Monday, January 7, 2013

Mac and Cheese Book Review, Contest Recap, and Winners!

Book Reviews

Mac and Cheese, Please! by Laura Werlin

Mac and Cheese, Please! by Laura Werlin

Laura is an award-winning author of five books on cheese so it's no surprise that just a couple months ago she released a collection of  recipes featuring America's favorite comfort food.  As the Cheese Queen, it's not surprising that her mac and cheese recipes use some non-traditional cheese!

Like Ellen's book, Laura starts by breaking down the components of the mac and reviewing the options but I like the formatting of Ellen's book, better (tables).  The rest of the book again starts with the classics, veggies, proteins, a section on breakfst (interesting!), decadent, lightened up, and then "party time" (designed for large servings of 12-16!).

Perhaps my favorite feature about this book is the icons used to denote recipes that are designed to be "oven-cooked" versus "stovetop".  Of course, don't fret because Laura offers tips on how to convert any recipe to the other version, if desired!

Recipes that caught my eye in this book:

  • Wisconsin Cheese, Brats, and Onion Mac & Cheese - The rye topping looks especially delightful!
  • Kevin's Mac & Cheese (aka Valveeta, Baby!) - Ok, Valveeta isn't really cheese and it's just plain processed but you have to admit nothing beats that melty Valveeta texture!
  • Indian-Spiced Roasted Cauliflower and Spinach Mac & Cheese
  • Spicy Reuben Mac & Cheese
  • Gruyere, Caramelized Onion, Blue Cheese, and Bacon Mac & Cheese
  • Fruit and (mac &) cheese - Like a cheeseboard with figs, blue cheese, honey, and nuts!
  • Butternut Squash, Gruyere, and Brown Butter Mac & Cheese
  • Pizza Mac & Cheese with Ciabatta Crutons
  • Nacho Mac & Cheese  - Hello, game day!  (yes, this is one of those party sized "party time" recipes!)
This collection of 50 recipes has some classics but I think the real strength is in its provocative combinations, interesting cheeses and toppings.

Mac & Cheese by Ellen Brown

This book is a collection of 80 recipes that author Ellen Brown collected and adapted from restaurants all around the country such as Cafeteria and S'MAC in NYC, Nosh in Dallas, Rockit Bar and Grill in Chicago, and Straw in San Francisco.  I would have loved to have tagged along to do all the taste testing required for "research"!

It starts with a chapter on dissecting each component to the perfect mac and cheese.  From the pasta, cheese, sauce, and crunchy toppings, Ellen covers it all and in a simple to read chart format.  What type of pasta is best suited for each recipe?  What's the best cheese for melting texture and how do you keep it from getting gritty?  What type of dairy will create the perfect creaminess?  And if you are a crunchy topping lover, what type is best?  Fresh bread crumbs, crackers, panko, or other snack foods like potato chips even?  Ellen breaks it all down eloquently   She also gives great tips for modifying recipes to be gluten-free, how to do advance prep and reheating (not that you'll have leftovers...).

The rest of the book is divided into appetizer/finger food macs followed my entree-type and last but not least, sweets!  Within the entrees the chapters go from simple, classic combinations to ones with vegetables and then various meats (seafood, beef, chicken, pork).

Recipes I bookmarked (and will eventually be making since my beloved Toby ate my free copy of this cookbook "forcing me" to keep it for myself):

