I don't think that there is any other food that has come to be more associated with comfort food than mac & cheese. From the instant stuff in the blue box to secret blends of cheese handed down from southern grandmothers, its hard to find someone out there that doesn't enjoy a nice bowl of melted cheese and pasta.
In recent years there has been a trend to re-make mac & cheese an "adult" treat as well - keeping all the things you love about mac and cheese but putting a little more flavor and taste into it. Additions of pork (with bacon as king) are probably most common, high end additions like lobster and truffle oil tend to find there way into many recipes as well. I decided that I was going to push the limits of additions to mac and cheese and create a toppings bar so that everyone could make their favorite. After polling friends about the additions they would most like to see, some taste testing at home and scouring some local restaurants for their secrets our menu was born.
Mac & Cheese bases:
4 cheese (Gruyere, Gouda, Jarlsberg & brie) w campanelle pasta
Jalapeno Jack w shells
4 cheese w pancetta w campanelle pasta
Baked Classic Cheddar w elbows
roasted red peppers
crumbled potato chips
garlic chili sauce
salt & fresh pepper
The idea was simple - allow my guests to create their "ultimate mac & cheese". While I kept my combos pretty simple and themed - Tex-Mex M&C with Jalapeno Jack M&C base, bacon, salsa, broccoli, scallions, cilantro and some potato chip topping and an Mediterranean Blend with the 4 cheese with pancetta, extra pancetta, sauteed mushrooms, roasted garlic and roasted red peppers - others got creative and blended in just about a little of everything!
We ended the afternoon with a strawberry shortcake from Martha's Country Bakery in Queens which was amazing as always. There was also a choice of homemade ice creams thanks to my new ice cream maker - peppermint stick w chocolate chunks, maple walnut, cinnamon and peanut butter w mini pb cups. Of course we topped it all off with a dollop of whipped cream to make everything a little sweeter!
Now for the results! Here is a listing of some of the creations that were made today - feel free to leave a comment and vote on your favorite combo or list one we haven't though of.....
Andrew: Jalapeno Jack M&C , Bacon ,Broccoli, Jalapeno, Salsa, Cilantro
Robyn: 4 cheese M&C , roasted garlic, scallions and potato chips
Mary: 4 cheese w pancetta M&C, pancetta, bacon, scallions, potato chips,fresh black pepper
Tova: Baked M&C, Jalapeno Jack M&C, salsa, croutons and potato chips
Corinne: Baked M&C, Jalapeno Jack M&C, 4 cheese M&C, broccoli, roasted cauliflower, roasted garlic, cilantro, scallions
Erin: 4 cheese M&C, Baked M&C, broccoli, roasted cauliflower, sauteed mushrooms, roasted garlic, scallions
Kelly: Baked M&C, 4 cheese M&C, broccoli, sauteed mushrooms, scallions, potato chips
Andrew #2: 4 cheese w pancetta M&C, roasted cauliflower, pancetta, roasted red peppers, jalapeno, fresh black pepper
Tim: Baked M&C, Jalapeno Jack M&C, 4 cheese w pancetta M&C, bacon, roasted red peppers, garlic, cilantro, potato chips
Adam: 4 cheese w pancetta M&C, cauliflower, broccoli, bacon, roasted garlic, jalapeno, fresh black pepper
Bob: 4 cheese w pancetta M&C, hot dogs, pancetta, bacon, posted red peppers, garlic chili sauce, cilantro, salt & pepper
Jessica: 4 cheese M&C, pancetta. hot dogs, bacon, roasted garlic, broccoli, scallions, salt
Adam #2: Baked M&C, mushrooms, roasted red peppers. scallions, fresh black pepper
Beth: 4 cheese w pancetta M&C, broccoli, salsa, scallions, roasted garlic
Special thanks to:
Tova - for bringing the cake, shredding the cheese and doing more dishes than I thought humanly possible
Erin - for coming over early and helping to keep the chaos to a minimum while chopping all the ingredients for the mix-in bar
Jeremy- for taking all the photos and helping me to have all these crazy little parties at our place
also a big Thank you to Food Buzz for picking my 24, 24, 24 idea out of their submissions! We had a lot of fun today and hope to be able to participate again