New kosher grass-fed cheeses, and a pasta in which to appreciate them
This has been a busy summer in the kosher cheese world — or, at least, in my kosher cheese world — as I’ve discovered two new brands of high-end cheese — Mainland and 5 Spoke Creamery.
For no particular reason — the wonderful smells, maybe — I often spend a few minutes dallying through the troves of specialty cheese whenever I get to my local Whole Foods. On one such expedition the most peculiar thing caught my eye — a heksher, and a legitimate one, no less! Of course, on further inspection, the OK heksher was the least extraordinary aspect of the product which caught my eye.
This particular mild cheddar was organic, made of milk culled from grass-fed cows, and imported from New Zealand. The grass-fed milk gives Mainland Organic Cheddar a more complex flavor than any other mild cheese I’ve tried — definitely worth including on your next cheese platter. (The steep price — $7.00 for eight ounces — might preclude you from enjoying it on a more frequent basis.)
Over at my local kosher market, new cheeses also popped up, with equally delightful credentials: these were made of hormone-free raw milk by an Amish farmer. (I can practically hear Garrison Keillor saying “Made by Norwegian bachelor farmers … so you know they’re pure, mostly.”) Well, “5 Spoke Creamery” presents us with three Kof-K certified, artisanal varieties — Red Vine Colby, Redmond Cheddar, and Herbal Jack — all with the complexity of flavor and superb texture one should expect of finer raw-milk cheeses.
They’re also on the pricey side, but I couldn’t help myself from devoting some to a decadent macaroni and cheese. After the jump, enjoy an excellent recipe I’ve adapted from the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.
BAKED MACARONI & CHEESE
The trick to this is the thin sauce made with broth, which keeps it plenty moist once baked. It’s the first baked mac & cheese I’ve made that’s actually delicious reheated. (You must use whole milk, or in a pinch, three cups of skim milk mixed with 1/2 cup of light cream.) For a little excitement, replace the cheddar with an herb-infused jack or blue cheese.
For the topping:
1 cup panko breadcrumbs (or 2 cups fresh)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the macaroni:
1 pound elbow macaroni (or similarly-sized pasta shape)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon dry mustard, dissolved in 1 teaspoon water
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups thin vegetable broth or pareve consomme
3 1/2 cups whole milk
1 lb. Colby cheese, shredded (4 cups)
8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups, the sharper the better)
- To prepare the topping, simply pour the melted butter over the bread crumbs and toss.
- Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and the macaroni; cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain the pasta and leave it in the colander; set aside.
- Wipe the pot dry, add the six tablespoons of butter and melt over medium heat. Add the garlic, mustard, and cayenne; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the vegetable broth and milk; bring to a simmer and cook, whisking often, until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 6 minutes.
- Off the heat, whisk in the cheeses gradually until completely melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the drained pasta to the cheese sauce and stir, breaking up any clumps, until well combined. Pour into a 9 by 13-inch baking dish and sprinkle with the bread-crumb topping. Bake until golden brown and bubbling around the edges, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before serving.