  • Mac and Cheese Bites (adapted from The Boundary in Chicago, IL)
  • Skillet Fried Cheddar Mac and Cheese (adapted from Zingerman's Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, MI) - My good friend Alton Brown crowned this one the best in the country and he has already won my heart with his Creamy Stovetop Mac and Cheese recipe!
  • Big Kid Mac with Spinach, Caramelized Onions, and Truffle Oil (adapted from Nosh in Dallas, TX)
  • Spinach and Artichoke Mac and Cheese (adapted from Elbows Mac 'n' Cheese in Cerritos, CA)
  • Parisian Mac and Cheese with Shiitake Mushrooms and Figs (adapted from S'MAC in New York, NY) - I so wanted to go to this restaurant when I was in NY for the holidays so it will be nice to try an at-home version.  Hopefully I'll make it to the real restaurant on my next trip and can do a full review of how it compares!
  • Shrimp Scampi Mac and Cheese (adapted from Cheese-ology Macaroni & Cheese in St. Louis, MO)
  • New England Clam Mac and Cheese - The note claims it has the flavor of classic New England chowder...the potential combination of that and macaroni nearly blows my mind.
  • Philly Cheesesteak Mac and Cheese (adapted from Cheese-ology in St. Louis, MO)
  • Macaroni with Pecan Caramel Marscapone - It's supposed to taste like pecan praline!
Yep...this collection will keep me and the lucky recipient quite busy!

Contest Recipe Recap

It was a difficult task but someone had to do it.  Fortunately, I enlisted the help of my husband and in-laws for the taste testing :).  Here's a comparison of the seven mac and cheese recipes that were submitted for my contest.  Please keep in mind that individual tastes may vary so I'm highlighting the things that I liked about each.

  • Best Potluck Mac and Cheese as submitted by Sarah - Smooth texture and strong (onion) flavor but not cheesy enough in flavor for us.  Perhaps it was undersalted  since there were no guidelines on just how much salt to add.  I've made note of that for when I make it in the future.  It seemed to get better with age when I reheated it in the microwave so that's a plus!
Best Potluck Mac and Cheese

  • Smoked Macaroni and Cheese as submitted by Stacey - LOVED the smoked flavor from the Gouda cheese but the tradeoff of using this particular mix of cheeses was a slightly gritty sauce.
Smoked Macaroni and Cheese
  • Bonnie's Grammy's Mac and Cheese as submitted by Bonnie- With only 4 ingredients, this was so simple and a surprising taste of childhood.  Who said sliced American cheese doesn't create a smooth, creamy melt?  Add a bit of cream for extra richness.
Bonnie's Grammy's Mac and Cheese

Creamy Stove Top Mac and Cheese

  • Lighter Baked Macaroni and Cheese as submitted by Sara- Surprisingly creamy and delicious.  It's doubtful that I would have known that it was lightened up if I hadn't made it myself.  The only thing I would have changed is to reduce the amount of Buffalo sauce because I found it a little too overpowering.
Lighter Baked Macaroni and Cheese

  • Spinach and Bacon Mac and Cheese as submitted by Mandy - This one started from a box.  No seriously!  Classic "fancy" mac and cheese flavors were a welcome addition for a super quick meal.
Spinach and Bacon Mac and Cheese

  • Lobster Mac and Cheese as submitted by Kristen - This used the most expensive and decadent of materials. Surprisingly what stood out most about it was probably the cheapest and simplest part, too - The crunchy topping which was created using coarse and airy Panko (Japanese) breadcrumbs!
Lobster Mac and Cheese

And now the WINNERS!

Best Mac and Cheese Recipe:
It was very difficult to pick a winner because everyone's taste may vary and each recipe seemed to have its own strength.  In fact, after the contest was over, I actually started combining components of the different recipes to see if I could create the ultimate macaroni and cheese recipe.

In the end, simplicity and nostalgia won out so I choose Bonnie's Grammy's Mac and Cheese as the winner!  Congratulations, Bonnie M!

Social Media Sharing Winner: was used to select the winner...Tamara S!

I will be emailing the winners to make arrangements to claim your prize.  Bonnie - as the Mac and Cheese Champion, you will get first pick of cookbooks!

Congratulations to the winners and thank you fans for all your sharing.  Special thanks to Running Press and Andrews McNeel Publishing for supplying the prizes for this contest!

Disclosure - This blog is a personal blog written and edited by Christine @ Christine's Kitchen Chronicles. The owner(s) of this blog was compensated with free products to provide an opinion on the products, services, websites and various other topics. Even though the owner(s) of this blog receives compensation for posts or advertisements, we always give our honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on those topics or products. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the bloggers' own. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider or party in question.

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