Best mac ‘n cheese with crisp, garlic breadcrumb topping. (to die for)

In preparation for Christmas dinner this year, I researched hundreds of mac ‘n cheese recipes with the only prerequisite being that ALL ages would love it, so nothing gimmicky, no strange flavors…
This recipe was a major hit with everyone and it’s well worth adding to your holiday cooking repertoire. The crispy garlicky breadcrumbs on top are also a wonderful addition.
I made it the day before, kept it in the fridge overnight, brought it to room temperature and baked it just before serving, so it really was easy.

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Serves 12

For the topping:
2 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for baking dish
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
½ cup finely grated Parmesan
1/2 tsp kosher salt

For the macaroni and sauce:
14 oz dried elbow macaroni
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
6 tbsp all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
16 oz coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar (about 6 cups)
2/3 cup grated Parmesan
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1 1/2 tbsp English mustard powder

Special equipment:
9- by 13-inch baking dish

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in the middle of oven. Butter the baking dish. Set a large, covered pot of salted water over high heat to boil.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, heat the butter and oil until the butter foam subsides. Add the panko crumbs and garlic; cook, stirring, until the crumbs are golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer the crumbs to a medium bowl, stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan and salt, and set aside.

Add the macaroni to the boiling salted water and cook until just al dente (avoid overcooking). Drain the macaroni and set aside. In a large wide pot over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Sprinkle the flour over the butter, whisking to incorporate and make a roux. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the roux is light golden, about 4 minutes.

Gradually pour in the milk and cream, whisking constantly to incorporate and make a béchamel sauce. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring the sauce to a low boil, whisking constantly. Reduce to a simmer, whisking occasionally, and cook until the béchamel sauce is thick and coats the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes more.

Add the the salt, pepper and mustard powder. Add the cheeses in three batches, whisking until each addition is completely melted before adding more. Remove from the heat.

Add the drained macaroni to the pot with the cheese sauce and stir well to coat. Transfer the macaroni mixture to the buttered baking dish and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the macaroni and bake until golden and bubbling, 18 to 23 minutes.

Let cool 15 minutes before serving.

Butternut squash, mustard and Gruyere gratin

I love anything that has cream, cheese and vegetables in it and you might want to think about changing up your Thanksgiving meal by adding this to the repertoire.I highly recommend it.

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A small knob of butter (1 tbsp)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, halved and thinly sliced
2 or 3 garlic cloves, peeled and squashed
10 decent sized-sage leaves
10 fl oz pot double cream
6 fl oz whole milk (or use cream instead for an extra luxurious dish)
2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, quartered and thinly sliced (about 2lb 2oz prepared weight)
1/4 tsp hand grated nutmeg
8 oz Gruyère, grated

Heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan. Add the onions and cook slowly over a low-medium heat, stirring every now and then, for 10-15 mins until golden and soft.

Meanwhile, put the garlic and half the sage in a saucepan, add the cream and milk, and heat gently, not allowing the mixture to boil, for 5 mins. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for 10 mins, then fish out the sage and garlic. Stir in the mustard and season well.

If cooking straight away, heat oven to 350 F.
Layer the squash slices, (sprinkling a little grated nutmeg on each layer)the onions, most of the cheese and the infused cream into a large baking dish, finishing with a layer of cream. Once you’ve used the ingredients up, scatter with the remaining cheese and put the remaining sage leaves on top. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 mins.

Uncover the dish and increase the heat to 400 F. Cook for a further 20-30 mins until golden brown and tender all the way through. Leave to cool for 10 mins before serving.

