There seems to be a fine line between really enjoying the deliciousness of cheese and feeling guilty about it.
Here’s a little quiz to get things started. What do David Chang, Michael Ruhlman and Michael Anthony all have in common? Answer please. If you guessed that they all have great things to say about Aki Kamozawa and Alex Talbot’s new book, Ideas in Food, then give yourself a gold star or a pat on the back. Your choice.
This little gem is packed with all of the food science any budding culinary chemist could dream of. We’re talking REAL explanations to some of the kitchen’s most intriguing questions.
The first part of the book is written with the amateur cook (like me) in mind. Part two, focuses on topics that food professionals will find useful. I mean, I would love to attempt a recipe that has Methocel 50 or kappa carrageenan in it, but, I’m not sure if either of those things are legal in the state where I reside.
That being said, I decided to turn my attention to something a little more pedestrian.
The section on dairy was intriguing. Maybe I could make something from this part of the book. I like cheese. Hey, homemade mozzarella. That could be cool. But, wouldn’t you know it, I had just run out of rennet. Damn it! A few more pages, then, out jumped something with some real potential, macaroni and cheese.
Mac and cheese is one of the headliners of the comfort food category. Is shares a prominent spot right up there with meatloaf and apple pie. I figured if something that is already great could be improved with a little food science, then this book would be a winner.
My adventure into the science of mac and cheese was about to begin. All of the necessary components were procured and ready to roll.
The first thing that was unconventional about this recipe versus the standard M & C recipe was that it called for soaking the dry pasta for an hour rather that adding pasta that had been previously cooked by boiling it. So, one pound of dry pasta.
There are three, count ‘em, three, different types of cheeses in this version.
And, sharp cheddar. When cooked together these three offer a nice balance of cheese flavors.
The directions were right on the money. Assembly was a snap. Here’s a picture of the casserole before it went under the broiler.
Now, look closely at the two images above. The one on the left is my yet to be broiled mac and cheese. The one of the right is a Lemon Chess Pie that I baked a few weeks ago. There is definitely a certain similarity there…
Anyway, under the broiler, five minutes. Actually mine didn’t make it the full five. I had to take it out about 3 minutes in to it. It did brown up really nice though.
Now that is a handsome batch of mac and cheese! It looks great and all, but, the real proof is in the taste.
What? Did you think that it wouldn’t end up being killer? Please…
The recipe has some cayenne pepper in it. It really brings up the flavor in the whole dish. A real adult mac and cheese. That’s not to say that your kids won’t like it, but, it will make you sit up and take notice.
Here’s how to do it:
1 lb., dry pasta
2 1/2 quarts, water
8 Tbsps., unsalted butter (plus some additional to butter the casserole dish)
12 oz., evaporated milk
3/4 tsp., sea salt, fine
1/2 tsp., cayenne pepper
10 oz., Cheddar cheese, grated (they suggested sharp)
10 oz., pepper Jack cheese, grated
2/3 cup, fresh bread crumbs, coarse ground
1/2 cup, Parmigiano cheese, grated
3 Tbsps., unsalted butter (for melting)
In a large bowl soak pasta in water for about an hour. Stir every so often (I stirred every fifteen minutes). Drain after one hour. Pre-heat broiler on low. Butter a 3 quart baking dish.
In a 3 quart pot, over medium heat, add butter (8 tbsps.), evaporated milk, salt and cayenne. When the butter melts and the milk just starts to steam, start adding the Cheddar and Jack cheeses. Do this just a handful at a time so the cheese has a chance to melt and incorporate evenly. I had my cheese warmed up to room temperature before adding.
When all the cheese has been added and the sauce is nice and evenly melted, add the soaked pasta and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir. The mixture will start to thicken as it heats through.
Transfer the mixture to the buttered baking dish and spread it out evenly. In a small bowl mix the Parmigiano and the bread crumbs together. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the top of the macaroni. Drizzle with melted butter.
Place on middle oven rack, center under the broiler. Broil for 5 minutes. Really keep your eye on this when it goes in. Once it starts to brown, it goes quickly. When the topping is brown remove from oven and cool 5 minutes.
Serves 4 as an entrée or 8 as an appetizer or side dish.
Recipe: Macaroni and Cheese, Aki Kamozawa and H Alexander Talbot, Ideas in Food, Clarkson Potter Publishers
The Bottom Line:
Aki and Alex have written a fantastic book. it’s obvious when you read through it that great attention has been paid to every detail. It’s cookbook/textbook, which makes for an excellent read. The recipes are well constructed as you would expect, but, more importantly they’re not crazy difficult to execute. This marriage of detail and simplicity makes for a super delicious combination. I’m dying to try something from the Liquid Nitrogen section. I think that may still be a little ways off for me.
Publisher: Clarkson Potter
Author: Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot