In anticipation of what has now become one of my favorite festivals in Aspen, I have been perusing through Laura Werlin’s new book “mac&cheese, please!”
It doesn’t take much for me to get psyched up for the third annual Aspen Mac and Cheese Festival on Saturday, Sept. 7, but after reading through Werlin’s 50 super cheesy recipes, I’m heading into the three-hour extravaganza with a new perspective.
I’ve always maintained that any addition to mac and cheese beyond noodles, cheese and cream is really just a casserole, or where I come from, a hotdish.
But my perspective has changed now that I’ve read Werlin’s book, which takes the reader from the traditional and classic all-American dish to some of the most unconventional concoctions ever imagined.
Who knew that you can actually pull off eggs benedict mac and cheese? Or Indian-spiced roasted cauliflower and spinach mac and cheese? On the healthier side, how does spring vegetable and whole-grain mac and cheese sound?
No, these are not casseroles — far from it. They are full meals with tons of flavor, innovation and creativity.
Werlin, a James Beard Foundation award winning author of six books on cheese, has obviously put a lot of thought, preparation and love into these recipes.
The first one I tried preparing myself was one I am already familiar with; Werlin gave us a taste during a seminar she held during this past June’s Food & Wine Classic in Aspen — smokey blue with leeks and hazelnuts mac and cheese.
It is the perfect blend of flavor, and showcases one of Werlin’s (and now my), favorite American cheeses — smokey blue, preferably from the Rogue Creamery in Oregon.
The other recipe that caught my attention was under the “breakfast for dinner” chapter. I love me a good slice of quiche — and gruyére, caramelized onion, blue cheese and bacon mac and cheese is as close to it as you’ll get without using eggs.
One of the things I like about the book is that Werlin gives the reader a little precursor to the recipe with some background, tips or commentary.
For the Mad Men mac and cheese, Werlin writes “I will be the first to admit that this recipe seems a bit wacky. Green olives? Gin? Velveeta? Saltines? Really? But wait till you try it …”
I grew up on mac and cheese, and the kid in me still craves for it all the time. My go-to still, I hate to admit, is the Kraft box version, especially late-night. But I can make from scratch some killer baked mac and cheese, too. I have to ignore my cravings a lot because of the sheer calorie and cholesterol factor.
Luckily, Werlin has created a “Lighten Up, Cool Down” chapter to illustrate how mac and cheese can be not as damaging to the waistline and heart but still burst with flavor.
Not only does the book give 50 different recipes, there are plenty of useful tidbits of information, like where to find restaurants and food trucks across the country that serve some of the best mac and cheese.
Werlin also has laid out many pointers to achieve mac and cheese perfection — the types of cheese and pasta to use, thoughts on dairy use, the trick to bread crumbs and the key to making a great sauce.
I commend Werlin, who did not grow up on mac and cheese and didn’t care for noodles in her youth, for coming up with such a mouth-watering array of recipes. Of course, her passion for cheese is obviously the motivating factor. As she says in the book’s introduction, she has made up for lost time in her adulthood. Thanks for sharing your revelation, Laura. My taste buds, not my waistline, are forever grateful.
For more information, log onto laurawerlin.com. To purchase the book, go to http://www.amazon.com/Mac-Cheese-Please-Cheesy-Recipes/dp/1449426468/ref ...!