Recipe 28: Mini Mushroom Mac ‘n’ Goat Cheese

Seemingly forever ago, way, way back at Recipe 2, I made some mac to serve over girl-talk with my friend Jen.  Jen and I go all the way back to elementary school (maybe first grade, definitely second), but we didn’t really become friends until high school, a friendship that improved after we both graduated from college. While we have many similar interests, as friends often do, we are also pretty different.  I am a devoted omnivore, she has been a vegetarian for over ten years.  I have a female dog, she has a male cat.  She runs a yoga blog while I run a mac and cheese blog.  You get the idea.

An unrelated but amusing similarity: She and her husband are called The Cute Couple while Loverman and I have been called The Cutesies.  But I digress.

Clearly Jen has some pretty healthy habits, and she has only been improving them.  She has reduced her intake of both gluten and dairy, does yoga a minimum of three times a week, and drinks a lot of tea.  I had to laugh when she described the “crap” she craves when PMS-ing as “bread and peanut butter;” I meanwhile consider the “crap” I crave when PMS-ing as “junk food like chips and dip.”  But she was coming over today for more lunch and girl-talk, so I wanted to make a mac that was not going to be super-heavy so I could feed her without stuffing her.

The primary cheese in this mac is goat cheese.  I have read in a few places that goat cheese has significantly less lactose than cow milk, making it much more tolerable to people with lactose intolerance.  I am no medical professional or nutrition expert (Hello?  Mac and cheese blog?), so I would not recommend anyone taking risks with their tummies, but Jen had said she tolerates it well, so I figured we’d give this a whirl.  It’s not like I don’t love goat cheese myself!

 

Mini Mushroom Mac ‘n’ Goat Cheese (from the Mushroom Council, which I never realized existed)

Ingredients

  • 4  ounces (about 2 cups) cavatappi pasta, uncooked (I couldn’t find gluten-free cavatappi in my store, so I used corn fusilli)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1  pound assorted mushrooms (such as Portabella, crimini, shiitake and oyster), cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used baby bellas)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4  tablespoons all-purpose flour (or gluten-free equivalent)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2  cups milk
  • 6  ounces fresh goat cheese (I use Lively Run, a Finger Lakes creamery – probably my favorite goat cheese)
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2  tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1  tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (both this and the fresh rosemary came from our herb garden!)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° F. Cook pasta according to package directions.

While pasta cooks, heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add a single layer of mushrooms and cook, without stirring, for about 5 minutes or until mushrooms become red-brown on one side. Flip mushrooms and cook about 5 minutes more, until other side is same color.

(Side note: There were so many mushrooms I could not fit them in a single layer even in my biggest pan; I just stirred a lot and eventually they cooked down)

So much for that.

Melt butter in a large saucepan and stir in flour. Cook for a minute or two to slightly toast flour. Stir in salt and whisk in milk. Bring to a low boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to slightly thicken sauce, for about five minutes. Remove sauce from heat, whisk in cheeses, rosemary and thyme and stir to melt. Stir in mushrooms and pasta and divide between four one-cup ramekins.

Place ramekins on baking sheet and bake until cheese bubbles around edges, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for about five minutes. Serve warm.

Still life with dirty toaster oven – 2012

Verdict: 4/5

If I could only use one word to describe this mac, it would be “earthy.”  The aroma alone was to die for, the tanginess of the goat cheese blending with the woodsy scent of thyme and rosemary (there really is nothing like picking your fresh herbs and crumbling the leaves from the stem by hand).  This combines with the natural umami of the mushrooms was just amazing.  When Jen came in, the mac was in the oven, and she said the smell of it hit her as she entered, making her eager to taste it – and thankfully her eagerness was rewarded with a delicious payoff.  It managed to be hearty without being heavy, satisfying without weighing one down as many other macs can do.

My only complaint is that the ratio of noodles to shrooms seemed a bit off to me, 16 oz of shrooms to only 4 oz of pasta.  This is an easy enough fix – increase the pasta, I’d say probably to 8 oz – but you’d probably need five or six ramekins instead of the four that I had, which were stuffed to the gills.  If it wasn’t for the proportions favoring mushrooms over mac, this would probably have rated a 4.5 instead of “just” a 4.

 

Anyone trying these recipes out too?  I’d love to know how they turn out for you!

 

 

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