Serious Eats: Recipes

Cook the Book: Mac and Cheese with Soubise

[Photograph: Donna Turner Ruhlman]

Now that we have our roast chicken, pan sauce, mashed potatoes, and salad from Michael Ruhlman's Ruhlman's Twenty, we thought that we'd put together another side to round out the meal, something classic, like, say macaroni and cheese.

Even with all of the rich ingredients that goes into baked mac and cheese, more often than not, there is something about the final dish that is bland. Somehow the sharpness of the cheese gets buried in the bechamel base, resulting in a side that's rich in texture but lacking the rich flavor we're looking for. To counter this blandness, Ruhlman has turned the bechamel base into an oniony soubise for this Mac and Cheese with Soubise, a baked mac and cheese that is never wanting for deeply warm, cheesiness.

The soubise here is best described as a bechamel enlivened with softened shallots, caramelized onions, heady sherry, warm and hot spices including nutmeg, cayenne, smoked paprika, mustard, and the unexpectedly genius addition of a tablespoon of fish sauce that does wonders boosting the savoriness of this particular mac.

Instead of solely relying on the cheese this dish, Ruhlman builds a complex flavor base before the cheese is even incorporated. And when it is, you can taste the difference immediately; the soubise somehow makes the cheeses even cheesier, sharper, and more nuanced. Of course, topping the mac and cheese with a gooey, crunchy layer of buttery panko and Parmigiano doesn't hurt either.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Ruhlman's Twenty to give away this week.

Adapted from Ruhlman's Twenty by Michael Ruhlman. Copyright © 2011. Published by Chronicle Books. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved

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