Pumpkin Turtle Cheesecake Parfait

Sometimes you need to have a recipe like this that you can whip up fast. This is a lovely fall-like twist on a pumpkin cheesecake except it’s no-cook and a lot more chiffon-like. The recipe belongs to “The Midnight Baker”

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Serves: 4

8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 pkg (size that serves 4) vanilla instant pudding
1/2 cup milk/cream/half and half, divided
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
8 oz (1 regular tub) whipped topping
chopped pecans for garnish
Store bought caramel sauce for drizzle

The instant pudding mix is used dry–DO NOT MAKE PER PACKAGE DIRECTIONS
Beat the cream cheese and 1/4 cup of the milk/cream in a large bowl until it’s smooth and silky
Add the pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, the remaining milk and the dry pudding mix
Beat for 1 minute
Fold in the whipped topping
Divide evenly into small dessert dishes
Garnish with chopped pecans and drizzle with caramel sauce

Roast pumpkin with cream, thyme and parmesan

It doesn’t come much better than this! Make sure you serve this as an appetizer with lots of crusty bread for dipping.

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3 1/2 lb pumpkin,like a Hubbard
11 fl oz heavy double cream
5 fl oz whole milk
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp thyme leaves
2/3 cup grated parmesan

Heat the oven to 300F.
Cut the lid off the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds and strands. Put the pumpkin on a baking tray. Meanwhile, heat the cream, milk, garlic and most of the thyme, with plenty of seasoning. When hot, pour into the pumpkin and stir in 2oz of the Parmesan. Put on the lid.
Bake for 1½ hrs, take from the oven, then turn up the heat to 400F.
Remove the lid, sprinkle with pepper and the rest of the cheese, then bake for 15 mins more until golden.
Scatter over the remaining thyme leaves. Scoop the tender pumpkin flesh into bowls with the cheesy cream and serve with crusty bread as a starter.

Stuffed pumpkin filled with “everything good”

You can do more with a good quality pumpkin than carve it and stick a candle in it — you can also stuff it, bake it and eat it all up.

That’s what cookbook author Dorie Greenspan suggests in her new cookbook,  “Around My French Table”. Greenspan says she loves her recipe “Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good” because it has “almost no rules.”

“So you can play with it. You can change the filling a million different ways, once I used some leftover cooked rice in place of the bread. It became almost like risotto. You can put in nuts, you can put in apples … you can put in chestnuts.”

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Makes 2 very generous servings but can be augmented to serve more

1 pumpkin, like a Hubbard, about 3 lbs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 lb stale bread, sliced and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/4 lb cheese, such as Gruyere, Emmenthal, cheddar, or a combination, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2–4 garlic cloves (to taste) coarsely chopped
4 strips bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and chopped
About 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives or sliced scallions
1 tbsp minced fresh thyme
About 1/3 cup heavy cream
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment, or find a Dutch oven with a diameter that’s just a tiny bit larger than your pumpkin.
** If you bake the pumpkin in a casserole, it will keep its shape, but it might stick to the casserole, so you’ll have to serve it from the pot — which is an appealingly homey way to serve it. If you bake it on a baking sheet, you can present it freestanding, but maneuvering a heavy stuffed pumpkin with a softened shell isn’t so easy. However, since I love the way the unencumbered pumpkin looks in the center of the table, I’ve always taken my chances with the baked-on-a-sheet method, and so far, I’ve been lucky.

Using a very sturdy knife — and caution — cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin (think Halloween jack-o’-lantern). It’s easiest to work your knife around the top of the pumpkin at a 45-degree angle.
You want to cut off enough of the top to make it easy for you to work inside the pumpkin. Clear away the seeds and strings from the cap and from inside the pumpkin.

Season the inside of the pumpkin generously with salt and pepper, and put it on the baking sheet or in the pot.
Toss the bread, cheese, garlic, bacon, and herbs together in a bowl. Season with pepper — you probably have enough salt from the bacon and cheese, but taste to be sure — and pack the mix into the pumpkin.
The pumpkin should be well filled — you might have a little too much filling, or you might need to add to it.
Stir the cream with the nutmeg and some salt and pepper and pour it into the pumpkin. Again, you might have too much or too little — you don’t want the ingredients to swim in cream, but you do want them nicely moistened. (But it’s hard to go wrong here.)

Put the cap in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours — check after 90 minutes — or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbling and the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife. Because the pumpkin will have exuded liquid, I like to remove the cap during the last 20 minutes or so, so that the liquid can bake away and the top of the stuffing can brown a little.

