Gourmet Mac & Cheese With A Bulgarian Theme!
After shopping at Jones Market-Eastern European in Las Vegas recently, an idea came to mind. Creating a few new recipes have an Eastern European theme, instead of cooking old traditional recipes for food photo examples seemed like a good idea. Writing old traditional recipes requires doing a lot of research and I pretty much had my fill of college level research paper writing the las few years.
Macaroni & Cheese is wide open territory for creativity. Just about any regional or cultural cuisine theme can be chosen when creating a new gourmet Mac & Cheese entrée. The best place to start is selecting the cheese. A traditional cheese from some distant place or an exotic artisan cheese are the best choices.
Kashkaval Cheese is popular throughout the Balkans in Eastern Europe. Bulgarian Kashkaval is a very nice tasting sheep milk cheese that is perfect for making Macaroni & Cheese. Sheep milk cheese has a high fat content, so it is a good melting cheese. Bulgarian Kashkaval has a rich mild flavor. The aftertaste can be described as hints of hazelnut and virgin olive oil. Kashkaval is a semi firm cheese and it is aged for just a few months.
Kielbasa Sausage is a cured smoked sausage that is flavored with just a few traditional spices. Kielbasa is usually made with beef, pork, veal or a combination of these meats. In America, Turkey Kielbasa is popular. Fancy cafés sometimes offer kielbasa that is made with veal. In regions where veal schnitzel or veal chops are popular, veal sausages are easy to find. Most often, veal scraps are turned into a mousseline style white sausage like German or Austrian Weisswürst.
Smoked Veal Kielbasa is not easy to find outside of Europe, but it can be found in Eastern European food markets, like the Jones Market in Las Vegas. Bulgarian, Polish or Greek delicatessens are also good places to look.
One of these days I will get around to making sausages from scratch, so some sausage recipes can be published. All a home cook needs is a few basic ingredients, a meat grinder and a smoker to make Smoked Veal Kielbasa from scratch.
*This entire recipe yields 1 entrée!
Boil 1 portion of macaroni pasta in boiling water till it becomes al dente.
Cool the pasta under cold running water.
Drain the water off of the macaroni.
Place the macaroni in a mixing bowl and set it aside.
Bulgarian Kashkaval Béchamel:
This recipe yields enough for a single portion of Mac & Cheese.
The mother sauce for this recipe is basic béchamel. For a small portion of béchamel sauce, it is easier to just add chopped onion, bay leaf and a spice clove, then strain the sauce before serving. A small tied piquet of onion, bay leaf and clove tends to fall apart and the sauce will need to be strained anyway.
Béchamel can be any made to any consistency that a recipe requires. Béchamel can be made so it has a very thin consistency for white wine crème sauces or it can be made thick and heavy for dessert applications. A béchamel cheese sauce for macaroni should not be made too thick, or the sauce will be as heavy as 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 cups of milk while whisking.
Add 1/4 cup of cream.
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 spice clove.
Add 1 tablespoon of coarsely chopped onion.
Add sea salt and white pepper.
Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg.
Add 1 small bay leaf.
Step 4: Gently simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a medium thin sauce consistency. The volume should be about 1 1/2 cups
Step 5: Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
Add 1 tablespoon of minced green onion.
Add 2 1/2 to 3 ounces of grated Bulgarian Kashkaval Cheese.
Stir till the cheese melts into the sauce.
Step 6: Remove the pot from the heat.
Keep the sauce warm on a stove top.
Gourmet Macaroni & Cheese! Bulgarian Kashkaval, Portobello and Smoked Veal Kielbasa:
This recipe yields 1 portion.
Step 1: Lightly brush a single portion casserole dish with melted unsalted butter. (A 6" diameter casserole dish is good.)
Add enough of the Bulgarian Kashkaval Béchamel Sauce to the reserved macaroni pasta in the mixing bowl to generously coat the pasta with sauce. (Any leftover sauce can be saved for another recipe.)
Stir the ingredients together.
Step 2: Place mac & cheese mixture into the casserole dish.
Sprinkle a little bit of plain fine French bread crumbs over the mac & cheese.
Arrange a 5 or 6 thick slices of medium size portobello mushroom on top of the mac & cheese, so it looks nice.
Lightly brush the mushroom slices with melted unsalted butter.
Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of grated Bulgarian Kashkaval Cheese over the casserole.
Step 3: Bias cut evenly spaced shallow score marks on one side of a 4 to 5 ounce Smoked Veal Kielbasa Sausage.
Place the sausage on top of the Mac & Cheese, so the score marks face up.
Lightly brush the sausage with melted unsalted butter.
Step 4: Place the casserole dish on a baking pan.
Bake in a 325ºF oven, till the cheese sauce starts to bubble and the bread crumbs are lightly toasted. The veal kielbasa should be lightly browned and the mushrooms should be cooked tender by this time.
Allow the casserole to cool to a safe serving temperature.
Step 5: Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of tomato concassé over the mac & cheese as a garnish. (Diced peeled seeded fresh tomato filet.)
Garnish with Italian Parsley leaves.
Place the casserole dish on a doily lined serving plate.
Easy as pie! Making a gourmet Macaroni & Cheese only requires a few extra steps and a little extra attention to detail. The flavor of this Bulgarian style Mac & Cheese is one of a kind!