Truffle Macaroni and Cheese

Truffle Macaroni and Cheese | Cooked & Devoured

Last week was my 32nd birthday, and because we had just recently spent a few weeks frolicking in an island paradise eating ourselves stupid and generally having a fantastic belated honeymoon, I decided that going out to a nice dinner on my birthday was really far from necessary. Generally for each other’s birthdays we go out to a restaurant we wouldn’t normally frequent and usually its a good excuse to go to a place we haven’t been before. This time around, doing absolutely nothing and potentially having the simplest meal imaginable (like peanut butter on toast) sounded great. This probably had a lot to do with the fact that I’m working on recovering from a sinus infection (and really, whats the point of going to Table 52 when you have a sinus infection?) But then I remembered that I’m me, and that when given the opportunity to make a to-do out of a meal, there’s no way that I’m capable of passing it up. This was also about the time where the temperature dropped 20 degrees overnight, and suddenly, it was fall. Not that I ever need an excuse to make macaroni and cheese, but the older I get, it feels more and more like something I should love a lot less than I do, and should eat almost never. Yet here we are…

Because of my deep-seeded love for macaroni and cheese, I have many variations I’ve found and saved over the years that I’ve made more than once, but I had never made truffle macaroni and cheese. Truffle oil is expensive and I sort of just automatically filed the concept of “truffle mac” into the section of my brain that assumes it’s something I won’t have unless I’m in a restaurant. But Steve graciously offered to supply me with truffle oil, so off I went to search out some recipes. I sort of ended up combining a few different ones — the main one I followed was this one — though I still did make a few changes. I lessened the overall amount of cheese a bit and used Panko instead of dealing with slices of bread.  I also added fresh thyme because I have a huge mound of it growing outside that I can’t hope to use before fall really sets in and it all dies — probably more than what I wrote below, but I think 2 tablespoons is generally a good amount. I go crazy when I need to use up herbs, your mileage may vary.

Truffle Macaroni and Cheese | Cooked & Devoured

A word about the truffle oil: it is expensive, and actually — the kind we ended up using was not pure truffle oil — it was simply what Steve could find nearby at the last minute. Despite not being the real deal, the flavor was quite good and I’ll definitely use the rest of it for something, though once its been used up I might buy something like thisthis, or this, because Amazon does have some decent deals, but you definitely can get away with using the cheaper stuff. Most of the recipes I looked at suggesting using 3 tablespoons (!) of oil. Depending on what kind you get, I would start with 1.5 and add more as needed. Even if you add 1.5 and find it too bland, you can always add a bit more. We ended up using about 2 tablespoons.

Truffle Macaroni and Cheese

Adapted somewhat heavily from Martha Stewart’s Perfect Macaroni and Cheese

3/4 cup of Panko breadcrumbs
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
5 cups of milk (I used half 2%, half whole)
1/3 cup white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons of fresh chopped thyme
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
3.5 cups (24oz) of grated sharp white cheddar
1/2 cup (8oz) grated Gruyere
Grated Pecorino Romano
1 pound of elbow macaroni
1.5 – 2 tablespoons of white truffle oil 

Preheat the oven to 375F. Butter a 9×13 inch casserole dish and set aside. Place the panko in a medium bowl and put two tablespoons of the butter on top. Microwave for for a few seconds to melt the butter a bit, then mix it all up well and set aside. Pour the milk into a medium saucepan and warm over low  – medium heat (do not boil). Melt the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add the flour, stirring continuously for one minute to make a roux.

Once the butter and flour are combined, slowly pour the hot milk into the pan while whisking continuously. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes nice and thick. This will take a while, at least 10 – 13 minutes, and it should coat the back of a wooden spoon easily. When the mixture is ready, remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, fresh thyme, cheddar, gruyere, and truffle oil, then set the sauce aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add macaroni. Cook for about half the amount of time suggested on the manufacturer’s directions, until the outside of the pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone. Transfer the macaroni to a colander and drain well, then stir macaroni into the reserved sauce. Pour the mixture into the buttered casserole dish, then grate some Pecorino Romano over the noodles. Scatter the breadcrumbs evenly on top and bake for 30 minutes until the crumbs are golden brown.




