Mac and Cheese: A comforting, soul satisfying cheese and wine pairing

mac and cheese recipe

Creamy, dreamy, gooey goodness. The best mac and cheese recipe ever!

There are a millions ways to make mac and cheese, but for me there is nothing as tasty as my version made with an easy béchamel sauce, layered with a blend of cheeses and baked with a crispy parmesan/cracker topping. Based on an old family recipe this is no designer noodles tossed in lumpy cheese sauce or hipster variation studded with peas, bacon or kale chips. It’s the real deal, hearty Southern style with loads of divine shredded cheese oozing into every crevice of the elbow macaroni (the only pasta that should be used to make this) and baked till the top is crunchy and browned.

It’s a favorite dish I remember from childhood, a big food hug that makes me smile as I savor each fork-full  filled with down home goodness. No bells, whistles or fancy trappings, yet one of the most soul satisfying meals that makes an appearance again and again on my table. Also, it’s the dish I’m asked to bring to every family gathering or potluck.

For pairing try a lightly oaked Chardonnay with just a touch of spice and apple flavor, my favorites hail from the Burgundy region of France. The best ones have just enough acid to cut through the decadent richness of the dish while their rounded fruit flavors complement the notes in the cheeses. Think of apple pie and cheddar cheese, one of the best food pairings ever created!

My picks!

Maison B. Perraud Saint-Veran 2012, (Burgundy, France)

This is a Chardonnay for people who don’t like Chardonnay. It’s rich and round, but, without the excess vanilla and spice sometimes found in new world Chardonnay. Made from 50 year old vines grown in clay soil it has a medium body with just a touch of nutty flavors and baked apple notes.

Maison Champy Bourgogne Chardonnay 2012, (Burgundy, France)

Slightly creamy and buttery without over doing it. Food friendly, afforadle and incredibly delicious!

Best Mac and Cheese recipe -

Bake till browned and bubbly for best mac and cheese ever!

 

Serves 6 as main dish

6 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons flour

1 pint light cream

3 pints whole milk

10 oz. extra sharp white Cheddar shredded, if you want to use an artisan cheese try an English cloth bound cheddar

5 oz. Gruyère shredded

5 oz. aged Gouda shredded, Old Amsterdam or Beemster are best

1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan Reggiano

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1 cup crushed butter crackers, ritz or your favorite

1 teaspoon white pepper

salt to taste

2 teaspoons Coleman mustard

1 box elbow macaroni, cooked al dente

Cook elbow macaroni al dente, rinse in cold water, drain and set aside. In medium sauce pan melt 4 tablespoons of butter on low flame, add flour and stir till smooth. Slowly add milk and cream whisking to prevent lumps. Add white pepper, salt to taste and mustard to sauce and cook on low flame till thickened, whisking to keep lumps from forming so sauce is smooth. If sauce is to thick add a little additional milk. Set sauce aside, preheat oven to 375 and prepare for assembly.

Toss cheddar, Gruyère and gouda in large bowl. Ladel enough sauce into 9 by 13 inch pan to cover bottom well. Add a thin layer of macaroni, shredded cheese and repeat till you have a bit of room on top. Melt remaining 2 tablespoon of butter and add to breadcrumbs, crushed crackers and parmesan cheese in medium bowl. Spread breadcrumb mixture on top evenly and loosely tent pan with foil. Bake for 40 minutes in preheated oven, remove foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes or till browned and bubbly. Remove from oven, let cool for 5 minutes and enjoy!

 

 

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Holiday wine and cheese events in NYC

cheese wreath

Holiday entertaining can be fun, but also stressful for a host/hostess that wants to create the perfect atmosphere for guests. Choosing wines that can not only please a number of people, don’t break the bank and are a complement to a range of flavors can be challenging. How much do you buy, are there certain regions, styles or grapes that are safe bets? Can you find delicious wines under $25 that will wow your guests? Is there a certain style of cheese that will go with not only the wines you serve but other courses or appetizers on the menu? Is there an easy way to arrange your cheeses that will be festive and impress your foodie friends? Why not join me aboard the motor yacht Manhattan for a fun and festive holiday wine and cheese event to learn the secrets behind perfect pairings?

