People who know me know that I love Seattle. And, that I especially love Beechers' Macaroni & Cheese. Beecher's Handmade Cheese is a tiny cheese shop in Pike Place Market and it is just incredible. I love every square inch of the store - the windows to the room where they're making cheese, the well stocked, impressive cheese case, and even the crowd drooling over the glorious macaroni and cheese. Frankly, I dream about this place and its macaroni. The macaroni is incredibly rich. Perfectly creamy and just the right amount of heat. I. LOVE. IT.
Well, my regular scouring of the internet brought me to this blog - Bring to Boil, and their Mac & Cheese theory and read on, discovering why Beechers' mac & cheese is so good, AND discovering the recipe! So, I had to give it a try. Could I possibly re-create the world's best macaroni and cheese in MY kitchen?
I came across one of the ingredients that gives Beecher's mac it's signature taste - Chipotle Chile Powder - at the The Spice House at Milwaukee Public Market. A wise investment as it can be used in SO many different foods and truly the key to the great flavor. The next key ingredients were the cheeses...Well, I live in Wisconsin. Land of Cheese. And, I live in Madison, home to the great Dane County Farmer's market where it seems there are cheese sellers every other stall! I am a bit unsure of what Beechers' Flagship Cheese tastes like - this is what they use in their macaroni - so I sought out a cheese at the market that delivered on some creaminess without being too sharp. I chose a 3 year raw milk cheddar by Brunkow Cheese. This booth is always incredibly popular at the market because of their Brun-uusto cheese (the cheese you put on a hot griddle and eat warm), but they've also got a ton of different cheddars to choose from. I tasted all of the 'regular' cheddars (didn't want one with herbs, garlic, etc) and settled on this particular cheddar for it's smooth profile and tad bit of sharpness. I needed a semi-soft cheese as well, and opted for a monterey jack. I thought this would give it an over-the-top creamy texture (and it'd be great with some other meals I had planned!).
The recipe itself is a pretty standard macaroni recipe. Start with a roux, add milk and thicken, then stir in the cheese until melted, toss in the al dente pasta, and bake until bubbly.
Results of this macaroni were as I anticipated - creamy and rich! A very close version of the Beecher's Mac & Cheese. The chipotle pepper really does kick it into high gear, setting this recipe apart from many other macaroni recipes I've tried. Serve this with a salad...it's so rich you'll probably go overboard if paired with anything heavier! Give this recipe a try. You won't be disappointed one bit!
Here's the recipe, via Bring to Boil
Beechers’ Style “World’s Best” Mac & Cheese
Adapted from Pure Flavor: 125 Fresh All-American Recipes From The Pacific Northwest.
- For Cheese Sauce:
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups milk
- 14 oz semihard cheese, grated, ~3 ½ cups (cheddar, Gruyère, Swiss, Gouda, Provolone, Emmenthaler, Beecher’s Flagship)*
- 2 oz semisoft cheese, grated, ~ ½ cup (Colby, Fontina, brick, Havarti, Montery Jack, mozzarella)*
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ to ½ tsp chipotle chili powder
For Pasta and Toppings:
- 12 oz tubular pasta (high-quality, pasta would be welcome here)
- Kosher salt for pasta water
- 2 oz cheddar, grated ~ ½ cup
- 2 oz Gruyere, grated ~ ½ cup
- ½ tsp chipotle chili powder, or more, if desired (this will be to sprinkle atop your final product. See above for the chipotle chili powder notes. If you are not using chipotle and do not wish to add more heat with cayenne, you can also sprinkle the top with sweet paprika, which adds a lovely color and some flavor without added heat.)
- Preheat oven to 350˚ F.
- Set a large pot of water on high heat.
- Meanwhile, begin the sauce by making a roux: in a medium saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Continue to stir this roux over medium heat for two to three minutes. The roux should be “cooked” and free of the flour flavor but still light in color.
- Gradually add milk, whisking briskly to maintain a smooth sauce.
- Cook the sauce for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid scorching. When sauce thickens slightly, turn heat to very low.
- If you have a moment, place the salt, garlic powder, and chili powder together in a mortar and pestle and grind them together to coax additional flavor from the spice and to coat the salt with the spice’s flavor. You could also use a bowl and the back of a spoon for this.
- Add cheeses and spice mixture to the sauce, and stir until all the cheese has melted.
- Somewhere during this sauce-cooking process, your pasta water has started boiling. Add a generous palmful of salt to the water and cook the pasta until almost—but not quite—al dente (two minutes before the package directions indicate). You want barely undercooked pasta so that it can finish in the oven later. Halt the cooking by draining the pasta and rinsing with cold water. Return pasta to pot.
- Pour sauce over pasta and stir until completely incorporated. The combination should be fairly saucy, almost soupy. Dish the mixture into a buttered 9”-13” pan and sprinkle with grated cheeses and chipotle powder.
- Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes, until you have beautiful, browned edges. Those edges will be a welcome and flavorful addition to each serving. Let the dish sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
Serve small portions with something raw and fresh; this dish is rich.
Makes 8 small yet decadent servings.