Oh Kraft Dinner…I’m sure all of the remaining contestants were very happy to cook with macaroni in the quick fire challenge this past week.
I’m sure everyone can admit that there’s a box of prepackaged mac ‘n cheese lurking in their cupboards. Yes, definitely a guilty pleasure for many a Canadian. Many of the chef’s creations seemed interesting, but David’s winning dish from this challenge, the ‘Mac ‘n Cheese Grilled Cheese,’ looked like a guilty pleasure on a plate. A sandwich that would be most fitting for the late night (post-party) weekend crowd no doubt. The mac ‘n cheese grilled cheese sandwich won by a landslide in my poll this week, which I was definitely ok with!
Since I didn’t have the time constraints of a quick fire challenge, or six cameras recording my every move, I decided to make some mac ‘n cheese from scratch. The ingredients for the grilled cheese sandwich itself were fairly simple, so I decided to go with a cheese with some flavour. The grocery store just down the road from me has the largest selection of cheese in the city, so I knew I would be able to find something perfect there. After perusing the aisles, I finally settled on a double smoked cheddar cheese. Once I started to grate the cheese, it had the most amazing smell. It took all my will power to need eat the majority of the cheddar before I cooked with it.
If you’ve never made mac ‘n cheese at home before, I would encourage trying to. It takes about 15-20 minutes maximum and you always end up with a big bowl of cheesy goodness. Now, I’m not saying you should make this all the time (everything in moderation), but the next time it’s a grey and rainy day outside, I suggest trying to whip up a batch yourself! What I do not recommend, however, is leaving a bowl of the freshly made mac ‘n cheese unsupervised on a counter. You may discover your pet trying to sneak a bite behind your back (like my parrot, Baub, pictured!). Trust no one!
To make the asparagus relish, I just did a quick pickling of some asparagus spears and red onion. Since relish is generally fairly fine in texture, I used my magic bullet to get a nice mince on the vegetables. Man, what can’t a magic bullet do? A food processor would have worked just as well, but the bullet was already plugged in on the counter. It was almost like it was just waiting to help me out…I let the vegetables sit in a pot pickling liquid for about ten minutes, then I strained them, mixed them with some grainy mustard and black pepper, and let the, let’s call it ‘cheat’, relish chill in the fridge.
Instead of directly sandwiching the hot pasta between bread, I poured it into a baking dish and let it cool in the refrigerator first. That way, it could spread easily onto the bread slices without making a big, gooey mess. Now, when it comes to grilled cheese sandwiches, there is always room for a bit more cheese. So, even though the mac ‘n cheese was rich enough, I figured a few more slices of smoked cheddar wouldn’t hurt. I also like to grill these kind of ‘bad for you’ sandwiches in butter as well. No one is counting calories here, right?
For the taste testing of the final product, a part of me wanted to stay out late on Saturday night to really appreciate the magic of this sandwich. Sadly, this weekend I was relatively well-behaved and in bed before midnight. Although, now that I have this recipe in my repertoire, I’m sure it will come in handy one Saturday night very soon…
Mac ‘n Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Asparagus Relish
What you’ll need…
• 1 TBSP butter
• 1 TBSP flour
• 2 cups half and half
• 1 cup smoked cheddar (grated)
• 1 TSP paprika
• 1 TSP chili powder
• 1 TSP garlic powder
• 3 cups cooked macaroni
• salt and pepper
• 1 loaf sourdough bread (sliced)
• 2/3 cup smoked cheddar (thinly sliced)
• 2 cups white vinegar
• 2 TBSP sugar
• 2 TSP salt
• 1 TSP celery seeds
• 1 TSP whole black peppercorns
• 1 ½ cups asparagus spears (minced)
• ½ cup red onion (minced)
• 1 TBSP grainy dijon mustard
• ground black pepper
Melt butter in a small pot on medium-high heat. Stir in the flour to form a roux. Next, pour in the cream and whisk to break up any clumps of roux in the pot. Once the mixture returns to a simmer, stir in the grated cheese and spices. Stir or whisk until the cheese has incorporated completely into the sauce. Pour the hot cheese sauce over the cooked macaroni and mix until evenly coated. Set aside to cool (When the mac ‘n cheese has cooled, it’s easier to assemble).
When you’re ready to assemble the sandwiches, spoon some of the mac ‘n cheese mixture onto a slice of bread, top with some sliced of smoked cheddar and place a piece of bread on top. Melt some butter in a medium pan on medium-high heat and cook the sandwich until golden brown on both sides!
Bring the first five ingredients to a simmer in a small pot on the stove. Place minced asparagus and onion (mince them easily using a food processor) in a medium, heat-safe, bowl. Pour vinegar mixture on top of vegetables and let sit for 10 minutes. Strain, add the grainy mustard and black pepper to the mix, stir, then place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Dan Clapson is a food writer and culinary instructor based out of Calgary. He is constantly creating new recipes and striving to expand his culinary horizons. He thinks yam fries are overrated.
by Dan Clapson