My mom insists that I get my culinary instincts from my dad. At first, I wasn’t sure about that since when I was growing up, my dad traveled a lot for work so it’s not like I remember seeing him do a lot of cooking. But when I think about it, it might be true by default given that my mom’s cooking frequently involved variations of boxed mac n’ cheese, tuna, hot dogs, canned baked beans, and sometimes, something frighteningly called “skillet dinner.” Now that my dad’s retired, there isn’t a need to guess anymore– he cooks a lot and has a stellar reputation for cooking among his friends and family from the many dinner parties that my parents have hosted. Talking about amazing meals from restaurants or cooked at home has been a bit of a bonding experience for Dad and me.
So one of the best things about sharing a gourmet interest with a parent? They can buy you the fancy ingredients that you would never spend the money on yourself. Thanks to Dad, I was the lucky recipient of truffle oil and truffle salt after he saw me staring longingly at these items at a cooking school/store in Cannon Beach. I’d been wanting to try these items for awhile as I’d heard that these can be great ways to impart delicious truffle flavor without the expense of buying actual truffles. But when a tiny vial of oil still costs $16, well, it still seems pricey to me. Yeah– I’m spoiled; suck on it. Thanks Dad for the awesome gifts!
As you can see from above, the truffle salt is big grains of sea salt, flecked with little black specks of delicious dried truffle. A little goes quite a long way, which means I’ve gotten a bit addicted to sprinkling this stuff with some melted butter on popcorn… drool… Another delicious use– this truffle mac n’ cheese. I added a drizzle of the truffle oil to my cheese sauce, seasoned it with the truffle salt and oil, and for an added punch, drizzled the oil and sprinkled the salt on the panko bread crumb topping. This dish was positively heady with truffle aroma in each bite, a perfect little spike in flavor to the milky, stretchy mozzarella and Gruyère cheese. I’m thinking that I should make this again really soon as this would be a great meal now that wintery weather is here.
- 16 oz dried fusilli pasta (I’d normally use cavatappi as I love the way those corkscrews stay al dente when baked but Amazon Fresh doesn’t carry it!)
- 3 cups whole milk
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- 8 oz Gruyère, shredded
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 3 tsp truffle oil, divided
- 1.5 tsp truffle salt, divided
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tbsp panko crumbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta for 8 minutes or 1 or 2 minutes shy of the directions for cooking it al dente. Don’t worry– the pasta will absorb some of the sauce while baking so this will make it perfectly al dente when done instead of being a mushy mess.
In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter over medium low heat. Sprinkle flour over the butter and whisk for 1-2 minutes. Turn the heat up to medium high and whisk in the milk. Keep whisking for 5-6 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Take off of the heat, add 1 tsp of truffle salt and 1 tsp of truffle oil. Add pepper to taste. Stir in half of the Gruyère and mozzarella cheeses until melted into a rich cheese sauce. Adjust seasonings with additional regular salt and pepper to taste.
Combine the cheese sauce with the pasta. In a large baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray, add half of the pasta and sprinkle with about 1/2 cup of the remaining shredded cheeses. Layer the rest of the pasta on top of that and finish by covering with the rest of the shredded cheese. Sprinkle on the panko crumbs, with another sprinkle of the truffle salt and a good drizzle of the truffle oil to help with browning the bread crumbs. Lightly spray the crumbs with cooking spray to ensure even browning.
Bake for 30 minutes and let rest for 10 before digging in!
CSA Count: ummm… none in the mac n’ cheese but if you count the side salad 4
Cucumber, slicing tomato, lettuce, carrot