Gourmet Macaroni & Cheese!
Both smoked pork shoulder and smoked pork neck are popular in the Balkan region of Eastern Europe. I recently purchased some very nice Pushen Vrat (smoked pork shoulder) at the Jones Eastern European market in Las Vegas. The smoked pork shoulder had nice fat marbling, so this cut of tender meat was the perfect choice for topping off a fancy baked macaroni and cheese.
At the same Eastern European market, I purchased a wedge of imported Madrigal Cheese that was cut from a huge wheel. Madrigal Cheese comes from the Loire Valley in central France and this cheese is popular in Eastern Europe. Madrigal has large holes running through it, just like Emmentaler (Swiss Cheese). Madrigal is a firm aged cow's milk cheese that has a slightly sweet hazelnut flavor. The rind of Madrigal is dark and the cheese is a dark straw color toward the rind. The center of the wheel has a pale straw color.
Sautéed parsnips have a flavor that goes well with smoked pork or rich tasting cheese. Sautéing the parsnips till they are golden brown will bring out the most flavor.
Mushrooms are part of every Eastern European cuisine. Fluted Mushrooms do add eye appeal to an entrée. Fluting a mushroom with a paring knife does take some practice. For many years, I used a paring knife to flute mushrooms in restaurant kitchens, till one day a French chef who taught culinary arts at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris said "Try this!" He handed me a Swiss Forschner Channeling Tool (Fluter). Next thing you know, I was fluting mushrooms faster than lightning!
There are average quality kitchen tools and these cheap tools often only lead to frustration. Spending a few dollars more for high quality professional grade kitchen tools is best, because quality tools will last a lifetime and they will perform tasks flawlessly. I rarely recommend specific names of kitchen tools, but a Swiss Forschner Victorinox Channeling Tool makes it very easy to make fancy vegetable garnishes.
Madrigal Cheese Sauce:
This recipe yields about 1 2/3 cups.
The mother sauce for this recipe is basic béchamel. For a small portion of béchamel sauce, it is easier to just add a loose onion and a clove and then strain the sauce before serving. A small piquet of onion and clove does tend to fall apart and the sauce will need to be strained anyway.
Béchamel can be any made to any consistency that is required by a recipe. 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 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 with a whisk, to make a roux. (The roux should look shiny, not caky.)
Constantly stir till the roux becomes a pale white color, with very little hazelnut aroma.
Step 2: Add 1 2/3 cups of milk while whisking.
Add 1/3 cup of cream.
Stir as the sauce heats and thickens to a very thin consistency.
Step 3: Reduce the temperature to low heat.
Add 1 tablespoon of coarsely chopped onion.
Add 1/2 of a spice clove.
Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg.
Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin sauce consistency that can coat a spoon. (The volume should be about 1 1/2 cups.)
Step 4: Pour the béchamel sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a second sauce pot.
Place the sauce pot over very low heat.
Add 1/3 cup of grated French Madrigal Cheese.
Stir till the cheese melts into the sauce.
Remove the pot from the heat.
This recipe yields 1/3 cup. (1 petite portion)
Step 1: Heat a small sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
Add 1/3 cup of thick demi lune sliced peeled parsnip. (demi lune = half moon shapes)
Lightly season with sea salt.
Sauté till the parsnips are a golden brown color.
Step 2: Remove the pan from the heat.
Drain off any excess butter.
Set the sautéed parsnips aside.
This recipe yields 1 portion.
Cook 1 portion of macaroni pasta in boiling water till it is al dente.
Cool the pasta under cold running water.
Drain the water off of the macaroni.
Set the macaroni pasta aside.
Fluted Mushroom Garnish:
This recipe yields 1 fluted mushroom garnish.
The mushroom has to be firm and unopened or it cannot be fluted! Save the peelings for making stock.
The mushroom garnish can be made while the mac & cheese bakes.
Step 1: Select 1 medium size portobello mushroom that has not opened.
Remove the stem.
Scrape the gills off with a spoon.
Peel the skin off of the mushroom cap.
Step 2: Either use a paring knife or a sharp channeling tool to flute the mushroom cap.
Step 3: Heat a small sauté pan over medium low heat.
Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
Add the fluted mushroom cap.
Lightly season with sea salt and white pepper.
Gently sauté till the mushroom is tender and till a few golden brown highlights appear.
Step 4: Remove the pan from the heat.
Keep the sautéed fluted mushroom garnish warm on a stove top.
Baked Macaroni & Madrigal Cheese with Parsnips, Pushen Vrat and Portobello:
This recipe yields 1 entrée.
Step 1: Place the prepared portion of macaroni pasta in a mixing bowl.
Add enough of the Madrigal Cheese Sauce to generously coat the pasta. (About 1 2/3 cups.)
Add the caramelized parsnips.
Stir the ingredients together.
Step 2: Lightly brush a 7" or 8" wide single portion casserole dish with melted unsalted butter.
Place the macaroni & cheese mixture into the casserole dish.
Step 3: Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons of plain fine French bread crumbs over the mac & cheese.
Step 4: Cut 6 slices of Pushen Vrat (smoked pork shoulder) that are about 3/16" thick. (The portion should be 3 1/2 ounces.)
Arrange the slices of Pushen Vrat on top of the mac & cheese, so they look nice.
Lightly brush the Pushen Vrat slices with melted unsalted butter.
Step 5: Place the casserole dish on a baking pan.
Place the pan in a 325ºF oven.
Bake till the cheese sauce starts to bubble and the bread crumbs are very lightly toasted. (The Pushen Vrat should only be warmed and not browned.)
Step 6: Remove the pan from the oven.
Allow the casserole to cool to a safe serving temperature.
Step 7: Place the reserved fluted portobello mushroom garnish on the center of the baked macaroni and cheese.
Sprinkle 1 pinch of minced Italian Parsley over the mac & cheese.
Place the casserole dish on a doily lined serving plate.
The flavor of this gourmet Eastern European style gourmet mac & cheese is comfortably rich! This is a nice looking gourmet mac & cheese too.