I clipped this article as soon as it appeared in the Chronicle and right away, just had to make this mac n cheese. Being a mac n cheese lover, I have many macaroni and cheese recipes from such diverse sources as the NY Times, LA Times, Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Cookbook, and — Praise the Lord — the Annie’s “Shells and Real Aged Cheddar”box.
This is good stuff and plenty easy to make. Here are my Cook’s Notes:
Dis is good and EZ. Made a half-pound of ditalini pasta with 2 cups of cheese sauce, so I’ve got 4 cups of cheese sauce in the fridge/freezer. Used supermarket cheeses. Ground the cheeses in the Kitchen Aid grinder attachment. That is EZ, ‘cept for the clean-up, but still… Served with baby back ribs and a first course of Cook’s Illustrated Cream of Tomato soup. Plenty LO for lunches. Now I’ll have it at Tipsy Pig, see how mine stood up. [Mine stood up well.]
And here, I’ll share Michael Bauer’s article (slightly edited):
Why Tipsy Pig’s macaroni and cheese is so good
by Michael Bauer, San Francisco Chronicle’s restaurant critic Sunday, February 7, 2010
One bite of the macaroni and cheese at the Tipsy Pig, and all other versions I’d tasted through the years slipped from my memory. I had found the best.
Why is this version so much better than others I’ve tasted?
I truly wanted to know so I called chef/co-owner Sam Josi, and he shared the recipe, which we tested in The Chronicle’s kitchen. We discovered several elements or “secrets” that set this recipe apart.
Ditalini pasta: These short pasta tubes, often used in soups, capture more of the creamy, cheesy sauce. Make sure the water used to cook the pasta is “salty like the sea,” otherwise the dish may taste flat.
The cheeses: White cheddar adds a sharper high note, Dutch Gouda lends exceptional creaminess, and Shropshire blue has an orange gold color and a sharp tang. Parmesan, sprinkled on at the end, adds a distinct nutty, salty quality that rounds out the blend.
Bacon fat: Many versions garnish with bacon, but using the fat distributes the flavor throughout.
Timing: It’s important to combine the pasta and sauce just before serving. The sauce is simply tossed with the pasta instead of being baked before serving so the dish tastes extra rich and creamy.
Tipsy Pig, which opened a little more than a year ago in the Marina, serves down-home American food, including first-rate pulled pork sliders and chicken pot pie whose puff pastry dome caps rich gravy filled with chunks of white meat, peas, carrots, turnips and other vegetables.
When Josi was conceiving the menu, he knew that macaroni and cheese would have to be on the menu, so the chef started playing with the classic recipe. He remembers making macaroni and cheese in cooking school with a standard bechamel sauce and wondered why he couldn’t substitute bacon fat for butter. He was chastised for the idea and put it away for another day.
Then years later… he concocted a bacon-infused version of macaroni and cheese in individual containers, but it took too long to heat up. When Tipsy Pig opened, he decided to separate the pasta from the sauce and stir them together at the last minute so the dish would be hot and creamy. The combination of cheeses came about partly by chance because the white Cheddar was being used for burgers and he needed Shropshire for its bright yellow color. He ended up with a combination of four cheeses that taste so good together they should be married for life.
So here’s the recipe. If you don’t feel like making the dish at home, you can always make reservations at Tipsy Pig.
Tipsy Pig, 2231 Chestnut St. (near Scott), San Francisco; (415) 292-2300 or thetipsypigsf.com.
Tipsy Pig Mac ‘n’ Cheese
The sauce base can be made a day or two ahead, and refrigerated until ready to use.
Rewritten to use 2 cups of sauce at a time.
Set up the grinder attachment on the Kitchen Aid mixer. Cut 8 ounces white cheddar cheese (about 3 cups grated), 6 ounces Gouda cheese (about 2 cups grated), 1 ounce Shropshire or other blue cheese (about 2 tablespoons crumbled), into feedable portions. Grind through large holes on SPEED 4. (If you have no Kitchen Aid, grate the cheese on a box grater or buy grated cheese.)
Bring 1 quart whipping cream and 1/2 stick unsalted butter to room temperature.
Finely chop 1 1/2 ounces (about 1 1/2 strips) of thick cut bacon and cook over low heat until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon, drain on paper towels and reserve. Strain the bacon fat and reserve it to finish the dish.
Melt the butter in a 4 quart saucepan over medium heat; when the bubbles in the butter dissipate, add 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and stir with a wooden spoon, cooking a minute or two, until just blonde. Slowly add the 1 quart cream, whisking vigorously to quickly incorporate the liquid and to prevent flour from clumping.
Bring to a low simmer for a minute before adding the cheeses; stir constantly until melted and smooth. (Be careful – a burned sauce will ruin the batch.) Season with salt and white pepper to taste.
Cook 1/2 pound ditalini pasta in boiling salted water until a little past al dente, about 10 to 11 minutes. Drain, plunge into cold water, drain again and toss with a little olive oil to prevent clumping; set aside.
When ready to finish the dish, combine 1 ounce cream, the reserved bacon fat, and 2 cups of the cheese sauce in the large saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until combined and warmed through. Add the reserved bacon bits and fold in the cooked pasta. Reduce the heat slightly, and stir until the pasta is warmed through and thoroughly coated with sauce. Top with freshly grated Parmesan and a sprinkle of parsley. Serve immediately.
LEFTOVERS – This recipe makes 6 cups of the sauce base; freeze the extra 4 cups for a later date. When ready to use the frozen sauce, thaw it, cook another couple strips bacon and a half pound of pasta, and finish the dish as directed.
How coincidental you featured mac n’cheese. The Arizona Republic’s weekly food section featured it this week and listed restaurants around town that had respectable mac n’cheese offerings. One was deep fried. I’ve never eaten that. Each restaurant had a different mix of cheeses in their recipe. We must be approaching fall. Next we’ll be reading about chili. I’m ready!
Honestly, my mouth is watering. I want some and yours sounds fantastic. I prefer the creamy version to the baked variety.