gouda macaroni and cheese

We have this place in Columbia called The Whig. The Whig is, well…hmm. It’s a bar, but not a bar. It’s a restaurant, but…not really a restaurant. Unless you were walking past the State House and just happened to slip on the sidewalk down its stairs into the basement-like alley lined with one door adorned with no signs that looks like the backside of a New York City fish market, you’d probably never know it was there. You would, of course, know it was there if you were at least a bit cooler than the rest of the city or, strangely enough, if you were a bit less cool than the rest of the city. What I mean to say is, if you wear one shoe untied and drink craft beer and listen to vinyls while riding your bike, you’d love the Whig. On the other hand, if you’re just a tad quieter and love to listen to conversation and need to feel a bit disconnected from the normal Columbia, the Whig is a nice haven to quench the crave for a bit of quirk. Plus, they have excellent food at really frugal prices.

One of my favorite dishes of theirs is the Gouda Mac N Cheese. It’s actually listed in the starter section of the menu, but it arrives at the table in a huge rimmed bowl filled with a simple combination of pasta and sauce. It’s so generously goopy that each piece of pasta is smothered with the rich blend of gouda and cream. It’s not baked like some mac and cheeses. One could never ever describe this as being dry. The dish almost reminds me of a plate of pasta with alfredo, just amped up a bit. Lawd, it’s delicious.

gouda macaroni and cheese
inspired by The Whig’s gouda mac n cheese in Columbia, SC
prep time: 5 minutes cook time: 15 minutes yield: 6 servings

ingredients
12 oz whole wheat elbows
8 oz gouda
4 tbsp unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz heavy cream
salt, to taste
freshly ground pepper, to taste

create
In a large saucepan, bring about 6 quarts of salted water to a boil. Stir in the elbows and cook for about 10 minutes or to desired tenderness.
While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. Shred the gouda and set aside. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Stir in the heavy cream and add salt and pepper. When it starts simmering, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sauce thickens and reduces by about half, about 10 minutes. Add the gouda and stir until completely melted.
Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Pour the gouda sauce over the pasta and stir until thoroughly combined. Serve immediately.

We had my sister’s bachelorette party at the Whig. The party consisted of a whopping three people with quite a few others there in spirit, but it was perfect. I’m guessing the tiny venue used to be a bank because they have a little cave in the corner that I believe was probably a safe at some point. Its three walls are lined with very worn, slouchy couches and dusty vintage lighting dimly brightens the space and stuffed animals (no, not Teddy Ruxpin, like foxes that were once alive and are now stuffed) chill next to the ceiling. It provides a very private atmosphere (appropriate for girly bachelorette gifts), but you can still hear the music and order pizzas and sandwiches and drinks. The whole place is just smokin’ with vibe and jives and the eel’s hips, my man. Legit chillin’.

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cheese soufflé

“…you’ll be our guest, oui, our guest, be our guest. Beef ragout, cheese soufflé, pie, and pudding en flambé, we’ll prepare and serve with flair a culinary cabaret…”

The animated words of Lumière can’t seem to find their way out of my brain, but I don’t blame them. After all, my friends, this week, yes, THIS week is the week I travel to the world of Disney to learn, eat, did I say learn?, and meet a new, supportive, bang-up blogging community. At this point, my Disney Pandora station is worn out and I’m pretty sure my DVD player is going to gag if I put one more princess-themed animated feature in its mouth. Too bad, though, I just can’t seem to get enough of it and my brain somehow always finds a comforting foundation in food. That’s where I got the idea to do several posts based on food from Disney movies. My thoughts immediately jumped to “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast and I proceeded to sing the song (from memory, don’t judge) to figure out what those household items (…if I go into my kitchen to find my plates waltzing out of cupboards and spoons synchronized swimming in a bowl of soup, my first thought will be, “…Yes. Finally.” Anyway.) were trying to serve Belle.

1. Gray Stuff: Psh, who knows what that is.
2. Beef Ragout: Stew? Heavy beef? Just not feeling it after a couple of days of leftover chili and enchiladas. Phew.
3. Cheese Soufflé: HA! You must think I’m some kind of chef. Dream on, buddy.
4. Pie: Just made that.
5. Pudding: Love me some puddin’, but I think I’m leaning to something savory.

…and just what’s so scary about a soufflé? Self, soufflés are really scary. Why? Self, they just…are. You know their reputation. People…regular people, just can’t…they just can’t do it. You better get in that kitchen and start makin’ a dang soufflé. 

The other me is pretty pushy. So, I went in the kitchen and started making a soufflé. If you think I just dreamed up some recipe and threw together some ingredients, well, then I’m the queen of England. No, no, if I was going to make a soufflé, my first soufflé, then I was turning to the best. Alton, this time, you’ve got me. And let me tell you, I didn’t improvise like usual. I followed every step of that recipe. I was not about to try to mess with the tenderness of a soufflé. And y’all know what? That “walk gently and don’t bang stuff while a soufflé is in the oven” is bull-hockey. But you should have seen me walkin’ around that kitchen, lookin’ like a dang nerd, telling the dog to tip-toe and my husband to put his fork down on the plate a little more gently and washing the dishes with enough water pressure to bathe a ladybug. Like I said, I was doing everything I could to make those things rise, rise, rise.

And, y’all, they did. They did! I’ll bet they got five inches high while in the oven. It’s natural for them to gradually sink once removed (argh, and so hard to photograph), but they rose. Lumière would certainly serve these proudly to Belle.

cheese soufflé
ingredients
butter, room temperature, for greasing the soufflé
2 tbsp grated parmesan
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1 1/3 cups milk, hot
4 large egg yolks
6 ounces sharp cheddar, grated
5 egg whites, plus 1 tbsp water
1/2 tsp cream of tartar

create
Use room temperature butter to grease an 8-inch soufflé mold (I used little individual ramekins). Add the grated Parmesan and roll around the mold to cover the sides. Cover with plastic wrap and place into the freezer for 5 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375º. In a small saucepan, heat the butter. Allow all of the water to cook out.
In a separate bowl combine the flour, dry mustard, garlic powder, and kosher salt. Whisk this mixture into the melted butter. Cook for 2 minutes. Whisk in the hot milk and turn the heat to high. Once the mixture reaches a boil, remove from the heat.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks to a creamy consistency. Temper the yolks into the milk mixture, constantly whisking. Remove from the heat and add the cheese. Whisk until incorporated.
In a separate bowl, using a hand mixer, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar until glossy and firm. Add 1/4 of the mixture to the base. Continue to add the whites by thirds, folding very gently (I use a rubber spatula to fold stuff in. It’s flexible and gentle enough for sensitive ingredients).
Pour the mixture into the soufflé mold. Fill the soufflé to 1/2-inch from the top. Place on an aluminum pie pan. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes.

Soufflé comes from the French souffler, which means to puff up. If you can get the technique down pat, your egg mixture will certainly puff up. Give it a try. It’s really not that scary. I have full faith in you, my friend. Besides, if a kitchen full of dancing knives and pans can do it, you certainly can.