When the pumpkin is ready, carefully, very carefully — it’s heavy, hot, and wobbly — bring it to the table or transfer it to a platter that you’ll bring to the table.

When serving
You have choices: you can cut wedges of the pumpkin and filling; you can spoon out portions of the filling, making sure to get a generous amount of pumpkin into the spoonful; or you can dig into the pumpkin with a big spoon, pull the pumpkin meat into the filling, and then mix everything up. I’m a fan of the pull-and-mix option. Served in hearty portions followed by a salad, the pumpkin is a perfect cold-weather main course; served in generous spoonfuls or wedges, it’s just right alongside the Thanksgiving turkey.

A stunning black truffle sauce

I had to include this spectacular sauce recipe as you can use it with fish, shellfish, meat, pasta, you name it!   To die for! Granted, it’s weird photograph, but it is the actual sauce and nothing else!

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Makes about 2 cups

1 leek (white and pale green parts only), finely chopped
1 3/4 cups finely chopped shallot (10 ounces)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups dry white wine
2 large fresh thyme sprigs
1 1/4 ounces preserved black truffles (preferably winter truffles), finely chopped
4 cups chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
4 cups heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon black or white truffle oil, or to taste

Wash the chopped leek in a bowl of cold water, then lift out and drain (do not pat dry). Steam the leek, shallot, and garlic (in any water clinging to leeks) in a 4-quart heavy saucepan, covered, over low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the wine, thyme, and truffles and boil, uncovered, until most of liquid is evaporated, about 12 minutes.

Add the stock and boil until reduced to about 2 cups, about 25 minutes. Stir in the cream and simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 2 & 3/4 cups, about 40 minutes. Pour mixture through a fine sieve into another saucepan, pressing on and discarding solids. Whisk in truffle oil and season with salt and pepper.
Enjoy!

Pappardelle with Brussels sprouts, leeks and truffle cream

Sauteed leeks with the earthy intensity of the truffle oil and the smooth creaminess of the cream is a heady combination. Make sure you don’t overdo the truffle oil, so start with a little less and add to taste.

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Serves 4

1/2 oz butter
1 large leek, well washed and sliced at an angle
7 oz Brussels sprouts, cut into 1/4″ slices
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1/b fresh (preferably) Pappardelle pasta
4 fl oz dry white wine
2 oz good quality Parmesan cheese,finely grated
A large pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp truffle oil
salt and pepper

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil.

In a wide pan, melt the butter and saute the leek, Brussels sprouts and garlic for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often over medium heat.
Drop the pasta into the pan of boiling water, stirring until the water comes back to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes (or if you are using dry pasta, follow the packet’s instructions) until tender. Drain the pasta into a colander and shake off any excess water.

Meanwhile, add the white wine to the sprouts pan and cook for 2 minutes then add the cream.
Bring to the boil and simmer for a minutes.
Stir in the cheese, nutmeg, truffle oil and some salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Remove from the heat.
The sauce should be quite moist. Check for seasoning and strength of truffle flavor and adjust if necessary.

Divide the pasta between 4 warmed bowls and top with some of the vegetables and sauce.
Use tongs to combine the sauce and pasta and serve immediately.

Dreamy sweet onion bisque

I had this soup at the Capital Grill at the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville recently and thought it was the best soup I had ever tasted. (If you read the ingredients you can see why!)They gave me the recipe and I was blown away by how easy it was to make. You MUST allow the 5 hours for the onions to sweat as that is the secret of the velvety sweetness the soup has. The toasted brie sandwich segment dropped it, plus the bacon and chives take it to even headier heights!

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4 to 8 servings.

