This is a mac and cheese I last made while on a ski vacation a while back. While my friends were on the slopes, I stayed in our cabin and cooked up some mac and cheese and tomato soup, with tons of kitchen equipment that I put in a hiking pack and carried through the woods and into our place. (ok.. it wasn't really Rocky Balboa training in the Soviet Union to fight Ivan Drago kind of labor, but I did have to carry my cast iron pan, my immersion blender, and all my food supplies through the woods in thigh deep snow) Sadly, Kay's Cabins near South Lake Tahoe in Kirkwood, California closed shop.
Anyway, California is cold and cloudy right now, and that is enough context for comfort food, especially with the discomfiting smell of Northern California forest wildfires wafting into my house.
Mac and Cheese
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 cup red bell pepper, chopped into 1/2 inch squares
1/2 pound penne pasta
1 1/2 cup half and half
1 1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 pound cambazola (or other mild blue cheese), cut into small cubes
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup bacon, diced (optional for the non-veggie)
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a pan, sauté the celery and the bell pepper in butter until just soft. Season with salt and pepper. Also, now is the time to fry up the bacon if you're using it.
Boil the pasta until al dente. While it is getting ready to boil, combine whipping cream, half and half and cheese until cheese is melted in a small saucepan, stirring occasionally. While the cheese is melting, beat the egg yolks in a separate, heat resistant bowl and set aside. After the cheese fully melts, stir in the celery seed and season with paprika, salt and pepper. Pour half of this mixture into the egg yolks, stirring constantly. And then return the egg yolk and cheese sauce mixture back in with the rest of the mixture.
After draining the pasta, mix the cheese sauce and the veggies (and bacon) in the same pan as the pasta. Transfer all of this into a baking pan. Top with parmesan cheese. Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the top of the dish is beginning to brown.
I like to drizzle a little truffle oil over the whole thing when it's done. And I suspect shaved truffle will do nicely, but I'll only do that if somebody is nice enough to give me some truffle. Someone? Anyone?
It's a hoity-toity mac and cheese and I'm not apologetic about this all.