put it off, waiting for the cold to clear…and waited..and finally…the time had arrived.
3 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups of milk
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 cup of shredded old white cheddar
4 oz of Gruyère cheese, grated
Parmesan cheese for sprinkling over the top
- 3 cups uncooked pasta shells
- 3 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 tsp salt
- freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 cup shredded old white cheddar cheese
- 4 oz Gruyere cheese
- grated Parmesan cheese for sprinkling over the top
- 3/4 cup coarsely chopped chanterelle mushrooms
- 6 slices bacon chopped
- fresh chives to garnish
Cook the 3 cups of pasta shells until they are just firm, one step past al dente, but not overcooked. When you are baking pasta in the oven you want to give yourself some cooking leeway, otherwise they will end up a mushy mess. A tasty one, but texture wise it won't be that appetizing.
Once the shells are cooked, drain the water and place the pasta into the baking dish.
Chop your bacon up into small pieces and fry up quickly to your desired texture. I prefer my bacon about half-cooked when it's going into another dish, nothing is worse than chewy raw-hide textured bacon in a smooth, creamy pasta dish. I cook it until most of the fat is gone but it's still soft. Once that is done, drain the fat and set it aside.
Take your chanterelle mushrooms, chop them up coarsely and fry them in a small amount of butter over medium-low heat in a frying pan until most of their water content has been shed. Set aside.
Time to make your cheese sauce, which is the base of any white sauce out there, your basic roux. Start with your butter in a pot, and heat it till its melted.
Mix in the flour until it's a gluey mixture. Doesn't that sound yummy! The secret to a white sauce is patience.
Start by adding in a tiny amount of the milk. Mix it in thoroughly. Add in the rest of the milk, little by little, stirring to avoid lumps from forming.
Once you have the milk all added, with no flour lumps we hope, add in the cream.
Heat the mixture, stirring to avoid scorching the milk and add in your cheese. Let the mixture thicken up and the cheese melt.
Add in your salt and pepper.
Toss the bacon and chanterelles into the cheese sauce, combine then pour over the pasta shells in your baking dish. Stir to cover the pasta completely then place the lid on top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, until the pasta is heated all the way through and the cheese sauce baked.
Garnish with your freshly grated Parmesan cheese and chives.