Creamy mac and cheese with tarragon (as seen on TV)
Macaroni and cheese is one of the ultimate comfort foods.
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Marion’s Creamy Mac and Cheese with Tarragon
Serves three or four adults
Terry Boyd is the author of Blue Kitchen, a Chicago-based food blog for home cooks. His simple, eclectic cooking focuses on fresh ingredients, big flavors and a cheerful willingness to borrow ideas and techniques from all over the world. A frequent contributor to the Chicago Sun-Times, his recipes have also appeared on the Bon Appétit and Saveur websites.
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4 tablespoons flour
2-3/4 cup whole milk or half and half (for extra creaminess)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 ounces Parmesan, freshly grated (about one cup)
6 ounces extra sharp cheddar, grated (about three cups, the sharper the better)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon hot sauce (we prefer Cholula brand)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh tarragon, divided
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
3 cups uncooked dry pasta (for this recipe, I used pennette, but any macaroni or other small tubular pasta will do)
First, put a pot of water on the stove and bring it to a boil. Add a dash of salt to the water. When the water begins a full rolling boil, pour in the pasta, stir to make sure it isn’t sticking together and lower the heat to a nice simmer. To time the pasta, check the package and set a timer to make sure you don’t overcook the type you’ve chosen.
Next, put the butter and oil in a large nonstick skillet and heat it over a medium flame. When the butter has melted, begin making the roux: Scatter the flour around and blend it all together, using a heatproof spatula (a silicone one is ideal). The idea is to coat every particle of flour with oil so that, when the flour begins to expand during cooking, it won’t form awful globs in your sauce. Once everything is blended together, continue stirring with the spatula until the roux begins to brown – you are aiming for a light caramel color and just the beginning of that wonderful popcorn-butter smell.
When the roux is lightly toasted, pour in the milk all at once and begin to whisk it. (I recommend using a very flexible silicone-coated or nylon whisk.) Stir and whisk until the roux is well incorporated into the liquid. At this point, grind some black pepper into the sauce, then add the salt, dry mustard, hot sauce and the 1 T of fresh tarragon. Whisk again.
At this point, check your pasta. It should be almost done. When it is ready, drain it into a colander and run it under hot water so it doesn’t stick together, then let it drain in the colander while you finish the sauce.
The best way to thicken the sauce is to work over medium-high heat, stirring and keeping a watchful eye to avoid boiling. When the sauce starts to thicken, then add all the cheese, lower the heat, and stir the cheese into the sauce. When the cheese is nicely melted into the sauce, give the pasta a stir in case there is any extra water lurking among the noodles, then pour the pasta into the sauce. Stir it all together well.
Spoon the mac and cheese into a serving dish. Garnish with the remaining 1 teaspoon of fresh tarragon. Then at the last, sprinkle paprika lightly over the top.
Serve right away with a simply dressed salad.
To read the original post and see the clip from WCIU's "You & Me This Morning," click here.
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