Friday, March 20, 2015

Gourmet Macaroni & Cheese! Alaskan King Crab and Kaltbach Cave Aged Gruyère

     Gourmet Macaroni & Cheese!
     Face the music!  Everybody likes a good macaroni & cheese.  Many people like to serve macaroni & cheese as a side dish for special social occasions.  When family togetherness needs a boost, a big casserole dish full of hot aromatic macaroni & cheese gets the job done.  Prisoners on death row have actually requested mac & cheese for their last meal.  Even astronauts in space look forward to munching on macaroni & cheese from a tube floating around in zero gravity.  Macaroni & cheese is a tradition and it is on nearly everybody's list of favorite food!

     Alaskan King Crab also ranks high on the list of all time favorite food items.  Las Vegas buffets are famous for serving tons of steamed king crab legs.  Steamed king crab legs with drawn butter may be at the top of the decadent dining food chain, but this is not the only way that king crab can be served.  Crab readily marries with cheese in a cream sauce to create a very rich flavor that is hard to beat.
     Alaskan King Crab is the perfect choice for making a gourmet mac & cheese entrée.  The Alaskan fishery is well managed and sustainability is practiced by limiting the king crab catch.  Fine dining restaurant customers do tend to be environmentally conscious.  Alaskan King Crab Mac & Cheese from a sustainability standpoint is guilt free dining at its best.
     To make a gourmet mac & cheese, the selection of cheese has to be top notch.  The better the cheese, the better the mac & cheese will be.  Gruyère is one of the highest respected cheese varieties in the world.  French and Swiss chefs use Gruyère extensively in recipes.  Gruyère is a classic choice for creating a gourmet mac & cheese.
     There are several kinds of Gruyère and there are several places in France and Switzerland where gruyere is made.  The best Gruyère is always listed as an AOC (appellation d'origine contrôlée) or AOP (Protected Designation of Origin) product.
     By European Torrier standards, everything has to be the same as it was when a product like Gruyère was first created, in order to receive the AOC stamp of approval.  The terrain, geography, climate, geology, the livestock feed, the cheese making facility, the aging process and the place where the cheese is aged all has to be the same as when the cheese was first made.  This is what integrity is all about and this is why European cheese wins all quality awards hands down.

     Emmi Kaltbach Cave Aged Gruyère 
     Kaltbach le Gruyère AOP is made by Emmi in Switzerland and this one of the finest Gruyère that money can buy.  Cheese making in the Gruyère region dates back for nearly one thousand years and the Gruyère tradition is protected by the AOP.  Part of the AOP states that this specific Gruyère has to be aged in the local sandstone caves of Kaltback, just like how the cheese was originally perfected.
     Swiss Emmi Kaltbach Gruyère is aged for 3 months at the dairy and 9 months in the Kaltbach Caves.  The result is a Gruyère that has a hard orange patina with a hard texture that can crumble.
     Emmi Kaltbach Cave Aged Gruyère is luxuriously rich on the palate with no bitter aftertaste.  Because Emmi Kaltbach Gruyère is a hard dense aged cheese, a little bit goes a long way.  Just a few tablespoons of this special Gruyère is enough to thoroughly flavor a petite single portion gourmet Alaskan King Crab Mac & Cheese.  When used properly in a recipe, this pricy Pruyère is actually cost effective.  

     Alaskan King Crab Preparation:
     King Crab is huge!  Alaskan King Crab is boiled at the fishery and then shipped frozen.  One whole medium size claw leg is about what is needed per portion of this mac & cheese recipe.  
     The lump meat is shelled from the leg sections.  The claw shell is only removed from the meat knuckle area so it can be used as a garnish.  An accurate gentle touch is needed for partially shelling a crab claw, so the meat is not damaged.
     Step 1:  Select 1 whole medium size Alaskan King Crab leg that has a claw attached.
     Cut the whole claw section off and set it aside.
     Step 2:  Gently but sharply strike the leg sections with the back of a chef knife to crack the shell.
     Shell the crab leg and set the chunks of crab meat aside in a container.  There should be a little more than 1/4 cup of shelled crab meat.
     Step 3:  *This next step is not easy to do, but it can be done on a first attempt!  A kitchen glove will protect the hand.
     Hold the crab claw tips firmly against a cutting board.
     Use the back of a chef knife to accurately strike the wide end of the claw, near the base of the claw fingers.  The object is to barely crack the shell, in an even line around the shell.  This requires turning the claw, while rapping the shell with short quick strikes of the back of the chef knife blade.
     Use your finger to break the wide shell pieces and remove them, without damaging the wide claw meat that lies underneath.
     Step 4:  Rinse off any bits of shell and crab fat that cling to the claw meat.
     Chill the prepared crab claw till later in the recipe.

