Lush Life

To be a lush chef, does not mean to drink in excess - this can result in scary fires and bad dishes. A lush chef is one who enjoys gourmet cooking/baking, often with fresh ingredients and the smart use of one's home bar. If there happens to be half a bottle of beer, a glass of wine, or a sip of brandy left over...well, one cannot be wasteful. I give you permission to imbibe.

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The Lush Chef
Twitter: @thelushchef Provenance: Santa Monica Dish: Coq au Vin Spirit: Whiskey Wine: Malbec Beer: Hefeweizen Farmer's Market: Santa Monica on Main Street
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Jan 3, 2013

Jolly Pumpkin Mac & Cheese

Libations used: 2 Tbs dry sherry
Libations left over: None, but serve this dish with a nice chardonnay...
The Lush Chef's parents visit the Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsula areas in Michigan about once a month to go wine tasting, and the Jolly Pumpkin is one of their favorite restaurants to visit after a day of sipping libations.  Not only do they serve tasty comfort food, but they're a brewery and distillery.  During the Christmas holidays, I tried some of their Sour Mash Whiskey, which is an incredibly light and slightly sweet whiskey.  An amazing starter whiskey for those who are just starting to get into the brown spirits.  Next time I go back, I need to buy a bottle and do a tasting of all their beers and spirits (vodka, gin, rum and white whiskey).

Anyway, on to the recipe.  Back in 2011, the Old Mission Peninsula area held a Mac and Cheese bake-off (sounds like heaven to me) amongst several of the wineries and the Jolly Pumpkin was one of the top recipes.  We made this a couple of days before Christmas and the Lush Chef's father proclaimed it the best Mac and Cheese he's ever had.  I had to agree.  It's definitely one of the top ones I've had, in addition to my Beer Baked Mac & Cheese.  We made a few adaptations by adding in more white cheddar and significantly cutting down on the truffle oil.  You'll still get that rich flavor without it being overpowering.  I can't wait to make this for a Lush Chef dinner a double batch, of course.

Jolly Pumpkin Mac & Cheese - serves 6-8
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 4 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 4 Tbs flour
  • 3 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese 
  • 3/4 cup white cheddar, grated
  • 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese 
  • 1 Tbs + 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground white pepper
  • Dash hot sauce or a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbs dry sherry
  • 3 cups mushrooms (we used a blend of shiitake and crimini)
  • 1 Tbs ground dried morels
  • 1 Tbs truffle oil
  • 1 lb macaroni or cavatappi pasta 
  • Scant 1/2 cup Reggiano or Grana Padano Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup or more of Panko breadcrumbs
- Preheat oven to 350.
- In a large pot, cook the pasta.
- Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan over medium heat, sauté the mushrooms until cooked through.
- In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, sweat the shallots in the butter for about 2 minutes.
- Add the flour and stir constantly to make a roux.
- Lower the heat and add the milk, whisking for about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the cream cheese, white cheddar and mascarpone until smooth.
- Add the salt, white pepper, cayenne pepper, sherry, mushrooms, morels and truffle oil (if you're finding the cheese sauce isn't thick enough, add in a little more flour).
- In a large casserole dish, add the cooked pasta.
- Pour in the cheese sauce and stir to coat all the pasta evenly.
- Sprinkle the parmesan and breadcrumbs over the pasta mixture.
- Bake for 15 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.