The Manhattan will be decorated for the season, the beautiful glass enclosed salon is warm and cozy, and you can escape the holiday rush for a few hours as we cruise around Manhattan island sipping and sampling in style! Sassysipsnyc readers can save 10% by entering the code WINETEN online at www.zerve.com

Dates-

Saturday November 22nd & December 13th, 1:45-4:30  BUY TICKETS

Wine tasting in NYC

Wine tasting in NYC

Holiday Wine and Cheese Pairing. Have you ever wondered what wines are the most food friendly? Are there crowd pleasers in the world of wine and cheese? How to I add interest, contrasting and complementary elements to my cheese board? Can I craft a stunning cheese display without spending hours in the kitchen? How do I store my cheeses and wines and what temp should they be served at? All these questions and more will be covered in this fun and interactive pairing! Recipes Included!

Saturday December 20th, 1:45-4:30 BUY TICKETS

New Years Eve 2014, Sparkling, Cheese, Chocolate also included, 5:30-7:30 BUY TICKETS

bubbles and silk!

bubbles and silk!

Sparkling Wines and Silky, Savory Cheese for a Decadent NYE Celebrations! Learn what makes sparkling wines so fabulous and food friendly. Bubbly from around the world will be poured and served with some of the worlds most luxurious cheeses! Learn what makes each pairing special and unique, and how to recreate your experience at home!

NYE tasting will also include several specialty chocolates!

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Cafe Rumaro cold brew cocktail; A delicious pick me up before or after dinner

A cold brew cocktail perfect for before or after dinner

A cold brew cocktail perfect for before or after dinner

Cold brew coffee is one of my summer favorites, and surprisingly easy to make. Add your choice of whiskey, rum or vodka, cream and simple syrup and it transforms into as a delicious pick me up at cocktail hour.

But what if you’re looking for coffee inspiration after dinner to enjoy with a  creamy cheese, tiramasu or butter cookies? Forget the boring Irish coffee and try mixing up this cocktail inspired by a recent evening filled with overindulgence. It hits all marks as both a digestif and an after dinner treat. The silky smooth cold brew melds perfectly with aged rum, bitter-sweet Amaro and just a touch of cherry cordial. Not too sweet, just a hint of spice and roasted, caramelized flavor. Something to satisfy those wanting something a bit out of the ordinary.

Each spirit compliments the dark, rich cold brewed coffee.

Each spirit compliments the dark, rich cold brewed coffee.

Cafe Rumaro

1.5 oz Cold Brew, you may use your favorite such as Stumptown or use this easy recipe

1.5 oz Diplomatico Reserva Rum

1.5 oz Ramazzotti Amaro

1 oz Wisniak cherry cordial

1 oz selter

Garnish with one of my Boozy cherries

Add cold brew, Amaro, Rum, cherry cordial to tall cocktail glass filled with ice. Stir with long bar spoon and top with seltzer. Garnish with cherry. Enjoy!!!!

 

Spirit Tasting Notes-

Diplomatico Reserva Rum, Venezuela- Rich and full, with golden syrup, Demerara and a hint of treacle. This 8 years old rum, product of the Batch distillation process, has reassuringly weighty oak in the background – polished mahogany notes. Hints of cinnamon, over-ripe oranges or orange liqueur and bitter dark chocolate. Amazingly smooth, gentle texture – like being stroked with a silk glove. Chocolate velvetiness on the palate, with creamy oak spice and citrus notes counteracting the syrupy sweetness. A sweet cocoa caress, with shimmering spices.- producer

Ramazzotti Amaro, Piedmont, Italy- Ausano Ramazzotti created the formula for Ramazzotti in his small Milan laboratory in 1815. His proved an immediate success. The recipe contains neither colouring nor artificial additives and is still secret today. Its most distinctive flavours are the Sicilian sweet oranges, bitter oranges from Curaçao, star anise and cardamom.- producer

 Wisniak  Cherry Cordial, Poland-  A fine representation of the elegant old Polish cherry liqueurs. The advantageous climate and soil conditions in Poland yield succulent black cherry varieties. Their sweet, ruby-colored juice with aromatic flavor of an incomparable bouquet produce… WISNIAK! Its low alcohol content and unique taste are sure to please the most discriminating connoisseurs.” -producer

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Eating Raoul’s, NYC’s sexiest burger

raouls

Admittedly I’m a French bistro junkie. Over the years I’ve been to more bistro’s in NYC than I can count and I’ve a list of tried and true favorites I return to again and again. I remember visiting Raoul’s for the stellar steak frites and planned to return, however somehow it had dropped off my radar until I read a piece in Esquire recently claiming it served the best burger in America. Now you can find Raoul’s on many a top bistro list, but you’d be hard pressed to find it on any of NYC’s favorite burger lists. From writer Josh Ozersky’s description a revisit to this Soho classic was definitely in order.

