When we go to the restaurant of a food truck in the United States, we usually have to pick a side to go with the main course. Some of there are classic, like the French fries (or even better: sweet potatoes fries), other are surprisingly good (like Brussels sprouts that I hadn’t touched for years), or typical side from Boston (black peas with honey and bacon). You can also have “mac n’ cheese” which name didn’t evoke anything at first to me, except a cheese burger, so I was wondering why it was a side. But it’s not. I discovered that it meant “macaronis and cheese”. I found this pretty weird to have this type of food on a restaurant menu, I used to associate this dish to a cheap meal that I cooked to myself as a student, or that my grandmother could do once in a while on a Sunday night to please the kids, pouring gruyère on top of left-overs of pasta, and grilled it in the oven. But it was before living in the USA, and getting used to the no-limit and playful American cuisine. And now, I love mac’n cheese.
Mac’n cheese for dummies
My story with mac n’ cheese hasn’t started well. It was first a great displeasure to find out that there weren’t actually macaronis and gruyère as I hoped but this type of pasta we called “coquilettes” in French, with cheddar, mixed in some kind of bechamel sauce. Anyway, I’ve bought some mac’n cheese at the supermarket, for less than a dollar, and followed the instructions: I poured a huge amount of an orange powder over some tiny macaronis and cooked this for 2 minutes on a pan. A sticky white ball of what used to be pasta was ready to be swallowed. It was easy to do, cheap and even somehow tasty.
Hipster mac’n cheese
But well, this was only the supermarket version. I found a whole world of mac’n cheese interpretations in restaurants. For the past few months we’ve been living in the US, we had the occasion to try:
- lobster mac’n cheese. We live in Boston, where lobster is almost as usual as tuna can. Even if it seems like a crime to mix these two ingredients together, it taught me 2 things: (1) it was delicious, (2) it’s an culinary way of understanding the American dream – you like lobster, you like mac’n cheese, there’s no reason not to do lobster mac’m cheese. We tried these at The Fireplace, in Brookline.
- mac’n cheese with pancetta. Nice dish that we tried last Sunday during a brunch at the Salty Pig. ‘Mac’ were replaced by orechiette, and pancetta was a nice bonus touch.
- pumpkin mac’n cheese. Good to know: New England winter implies a whole diet of squash and pumpkin, cooked in many ways. Mac’n cheese are no exception.
- mac’n cheese with brocolis: or whatever vegetable that will give you the illusion of healthy food, even if the mac’n cheese will eventually be buried under a impressive amount of cream
- a lot of decadent recipes: mac’n cheese with beer, fried mac’n cheese frit, sushi mac’n cheese rolled as a sushi…
Bon appétit of course ! If you’re looking for ideas to make mac’n cheese, I’ve created a Pinterest board. And did you know that there is a National Mac’n cheese day, the exact same day as Bastille Day?