melt-cover500Have you ever seen a green macaroni and cheese dish? Neither had we, until we developed this recipe for Melt: the Art of Macaroni and Cheese. We’d been playing around in the kitchen, thinking of ways to spruce up our standard mac recipe, when Garrett thought to add avocado to the sauce. At first we balked, but then it made a lot of sense: when added to a thick, cheesy sauce, ripe avocado actually lightens up the dish quite a bit, providing a gentle creaminess that is out-of-this-world good. While we used Beecher’s Flagship Reserve in this dish, you can use any aged cheddar for a wonderful result.

To freshen the sauce up a bit, we decided to invite lime and cilantro to the party. These two refreshingly green flavors upped the ante, giving this lusciously creamy mac a bit of tang that cuts through the fattiness and leaves you with visions of a tropical beach in the summertime, even though the ingredients for this dish are almost entirely in season during the colder months. Here you’ll find the tart personality of a perfect guacamole wrapped into a rich, creamy macaroni and cheese. These two disparate culinary worlds were meant to collide!

 

Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar with Avocado, Lime, and Shell Pasta

If you ever have the opportunity to wander through the Pike Place Market, the heart of the food scene in Seattle, you’ll likely come across the Beecher’s Handmade Cheese shop. Inside, you can sample their wares and watch the cheesemaking process unfold before your eyes. The proprietors serve what they call the World’s Best mac and cheese; with its jaunty kick of spice and smooth sauce, it’s definitely a contender for the title.

We love to use Beecher’s Flagship—a fierce, creamy paragon of Cheddar if ever there was one—in this avocado macaroni and cheese. The svelte texture of avocado melds so well with this sharp, tangy Cheddar. Smooth and buttery with a slight citrus tang, this jade-colored mac is a casual way to enjoy mac and cheese.

Serves 4 to 6

1 jalapeño pepper

Zest of 1 lime

Juice of 1 lime

2 green onions, green parts only, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

3 ripe avocados, pits and skin removed, divided

10 ounces conchiglie or other medium shell pasta

1½ cups milk

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

10 ounces Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar, shredded

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Lime wedges for garnish

1. Remove the stem from the jalapeño and cut the jalapeño half. Remove the ribs and seeds—or keep them, depending on how much heat you like. Toss the jalapeño into the bowl of a food processor with the lime zest and lime juice. Add green onions, garlic, and flesh of 2 of the avocados. Blend together into a very smooth paste.

2. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain through a colander and set aside.

3. To prepare the mornay sauce, heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. As soon as the milk starts to steam and tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan, turn off the heat. Place the butter in a medium saucepan and melt over medium flame. Add the flour and stir with a flat-edged wooden paddle just until the roux begins to take on a light brown color, scraping the bottom to prevent burning, about 3 minutes. Slowly add the milk and stir constantly until the sauce thickens enough to evenly coat the back of a spoon—a finger drawn along the back of the spoon should leave a clear swath. Remove from heat and stir in salt and pepper. Add cheese to sauce, stirring until completely melted. Add the avocado-onion paste and whisk together until uniform and creamy. The key word here, if you haven’t guessed, is “smooth.” Season with more salt and pepper to taste.

4. Add the pasta and cilantro to the sauce and stir together. Dice the last avocado and toss together with the mac and cheese. Serve immediately with a splash of lime juice.

Alternative cheeses: Jasper Hill Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, Fiscalini Bandage Wrapped, Cheddar, Shelburne Reserve

Wine pairings: Pinot Grigio, Verdelho, Godello

Additional pairings for the cheese, outside of this recipe: corn, cooked black beans, persimmons, most chili peppers, winter squashes such pumpkin or butternut

 

Written by Stephanie Stiavetti

Stephanie Stiavetti is a freelance food writer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She writes for KQEDNPR, the Huffington Post, and also dabbles in independent radio and video production. She spends a ridiculous amount of time in the kitchen, recording her adventures at TheCulinaryLife.com.

Her first cookbook, Melt: the Art of Macaroni and Cheese with coauthor Garrett McCord, is due out in 2013 on Little, Brown, Co.

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