10 large sweet Vidalia onions
1lb Plugra butter
1 qt heavy cream
Salt and white pepper, to taste
Smoked bacon, crumbled. Get really good quality bacon for this, chop it and saute until crispy
Freshly snipped chives
Brie grilled cheese sandwich

Peel and chop the onions into 1 inch chunks. In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the butter until it becomes foamy and add the onions. Add about 1 tbsp of salt at this point and stir to combine all of the ingredients in the pot and continue to cook for 5 hours until they have completely softened and exuded the majority of their moisture.
Keep in mind that you really don’t want to get any color on the onions during this process so if you see it happening, lower the heat more.
After the 5 hours, add the cream and just heat it through gently.
When everything is hot and combined, you need to puree the soup in a good quality blender. If you want that really velvety texture, pass it through a fine mesh strainer or a mouli after blending it but this is an optional step.

Season with salt and pepper, pour into the bowls and garnish with some smoked bacon, chives and a triangle of Brie grilled cheese sandwich.

Easy meringue gelato cake with chocolate sauce

This must be one of the easiest recipes I have seen for something that looks so elegant and complicated. Thanks to Nigella Lawson for this gem.
You don’t spend long making it, can do it it ahead of time and everyone thinks you’re a genius! I’ll take it!

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For the meringue gelato cake
1 ¼ cups heavy cream
1 oz bittersweet chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
1 tbsp coffee liqueur (and/or rum)
4 oz shop-bought meringue cookies
8 oz raspberries (to serve, optional)

For the chocolate sauce
1 cup heavy cream
⅔ cup bittersweet chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), finely chopped
2 tbsp coffee liqueur (and/or rum)

For the Meringue Gelato Cake:
Line a 450g / 1lb loaf tin with clingfilm, making sure you have enough overhang to cover the top later.
Whip the cream until thick but still soft.
Chop the chocolate very finely so that you have a pile of dark splinters, and fold them into the cream, along with the liqueur.
Now, using brute force, crumble the meringue cookies and fold these in, too.
Pack this mixture into the prepared loaf tin, pressing it down with a spatula as you go, and bring the clingfilm up and over to seal the top, then get out more clingfilm to wrap around the whole tin. Freeze until solid, which should take around 8 hours, or overnight.

To serve, unwrap the outer layer of plastic wrap, then unpeel the top and use these bits of long overhanging wrap to lift out the ice-cream brick. Unwrap and unmould it onto a board and cut the frozen meringue cake into slabs to serve. I like to zig-zag a little chocolate sauce over each slice, and sprinkle a few raspberries alongside on each plate.

For the Chocolate Sauce:
Pour the cream into a saucepan and add the tiny bits of chocolate.
Put over a gentle heat and whisk as the chocolate melts, taking the pan off the heat once the chocolate is almost all melted. If the mixture gets too hot, the chocolate will seize, whereas it will happily continue melting in the warm cream off the heat.
Add the liqueur, still off the heat, and whisk again to amalgamate the sauce completely. Pour into a jug, whisking every now and again until it cools to just subtly warm.

Grilled corn with chiptole cream and cilantro

A super tasty recipe from Rachel Ray. and it’s sweet, smoky and spicy at the same time. This is perfect with some grilled meat or fish from the BBQ.

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4-8 appetizer-sized portions

1 cup cream
1 chipotle in adobo sauce, seeded and finely chopped, 1 tsp adobo sauce reserved
Zest and juice of 1 lime, divided
1/2 heaped cup mild crumbling cheese such as queso fresco, Asadero or Cotija, for topping
1/2 tsp dried Mexican oregano
2 to 3 scallions, finely sliced
2 tsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped
4 ears corn, husks and silk removed

Pre-heat the grill to medium-high.

In a small saucepot over a low flame, heat and reduce the cream, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce and lime zest until thick and flavors come together, about 15 minutes. Reserve and keep warm.

While the cream is reducing, mix the crumbled cheese, oregano, scallion and cilantro together in a small bowl and set aside.

Grill the corn until the kernels begin to char evenly. When the corn comes off the grill, let cool slightly and cut the corn off the cobb. Place a spoonful of corn in a bowl, drizzle with the chipotle cream sauce, sprinkle with the cheese mixture and serve with a squeeze of lime