On days when it snows I want a few different things:
A warm drink
A hot, filling meal
A wood burning fire (optional)
Macaroni and cheese definitely fits the bill for a hot, filling meal. Emeril’s mac and cheese is an expensive macaroni and cheese overall but it is one of the richest tasting recipes I’ve ever tried. I love Emeril’s addition of his own “Essence” spice in the breadcrumb topping (we always use crushed Goldfish and/or Cheez-Its instead). His seasoning blend was a nice touch and I will continue to use this combination of spices for any breadcrumb topping from here on out.
I like my mac and cheese super creamy so I added an additional 1/2 cup of half & half and reduced the amount of gruyere by 2-ounces. A personal choice because gruyere to my palette is a very strong cheese that I can pick out in any recipe even before I taste it. I served my mac and cheese with some fresh peas to add a bit of freshness to my plate. It also made me feel a little less gluttonous mentally. 🙂
In a heavy, medium saucepan melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over low heat. Add the flour and stir to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and whisk in the half and half little by little. Cook until thickened, about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat, season with the salt, pepper, hot sauce and 4 ounces of the grated parmesan. Stir until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth. Cover and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add salt to taste and, while stirring, add the macaroni. Return to a boil, reduce the heat to a low boil and cook for about 5 minutes, or until macaroni is very al dente (slightly undercooked). Drain in a colander and return the macaroni to the pot. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter and the garlic and stir to combine. Add the bechamel sauce and stir until well combined. Set aside.
Using the remaining tablespoon of butter, grease a 3-quart baking dish or casserole and set aside.
In a large bowl combine 4 ounces of the remaining parmesan cheese, cheddar, fontina and gruyere cheeses. Toss to combine.
Place one-third of the macaroni in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Top with one-third of the mixed cheeses. Top with another third of the macaroni and another third of the cheese mixture. Repeat with the remaining macaroni and cheese mixture. In a small bowl combine the bread crumbs, remaining 1/2 ounce of grated parmesan, and the Essence and toss to combine. Sprinkle this over the top of the macaroni and cheese.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the macaroni and cheese is bubbly and hot and the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.