Brie-style cheese might not come to mind when you think about macaroni and cheese. We often reach for the sharpest variety when making a batch, but a soft-ripened cheese like Crave Brothers Les Frères is a great, super-creamy alternative. Especially when it's paired with earthy mushrooms and a little white wine. Think about eating a Brie-style cheese on its own - it's great with white wine, and its flavor is accentuated by walnuts and mushrooms. On a cheese board, we might pair it with a sharper cheese to add some variety.
We approached our macaroni and cheese the same way and incorporated these elements into the dish. If the other cheese we used aren't available in your area, try something aged and a little nutty like Gruyère.
The result was wonderfully creamy and deeply flavorful. It's comfort food that's a little sophisticated and perfect for a cold winter evening.
The rind of Les Frères Cheese is perfectly edible, but best removed if you're going to be melting it into a sauce. We wanted to save every last bit of the creamy interior, though, and grating the rind off with a microplane was the best way to do that.
We also took the extra step of pre-toasting our bread crumbs. Sure, it might be a little fussy, but only takes a couple of minutes and provides a really satisfying crunch with each bite.
Les Frères Mac & Cheese with Mushrooms
1 pound package shell pasta
2 slices whole wheat sandwich bread
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 8-ounce wheel of Crave Brothers Petite Frère Cheese OR another Brie-style cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound mushrooms, quartered
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup (2 ounces) Saxon Green Fields or Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve, shredded OR Gruyère
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat; add pasta and cook to al dente texture, according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, using a food processor, grind bread slices into crumbs. Add the nuts and pulse until well combined. In a skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Add the breadcrumb mixture and cook for about three minutes, or until the breadcrumbs begin to brown, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and set aside.
With a grater, remove the rind from the Petit Frères Cheese. Cut cheese into 1-inch pieces.
In a large saucepan, heat olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add mushrooms and a pinch of salt and pepper and cook until the mushrooms begin to release their juices, about 5 minutes. Add wine and cook an additional 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside.
There should be a small amount of liquid and some garlic remaining in the pan. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute over medium heat. Add milk, and whisk the mixture until the flour has dissolved and the liquid begins to thicken. Remove from heat and mix in Petit Frères and Green Fields or Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese, stirring until melted.
Add the cooked pasta to the cheese mixture and stir in the reserved mushrooms. Divide the pasta into 6 oven-safe individual-serving bowls. Top with breadcrumb mixture. Place on a cookie sheet and bake 15 minutes.
(Images: Joanna Miller)