Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It's so good, it's...UMAMI!

Ever since we visited Sleepy Hollow/Tarrytown over Columbus Day weekend, I have been thinking about recreating some of the great dishes that we had there. For example, one thing that I HAVE to try (once I figure out which box my ice cream maker is in--and yes, it has been almost two years since I moved, shut up) is the most AMAZING ice cream that I had in a shop on the main drag in Tarrytown called Brain Freeze. Get this: sweet corn ice cream in a pretzel cone. Just sit with that for a minute. It was FAN-freakin-tastic!

But the project this past weekend was to try and make a home version of the awesome truffled mac and cheese that we had at Umami Cafe in Croton-on-Hudson, NY. I found a NYT article that described the dish as involving gruyere and fontina, so I played around with that, adding different cheeses to a luscious bechamel sauce, then adding a good amount of truffle butter that my friend, June, brought me back from her trip to Paris. Instead of bread crumbs for the topping, I just used some smashed-up crackers because I had them on hand.

It turned out really yummy, and actually a lot creamier than the dish we had at Umami Cafe. My roommate preferred the texture, in fact. But I kind of liked the lighter version that they served. So imagine my chagrin when I happened to find the real recipe online while my version was already baking in the oven! ARRGH! Oh well. I'll try it next time. But my version was pretty good, if I do say so myself. Maybe make a half batch of each and then do a taste test? (Then please report your findings in comments.)

Gina's Truffled Mac and Cheese (An Homage to Umami)

1 lb. pasta (I used pipettes)
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 cup flour
4 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
good pinch of salt, to taste (depends on how salty your cheeses are)
4 cups shredded cheese (2 cups creamy--fontina or gouda, 1 cup sharp cheddar, 1 cup nutty--gruyere or parmesan)
1 tablespoon black truffle butter

1 sleeve buttery crackers (Town House), crushed
2 tablespoons melted
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic

Boil pasta until just al dente. Drain.

Melt a stick of butter in at least a 3.5 quart pot. Brown it until dark golden, then whisk in the flour. Cook for two minutes, whisking continuously. Add the milk, a little at a time, whisking the whole time. Cook until the sauce thickens--almost to boiling--constantly whisking. Add the granulated garlic, pepper and salt, then add the shredded cheese and stir until melted and the sauce is very smooth. Add the truffle butter and stir until melted.

Add the drained pasta to the sauce and thoroughly combine. Pour into a 9x13 (sprayed) baking dish. Mix the crushed cracker crumbs with the melted butter and granulated garlic and sprinkle on top of the pasta and cheese sauce. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let set for 15-30 minutes before serving.

Umami Cafe's Truffled Mac and Cheese
(Source: Executive Chef, Jon Pratt, Umami Cafe)

3 shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups dry white wine (Pinot Grigio)
1 qt. heavy cream
4 oz. black truffle butter
2 tablespoons black truffle oil
3 cups fontina cheese, shredded
salt and pepper, to taste
3 lbs. elbow macaroni
panko crumbs or in a pinch, bread crumbs

Preparation:
• Cook pasta
In salted (don’t be shy with the salt) boiling water cook pasta until tender but not mushy, drain and empty out on sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil. Reserve.
• Reduce cream
In non reactive sauce pan bring heavy cream to just boiling, reduce heat to low setting and simmer for 30 minutes or reduced to half. Reserve.
• Make sauce
In non reactive sauce pan sauté shallots and garlic in 2 tablespoons butter until soft but not browned. Add white wine and simmer until wine is almost gone. Add reduced cream and bring just to simmer, then add grated cheese and whisk to incorporate. Add truffle butter and oil, add salt and pepper to taste.
•To serve:
Place pasta and enough sauce in sauté pan and bring to simmer. Transfer to a ramekin or casserole and serve garnished with butter-toasted panko crumbs. You can also top with untoasted bread crumbs and place casserole in oven to bake until crumbs are golden brown. Garnish with a few drops truffle oil and minced chives.

This recipe will make about a quart of sauce which can make ten to twelve 5” ramekins or one 9X12” soufflé dish.