Sparkling rose and house made chips to start things off

Sparkling rose and house made chips to start things off

For many years I hardly touched red meat but when I treated myself to a burger I had a 1 mile rule before and after dinner to walk off the guilt. Since it was a beautiful summer night, and considering the decadent review, I took a leisurely stroll to Soho after work wondering if I’d get to Raoul’s in time to snag one of the 12 daily orders of the famed burger available only at the bar, which doesn’t contain more than 8 or 10 seats. Being a Saturday night in NYC I was able to find a seat when I arrived at 6:15, way before the weekend dinner rush. After being greeted by Doug (one of the nicest bartenders I’ve had the pleasure to meet), I ordered a refreshing sparkling rose from Languedoc and sampled some of the slightly spicy house made chips given gratis at the bar. Truly a great pairing to start my night!

Doug explained that during the week they regularly sell out of the burgers at 6 pm (a mere 30 minutes after they open at 5:30) but on weekends the average is 7:30. Looking around every other bar patron there was quietly entranced over a plate of burger and fries so I decided to order and see what all the fuss was about.

Sexy burger heaven

Sexy burger heaven………

The fuss? Definitely. Worth. It. Some may think it bougie to dress a burger like this but it lives up to all it’s fancy trappings. This dish is true food porn, a divine guilty pleasure, like a lover you know is bad for you it tempts you to surrender your sanity and save your regrets for the morning after. The luscious brisket-heavy LaFrieda blend patty is topped with a dollop of triple-cream St. Andre cheese, wilted watercress, paper-thin slices of cornichon, slathered with just the correct amount of piquant pepper mayo and served a top a glistening brioche bun, along with a dish of cognac cream dipping sauce dotted with green peppercorns and crispy shoestring fries cooked in duck fat. Another glass of sparkling rose cut the richness of the meat and the cream sauce as well as being a good match with the fries.

Others may wax poetic about American cheese topped patties with gourmet bacon and house made ketchup but I’ve found my burger love. Now, if  I can just sneak back downtown at the correct time when I get a craving……

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Easy, boozy, cocktail cherries!

Easy, boozy, cocktail cherries!

Easy, boozy, cocktail cherries!

Cherries are abundant this year, and there’s nothing better than transforming them into a batch of boozy, sweet, cocktail cherries. Not only can you garnish your drinks with these beauties, the syrup used to store then in makes a fabulous addition to summer sippers and punches that cool you off when the temperature soars.

Homemade cherry pitter!

Homemade cherry pitter!

Without a proper pitter this can be challenging, but, with a little research I made a cherry pitter from an old fork and went to town on a giant bowl of fruit last week to fire up a batch of my favorite recipe. This pitter is simple to make, cheap, and it works! Find an old flimsy fork (the inexpensive type work best), bend the two outer tines down and create two little hooks with the inner ones and your set! Insert hook on bottom of fruit sliding up till you reach top of pit and gently pull out pit. Work over a bowl to catch any juices that may seep out.

Once you finish pitting the cherries the rest of the process is a piece of cake! This easy recipe will have you turning your nose up at ordinary maraschino cherries. Why settle for less than the best when you can make these with so little effort?

Boozy cocktail cherries

Ingredients

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 cinnamon stick

1 inch piece orange zest

1 pound sweet cherries, pitted

1 cup of maraschino liqueur  ( I use Luxardo, but any of these will work)

Place sugar, water, lemon juice, zest and cinnamon in large sauce pot and simmer on medium heat till stirring occasionally. Let liquid come to a slow boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Slowly add cherries to pot and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add maraschino liqueur. Let mixture come to room temperature uncovered. Transfer to sterile container and store in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Boozy beauties!

Boozy beauties!

Use these in any sour, punch, juice based cocktail or to top a bowl of chocolate ice cream. Just don’t pop them in your kid’s Shirley Temple, remember, they’re for adults only!

 

 

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