Mac et Fromage

Mac and cheese with pain de tradition and a Bourgogne Aligoté

After living in Bordeaux, France for a year and a half, I’ve finally broken down… There are just certain things you can not get here: pickles, bagels, beer, mac and cheese, a LARGE café. Worse is if you try to explain this to a french person they will usually just say how our coffee is like water or that the pickles here are fine, and they dont even know what they are missing with bagels. Anyways, I chose to remedy this problem while riding my bike home tonight. I needed to stop and get bread anyways, so while waiting in line (yes, there are lines at bakeries. If there is not one at yours, you need to try one that has a line to find out why.) I looked up Alton Brown’s mac and cheese recipe on the iPhone.

AB has two versions. The baked, and stove top. I was feeling lazy and even contemplating just doing a wine, bread, and cheese “dinner”, so I went with the stove-top. Simple, one pot, less to clean. Here’s the list:
1/2 pound elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
2 eggs
6 ounces evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
10 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded

Had everything except the cheese and evaporated milk… Of course I have cheese, just no cheddar. I think they take away your carte de séjour (residency permit) if you don’t at least have a camembert in your fridge. Evaporated milk… uh… lait.. evaporatée?? That might get interesting… oh well, only 45 minutes before the store closes, which means only 15 mins of being allowed inside. They stop letting you in up to 30 mins before close at some places, then shut down all the registers but one and make you wait in line a long time, grr that was a frustrating day… Back on the bike, next stop, Carrefour (Kroger equivalent).

I should have known when I locked my bike up and was “welcomed” to the storefront by the screaming crazy SDF (homeless or Sans Domicile Fixted) this was gonna be interesting. Out of an entire wall of fromage, there was one cheddar… at dedicated cheese shop price too, that is to say, too much. No matter, I needed it to complete my mission. Evaporated milk… ugh. I had no idea how to say that. Headed to the milk section, which is no where near the cheese (hah! you thought they refrigerate milk?). Silly american, the milk is next to the eggs, which is next to the bottled water palettes. So… milk… there are 20 types of milk. Milk that could probably survive a nuclear war. This is only one of the reasons I don’t drink milk. I mean, it’s sold in boxes, wtf is up with that? lait écrème, demi écrème, entier, blah blah blah…. no evaporated… wait a sec, there is a section of cans! Lait concentré, thats sounding close, but concentrated (or condensed, I guess) milk is usually sweet. Success! one is marked “non-sucré”. That’ll do. Picked up a bottle of bio (organic)Aligoté from Bourgogne, Château de Sassangy and was out of there. Crazy guy even said “bye” at me. He must have known I bought a Bourgogne wine instead of a Bordeaux, quel scandale!

The food prep thankfully was much easier than finding cheddar and evaporated milk. Cook the pasta al denté and drain. Return it to the pot and mix in the butter over low heat. Whisk the rest of the ingredients (except cheese) together and add to the pot and stir. (I used a mix of black and yellow mustard seeds ground in my mortar and pestle. I also substituted cayenne pepper for the hotsauce.) Finally add the shredded cheese, et voila! Delicious mac and cheese. Bread was great for scoping up the last of the cheese sauce off the plate too!

Next time I may experiment with some stronger french cheeses. I see a bit of roquefort in my mac and cheese future. mmm….

-jonah
senior french-ish correspondent