My favorite culinary mystery writer, Diane Mott Davidson, is back with a new novel, Crunch Time. It's number 16 in the Goldy Schulz series about the capers of a caterer in Colorado, and I'm about a quarter of the way through. The novel is interspersed with descriptions of Goldy's cooking, and it makes me so hungry. This book was no exception, and the image of creamy macaroni and cheese and ham (from Chapter 6) got me craving this comfort food. There was no recipe for it included in Crunch Time, but I thought I'd wing it. By the way, the recipes from the Goldy books work. The author tests all the recipes, and I can vouch for the few that I've made successfully.
A friend of mine adds a touch of blue cheese to her cheese fondue sauce, and I thought that would work well in a macaroni cheese sauce and give it some depth. It's not your usual mac-n-cheese, but I hope you like it. It's going to be an accompaniment to our Sunday meal of white ham and the ubiquitous springtime green, nanohana (rapeseed), dressed with soy and mustard. Perfect for those celebrating Easter today.
250g cavatappi pasta
2 tablespoons butter
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 round onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder (such as Coleman's brand)
140g red cheddar cheese, shredded
140g white, sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
20g blue cheese
salt and pepper
1 cup of bread crumbs or panko
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Butter an 8in x 8in pan and set aside. Preheat oven to 400°F/200°C.
In a large pot, bring water to boil. Add enough salt so that the water tastes a bit salty, like the sea. Add the pasta and cook until done and just tender.
Meanwhile, toss the melted butter with the bread crumbs in a small bowl and set aside. I had some leftover brioche bread, which I whizzed in a mini chopper, for my bread crumbs.
When the pasta is done, drain and set aside. In the same pot, over medium heat, add the butter and garlic. When the garlic is fragrant, add the onions and saute until the onions are tender. Add some salt and pepper and then sprinkle the flour over the onions and fry until slightly golden. Add in the milk and stir until the milk mixture starts getting slightly thickened. Add in the mustard powder and nutmeg. Then add in the cheeses. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper as necessary. Once all the cheese has melted, turn off the heat and add in the cooked pasta. Mix thoroughly so that all the pasta is coated with the cheese sauce. Transfer the pasta into the baking dish and sprinkle the top with the buttered bread crumbs. Bake, uncovered, for about 30 minutes until bubbly and the crust is golden brown.
Note: I had to turn down the oven to 190°C about halfway through since I used a sweet brioche bread for the topping.
Let sit for a few minutes before serving.