French Fridays with Dorie
We’ll start this off by saying that this mushroom macaroni cheese is no more “risotto” ’cause it is cooked by stirring it in a hot broth than pizza becomes “Hawaiian” when you top it with a some pineapple. Nonetheless, Dorie Greenspan’s French friend managed to wow her with her “Dressy Pasta Risotto” one day and “bam!, the die was cast for it to one day become a French Friday’s with Dorie selection. Since Dorie herself refers to it as risotto we will do the same here. We do this even though it is so not risotto or even close. The dish is not even French even though a French person once made it. Today isn’t even Friday and yet here I am taking time out from my busy schedule to feature yet another instance of macaroni and cheese for the second time in a week !
So much for New Year’s resolutions! Can you blame me? All it took was one look at the recipe for me to realize that while the whole deal may not be French and it certainly isn’t risotto, it would be good. And that is all that ever matters.
The recipe is more “méthode” than actual recipe which these days I find much more endearing anyway. If you know what mac and cheese is (and who doesn’t?) then y ou should already know what the basic output is going to be here. Only this method essentially makes it all in reverse, without a béchamel, and all in one pot – with chicken stock. Got that?
Dorie’s methodé has you sauté an onion first (See? Its already pretty damn good!), add some chicken broth to a boil and then the macaroni. Once the stock has nearly absorbed into the macaroni you will add some cream, then cheeses, stir it up some more, and then serve. Once you get the gist of what this method is all about you will be compelled to change it up to suit your own style by adding additional flavors, proteins, veggies, etc. (Think risotto, duh.)
I noticed Dorie made this even easier to prepare than real risotto is by not asking for the broth to be added in small additions (as real risotto calls for). She has you pouring it all in at once making this savory side dish even less like the actual risotto she still names it for.
Some of the Doristas have found themselves as of late challenged by one or more of the more “acquired tastes” on our recent menu. Chicken livers, raw-cured salmon , prune-potato gratins and such. All of which makes this appearance by a good old fashioned mac and cheese something of a palate cleanser for our intrepid group. It was nice to see a gaggle of ‘lapsed Doristas” crawl back on board for this, our 2014 inaugural effort. Mac and cheese always seems to have great timing if nothing else and this week, nothing grounds a Dorista more than a cheesy, savory, pasta dish — no matter how it is prepared.
Mushroom Macaroni Cheese “Risotto”
Dorie offers up two variations (“ bonne idees “) on this dish the her recipe — this should be your clue that just about anything is possible here and there will be no wrong “idee”. (Check out the Doristas ‘ blogs for some of the great versions they came up with — I am so in love with the Doristas who used goat cheese!) I decided to take this to a full on savory mushroomy macaroni cheesy herby risotto place by adding in some dried mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes I had on hand with a very light seasoning of fresh thyme. (Adriana, you are my culinary doppelgänger this week!) The umami rich mushrooms, the savory chicken stock, the slightly sweet mascarpone cheese, and the tangy Parmesan cheese all combined to create quite a sophisticated taste profile.
If such a thing is possible with mac and cheese?
Since there was none of the traditional béchamel sauce in sight this version gets its cheesy sauce mojo from the pasta starch which gets boided out in the broth and the boiled down cream andthe cheeses: Parmesan and mascarpone (both Italian cheeses – the last time I checked.) Of course, any cheeses you should have on hand that are ‘melty’ would be good choices here but using the mascarpone in a savory sauce was the key take-away for me from this week’s assignment — it would be a shame if you skipped it.
I wonder how it would taste in real risotto?
Recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table
This is what you will need:
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3¾ cups chicken broth
- 1/3 cup dried mushrooms, coarsely chopped
- 1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 1/3 cups elbow macaroni
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 3½ tablespoons mascarpone
This is how you make it:
- Melt butter in a large skillet or saucepan over medium-low heat. Toss in onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.
- Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Once the broth is boiling add the dried mushroom and tomatoes and give a quick stir.
- Add the pasta and stir it around until well mixed. Let it cook at a simmer until just about all the liquid has absorbed. About 20 to 25 minutes. (There should be just ¼ inch or less of liquid bubbling at the bottom of the pan.)
- Add the fresh thyme and stir for one minute.
- Pour in cream and allow it to simmer for about 3 minutes, until it thickens slightly.
- Stir in Parmesan and then the mascarpone and cook for 1 minute, taste for salt and pepper.
- Pull the pan from the heat, cover, and let rest for 3 minutes before serving.
This Mushroom Macaroni Cheese “Risotto”dish was an assignment for French Friday’s with Dorie, a cooking group working its way through Dorie Greenspan’s culinary tome “ Around My French Table” . We generally avoid including the recipes in our posts. However, wherever there has been a significant adaptation by me or where the recipe has already been publicly posted by Ms. Greenspan or her publishers or by hundreds of other bloggers, or it is, in fact, not much of a recipe at all, I will either include it here (adapted) or provide a direct link to it . Please feel free to contact me via the link provided on my page if you need any assistance finding a French Friday with Dorie Recipe.
You should buy the book though. It will change your life as it has mine.