One of the most beloved, universal comfort foods out there is none other than a glorious bowl of Mac & Cheese. With so many different variations to choose from, it can be hard to find that one perfect recipe that stands out with diverse flavours, a balanced blend of different cheeses, but above all else the one recipe that just hits the spot each time you take in a bite of the macaroni smothered in stringy cheese goodness.
That is why today I will be sharing with you all an award winning Mac & Cheese recipe that has proven to be a favourite among foodies and critics alike. Alexandra Feswick, Chef de Cuisine at the Drake Hotel in Toronto, emerged victorious in one of Canada's highest profile culinary comfort food battles, Dairy Farmers of Canada's (DFC) Grate Canadian Cheese Cook-Off. Earlier this month, four top chefs from across Canada took the stage in an attempt to create the ultimate Mac & Cheese using Canadian cheeses, pasta, and a little creativity.
Through an esteemed judging panel, Chef Feswick's "Nutty Home-Style Mac & Cheese" recipe was declared victorious. This truly unique Canadian macaroni & cheese experience starts with combining the distinctive nostalgia of home-styled comfort classics such as cheddar, sage and mushrooms, and memorably finishes by pairing them with the luxurious flavours of hazelnuts, blue cheese, and Jerusalem artichokes. Now you will be able to make her award winning recipe to be enjoyed at the comfort of your very own home.
Preparation Time: 45 Minutes
Cooking Time: Approx 48 Minutes
Baking Time: 40 Minutes
Yield 6 Servings
1 lb (500 g) Jerusalem artichokes, divided
2 tsp (10 mL) vegetable oil
1⁄4 tsp (1 mL) salt
3 cups (750 mL) 2% milk, divided
1 1⁄2cups (375 mL) 35% whipping cream, divided
1 pkg (150 g) Beech mushrooms, trimmed and separated (about 2 cups/500 mL)
1⁄4 cup (60 mL) unsalted butter
3 tbsp (45 mL) all-purpose flour
1⁄4 tsp (1 mL) each ground nutmeg and black pepper
1 lb (500 g) cavatelli pasta
1 1⁄2 cups (375 mL) shredded Canadian 7-year-old Cheddar cheese
1 1⁄2 cups (375mL) shredded Niagara Gold cheese
2/3 cups (150 mL) crumbled Blue d’Elizabeth cheese
1cup (250 mL) shredded Alpindon cheese
1 cup (250 mL) panko breadcrumbs, toasted
1⁄2 cup (125 mL) toasted hazelnuts, finely chopped
1⁄4 cup (60 mL) chiffonade or finely chopped parsley
3 tbsp (45 mL) finely shredded Alpindon cheese
1 tbsp (15 mL) finely chopped sage
1⁄2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1. Preheat oven to 375°F (160°C). Line baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
2. In medium bowl, toss half of the whole, unpeeled Jerusalem artichokes with oil and salt. Place on prepared baking sheet and roast for 35 minutes or until artichokes are soft, easily poked with fork. Place roasted artichokes in blender with 1⁄2 cup (125 mL) of milk and 1⁄2cup (125 mL) of cream; blend on high until smooth. Set aside.
3. In medium saucepan, combine remaining milk and cream, heat over medium heat until bubbles start to form around the edge of the saucepan and steaming about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Meanwhile, dice remaining Jerusalem artichokes into 1⁄2-inch (1 cm) pieces. Add to heated milk and cream mixture and cook over low heat until soft when poked with a fork, about 20 minutes. Strain Jerusalem artichokes and reserve milk and cream mixture. Return milk and cream mixture into saucepan; add mushrooms and cook on low heat until mushrooms soften, about 3 minutes. Strain mushrooms and reserve milk and cream mixture.
5. In a clean medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Mix in flour until fully incorporated. Stirring constantly with wooden spoon, cook for 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in reserved milk and cream mixture, nutmeg and pepper. Simmer on low heat, constantly stirring until sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 20 minutes.
6. In large pot of boiling, salted water, cook pasta according to package directions; drain and spread on parchment lined baking sheet; set aside. Preheat oven to high broil.
7. Remove sauce from heat and whisk in oneat a time the Cheddar, Niagara Gold and Blued’ Elizabeth cheeses (the sauce will be thick and stringy with melted cheese). Stir in reserved Jerusalem artichoke puree.
8. In large pot, mix together sauce, pasta and reserved Jerusalem artichokes and mushrooms until well combined. Transfer into a 13x9-inch (3 L) glass baking dish and sprinkle with Alpindon cheese. Broil on middle rack, until bubbly and top is crispy, about 5 minutes.
9. Toppings: In small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, nuts, parsley, Alpindon cheese, sage, and salt. Sprinkle over hot pasta in dish. Serve and enjoy!
Chef Tip: Combining the pasta with the cheese sauce while they’re both hot helps guarantee a moist and creamy mac and cheese.