Hawaii: Favorites on the Big Island and Maui

Hawaii: Favorites on the Big Island and Maui | Cooked & Devoured

We just got back from our two week honeymoon in Hawaii and I’m slowly catching up on everything I neglected during that period. With massive flight delays that caused us to be a day late to Kona, we spent about six days total on the Big Island, and the rest of our time was spent on Maui. Despite the flight issues and a sinus infection, the trip was fantastic overall. There was a lot of hiking, relaxing, photography, and obviously eating.

I thought I’d put together some thoughts on some of our favorite places for anyone looking for recommendations for an upcoming trip. This is definitely not a list of everything we did, but it is a selection of places we would recommend to our friends if they were visiting, or places we would return to in a heartbeat if we had the chance.

Big Island

Shopping/Attractions

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park: A must-do. We hiked the Kilauaea Iki trail and it was majestic.

Akaka Falls: Lush tropical falls that will make you feel like you’re in Jurassic Park.

Rainbow Falls: A beautiful smaller waterfall with stunning trails through a huge Banyan tree forest.

Snorkeling at the Fairmont Orchid: They have a lagoon on the ocean shore for swimming and snorkeling. The snorkeling there was amazing. Not very far out from shore we saw lots of coral, schools of fish and sea turtles!

Gallery of Great Things: A wide range of locally made souvenirs and antiques, a little more classy and unique than your average tourist shop.

Dining

Browns beach house: We went here our first night on the island, and it may have been the best meal we had that week.

Kilauea lodge: We went here on a whim for breakfast the day we went to the Volcano park and it was fantastic. We wished we had time to go back while we were there.

Hilo burger joint: Ok, I might take back what I said about Brown’s. This was probably the best meal we had that week. I’ll admit this place doesn’t look like much. In fact, if you didn’t know any better, a quick glance inside might make you reconsider your choice to go there. But trust me, it’s worth it.

Hayashi’s You Make the Roll: The cheapest sushi you’ll ever have that tastes like the most expensive sushi you’ll ever have.

Poke Shack: If you like sushi and you’ve never had Poke before, you must try it while you’re in Hawaii. The fish here was incredibly fresh and the sides were great also.

Tropical Dreams Ice Cream: You can get Tropical Dreams all over the island: in grocery stores, at their retail locations, and a lot of restaurants serve it as well. I live near Wisconsin, and I can easily say this was probably the best ice cream I’ve ever had.

Maui

Shopping/Attractions

Iao Valley State Monument: A beautiful valley full of lush greenery and some history.

Paia, HI: A cute and tiny surfer town home to many galleries and shops, as well as Mana Foods: a grocery store I wish we had the likes of in the Midwest.

The Whalers Village Museum: This was the most surprising museum. It was incredibly well curated and had loads of fascinating information. We stayed here twice as long as we expected to and ate everything up.

The Andaz Resort: If you don’t go to the Andaz for one of their amazing restaurants, you should go there just to hang out. Seriously, just go there to walk around. It’s stunning, and it will make you feel like you’re in a James Bond movie.

The Kahekili Highway: A narrow winding road through the mountains with no shoulder, and in many spots one lane for both directions of traffic – not for the faint of heart, but the views are stunning. There are a few attractions on the highway and many places to pull off for a nice scenic shot. Julia’s Best Banana Bread is at the end of the road (or the beginning, depending on which direction you’re coming from). We came from the long direction. It was a harrowing trip, but she made it worth it in the end.

Dining

Ka’ana Kitchen: But if you happen to find yourself hungry while walking around the Andaz, this is where you should go. It’s a little pricey, but it was one of the best meals we’ve had anywhere, not just in Hawaii.

Cuatro: Great food, pretty reasonable. They did only have one dessert option, but if it isn’t what you want it just gives you an excuse to have Tropical Dreams again.

Mama’s Fish House: This place was unbelievable. The decor and atmosphere alone makes this a very special place to visit, but the food is outstanding. If you can pick only one nice place to go to dinner while on Maui, pick this place.

Star Noodle: We shared the Hapa Ramen and the Steamed Pork Buns – ridiculous!

Julia’s Best Banana Bread: We made it! And Julia was there! I made the recipe for this bread before we left, but we obviously had to attempt to get it from the source, and boy was it an adventure (see above).