Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Marc Meyer's Five Points Mac and Cheese
I am one of those people who gets dish envy at restaurants. And orderer's remorse. Hopefully, if we go to a restaurant together, you know me pretty well, so you won't be shocked if I ask for a taste of whatever you have that looks so good. And if I ultimately steal your plate and finish every last morsel.
Recently, we went to Five Points restaurant with a large group for brunch. Almost everyone ordered something different, and soon the plates were passed around for tastes. My friend Lindsay had brought along her younger sister, whom I'd never met. But of course I found myself scarfing down the remains of her macaroni and cheese. It was just. So. Good. Crazy-creamy with a strong cheese bite, a rich-but-not greasy or gluey sauce that kept each noodle moist. Divine. I tried to memorize each flavor, which clearly required more than one delicate spoonful. For the good of mankind, right?
So far, Marc Meyer's brunch book had not steered me wrong. His frittata method is great, and the lemon-ricotta pancake recipe has allowed me to faithfully duplicate the Five Points dish to a tee. Why would this be any different?
The ingredients are inspired. His secrets are canned evaporated milk and a block of cream cheese that melts into the sauce. Sharp cheddar and/or gruyere. Good milk and a touch of cream with quite a bit of freshly grated parmesan stirred in. If it worked, this would be my new favorite recipe for the classic dish—no whisking flour into a bechamel! I have been trying to perfect my macaroni and cheese for a long time: I've tried baked and broiled, cheese sauce and simple white sauce, a thousand variations. I have faith in Meyer's ingredients.
But it didn't work as written in the cookbook, so I'm not giving you the recipe yet. I want to play with the proportions first—as soon as we can stomach more mac and cheese. Scaling down restaurant recipes is tricky. Perhaps the sauce quantity needs to be doubled, perhaps more. The sauce looked great, but after baking as instructed, the dish was dry, lacking the creaminess of the restaurant version.