Cognac Cream Macaroni & Cheese
I live in a house without mushrooms.
I don’t like a dish to be overwhelmed by mushrooms, but I like to eat them from time to time. My husband and our roommate, on the other hand, have absolutely no interest in mushrooms of any kind. That, plus the fact that Perigord black truffles are approximately $700 a pound (frozen!) means that my take on Dave Martin’s Truffle and Cognac Cream Macaroni & Cheese had to be made sans truffles.
I didn’t miss them.
Top Chef fans will probably remember Dave “I’m not your bitch, bitch!” Martin and this Macaroni and Cheese dish from Season 1. This was the dish that took Lee Ann Wong out of the running, the dish that allowed Dave to scrape on by to the next round. It looked amazing on television, and it pleased every one of an impressive group of judges. Top Chef is full of moments when every fan wishes they could be on scene, tasting each dish. Dave Martin’s macaroni and cheese was one of those moments for me. Imagine my excitement, then, when I found the recipe in my Top Chef cookbook. I was pleased to find, when I sat down to figure out dinner last night, that (aside from the truffles) I had everything I needed to make Dave Martin’s famous macaroni & cheese dish.
Cognac Cream Macaroni & Cheese
Adapted from the Top Chef Cookbook
- butter for baking dish
- 1 cup cognac (I used brandy)
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 6 roasted garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon sherry (I used a dry white wine)
- 4 cups heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons fresh oregano (I used dried oregano, about a teaspoon)
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
- 6 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 2 cups)
- 2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
- salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound penne or other pasta, cooked al dente
- 8 ounces Fontina cheese, finely grated (about 2 1/2 cups)
- 2 cups seasoned sourdough crouton crumbs (I made my own, recipe follows)
A note on the cheeses: We did not have enough Parmesan cheese, so I used a combination of Parmesan, Fontina, and smoked Gouda, for a total of 14 ounces.
1. Generously butter the bottom & sides of a large, deep baking dish. Set aside.
2. Place the cognac in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced by half, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
3. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and cook until they are softened, but not browned, about 3 minutes. Add the sherry and stir until evaporated. Add the cream, reduced cognac, oragano and thyme.
4. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is reduced by half and the flavors are infused, about 20 minutes. Watch the pot carefully so that the cream does not boil over. Add the Tabasco sauce, and salt and pepper to taste, followed by the cooked pasta and cheeses. (Reserve a small amount of cheese to sprinkle over the top of the dish). Set aside.
5. Pour the pasta mixture into the prepared baking dish and top with the crouton crumbs and remaining cheese. Bake for about 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees or until bubbly and browned on top.
Homemade Seasoned Crouton Crumbs
My Own Recipe
- 6 slices of rustic Italian or sourdough bread, cubed (I used about half of a roasted garlic Italian loaf we had leftover)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- kosher salt
- fresh ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Spread cubed bread in a single layer on a baking sheet.
3. Drizzle the olive oil evenly over the cubed bread pieces.
4. Sprinkle the remaining ingredients over the cubed bread pieces and toss to coat.
5. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until browned and crisp.
6. When cool, drop into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until coarse crumbs, about 5 times.
Note: This recipe did not disappoint. Rich, creamy, decadent. The cognac cream adds to the richness, the fontina and gouda melted beautifully into a wonderful smooth texture. The top of the dish was crunchy and buttery. I served this macaroni and cheese as a side dish with some baked chicken breasts, and even though we rarely skip the proteins around here, this dish really could have stood on its own as an entree. It was that good.