     Kaltbach Cave Aged Gruyère Bechamel: 
     This recipe yields enough sauce for 1 petite portion macaroni & cheese.  A small amount extra sauce may be leftover and it can be used for another recipe!
     The mother sauce for cheese sauce is béchamel.  For a small portion of béchamel sauce, it is easier to just add a loose onion, bay leaf and a clove, then strain the sauce before serving.  
     Béchamel can be any made to any consistency that is required by a recipe.  A béchamel cheese sauce for macaroni should not be made too thick, or the sauce will be like glue after baking! 
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour, while constantly stirring, to make a roux.  (The roux should look glossy and not caky.)
     Stir till the roux is a white color, with very little hazelnut aroma.
     Step 2:  Add 2 1/2 cups of milk while whisking.
     Stir as the sauce heats and thickens to a very thin sauce consistency.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1/2 of a clove.
     Add 1 tablespoon of coarsely chopped onion.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg.
     Add 1/2 of a laurel leaf.
     Step 4:  Gently simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a medium thin sauce consistency.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 3 1/2 tablespoons of finely grated Emmi Kaltbach Cave Aged Gruyère.  
     Stir occasionally, as the cheese melts into the sauce.  (Aged Gruyere does take a few minutes to melt.)
     Step 6:  Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a container.
     Keep the sauce warm on a stove top or in a 135ºF bain marie. 

     Cook 1 portion of macaroni pasta in boiling water over high heat, till it is al dente. 
     Drain the water off of the pasta.
     Place the macaroni pasta in a mixing bowl.

     Alaskan King Crab and Kaltbach Cave Aged Gruyère Macaroni & Cheese:
     This recipe yields 1 single portion of mac & cheese!  
     A 5" wide Pop-Ring Mold is needed for a free standing mac & cheese presentation.  
     The finished product cannot be too saucy, or it will fall apart.  
    The mac & cheese needs to be par baked, then cooled, so it gels.  Then the mac & cheese is reheated.  By using this two step baking method, it is easy to remove the ring mold and the entrée will retain a nice uniform shape.  
     Step 1:  Add enough of the cheese sauce to generously coat the macaroni in the mixing bowl.
     Add the shelled king crab meat chunks.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Lightly brush a 5" pop-ring mold with melted unsalted butter.  (The mold should be 2 1/2" to 3" deep.  A mini pop-ring cheesecake mold works best.)
     Fill the pop-ring mold to the top with the mac & cheese mixture.  Only fill the mold, so the mixture is about 1/4" from the top.  Try to place some of the crab chunks near the wall of the mold, so they can be seen.
     Step 3:  Spread a thin layer of the cheese sauce over the top of the mac & cheese.
     Step 4:  Toss 2 tablespoons of small diced fresh French bread croutons with 1/2 tablespoon of melted unsalted butter in a mixing bowl.  (Trim off the crust.)
     Sprinkle the croutons on top of the mac & cheese.
     Step 5:  Insert a knife or spoon handle vertically into the center of the mac & cheese and create a hollow impression, so the meat end of the crab claw can be inserted.
     Insert the meat end of the crab claw into the mac & cheese.
     Step 6:  Select a stainless steel ring mold that is slightly wider than the crab claw.
     Gently place the ring mold over the crab claw, so the rim of the ring mold rests on top of the mac & cheese.  The ring mold will keep the crab claw standing upright and it will protect the claw from excessive heat.
     Step 7:  Place the mac & cheese assembly on a baking pan.  
     Bake in a 350ºF oven, till the macaroni & cheese becomes hot and the sauce just starts to bubble.
     Step 8:  Remove the pan from the oven and allow the mac & cheese to cool to almost room temperature.  This will gel the sauce, so the mac & cheese becomes fairly solid.
     Step 9:  Remove the steel ring mold that protects the crab claw.  (not the pop-ring mold)
     Sprinkle a few pinches of finely grated Kaltbach Cave Aged Gruyère one the mac & cheese.
     Step 10:  Return the mac & cheese pan to the 350ºF oven.
     Bake till the mac & cheese becomes hot.
     Remove the mac & cheese from the oven and allow it to cool to a safe serving temperature, before removing the pop-ring mold.

     Gourmet Macaroni & Cheese!  Alaskan King Crab and Kaltbach Cave Aged Gruyère  ... with Snow Peas and Heirloom Tomato Concassé:
     Step 1:  Place the pop-ring mold on the center of a plate.
     Run a paring knife around the edge of the pop-ring mold to free the mac & cheese.
     Remove the pop-ring.
     Step 2:  Use a wide spatula to free the mac & cheese from the base of the pop-ring mold and slide the mac & cheese onto the center of the plate.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of minced curly leaf parsley on top of the mac & cheese.
     Step 3:  Use a damp paper towel to clean any residue off of the plate.
     Step 4:  Evenly space 7 warm blanched feathered snow peas on the plate around the free standing mac & cheese, so the tips are tucked under the entrée.
     Step 5:  Use a small spoon to place small mounds of red and yellow heirloom tomato concassé between each snow pea.  (Concasse is peeled, seeded, cored tomato that is diced.)

     Viola!  An impressive looking and great tasting gourmet mac & cheese! 

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