Nicole Gomes’ Apple Beer Mac & Cheese

mac & cheese
For the 2016 edition of the Grate Canadian Cheese Cook-Off, our friend Chef Nicole Gomes was one of four of Canada’s top chefs to battle it out with their best gourmet Mac & Cheese recipe. The contenders all look amazing, but we gave Nicole’s a try – a 5 cheese version made with a splash of beer and a unique twist: grated apples, sauteed in butter. It was delicious, of course, and fed the family very well tonight. Thanks Nicole – and thanks Canadian cheese!

Nicole Gomes’ Apple Beer Mac & Cheese
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Ingredients
  1. 1/4 cup (60 mL) unsalted butter
  2. 1/4 cup (60 mL) all-purpose flour
  3. 1 bay leaf
  4. 3 cups (750 mL) milk
  5. 1/2 cup (125 mL) crème fraiche
  6. 1/2 cup (125 mL) strong IPA beer (7%)
  7. 2 tbsp (30 mL) Dijon mustard
  8. 1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) salt
  9. 1/4 tsp (1 mL) freshly grated nutmeg
Pasta Apple Cheese Layer
  1. 3 cups (750 mL) mini lumaconi or elbow pasta
  2. 1 tbsp (15 mL) unsalted butter
  3. 3 cups (750 mL) peeled and grated Golden Delicious apples (about 3 large)
  4. 3/4 cup (175 mL) Panko breadcrumbs, toasted
  5. 1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
  6. 2 cups (500 mL) lightly packed shredded Black River Medium Cheddar cheese
  7. 1 cup (250 mL) lightly packed shredded Canadian Muenster cheese
  8. 1 cup (250 mL) lightly packed shredded Gunn’s Hill Five Brothers cheese
  9. 1 cup (250 mL) lightly packed shredded Sylvan Star Canadian Smoked Gouda Cheese
  10. 1 cup (250 mL) lightly packed shredded Canadian Raclette Cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°F).
  2. In large pot, melt butter on medium-high heat. Add flour and bay leaf and whisk until smooth; cook for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Whisk in milk in a slow steady stream. Whisk until smooth; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking constantly, until thick enough to coat spoon, about 8 to 12 minutes. Turn off heat. Whisk in crème fraiche, beer, mustard, salt, and nutmeg. Remove and discard bay leaf.
  3. Pasta Apple Cheese Layer: In large pot of boiling, salted water, cook pasta 3 minutes under the package directions. Drain and rinse lightly. Set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, in medium skillet, melt butter on medium heat. Add apples and any accumulated juices; sauté until soft, about 2 minutes. In small bowl, combine breadcrumbs and oil; set aside.
  5. Spread one-half of the pasta in 13x9-inch (3 L) glass baking dish. Pour one-half of the sauce, top with one-half each of the Cheddar, Muenster, Five Brothers, Smoked Gouda, and Raclette cheeses. Top with one-half of the apples and stir lightly. Repeat with remaining pasta, sauce, cheeses and apples; stir lightly. Sprinkle evenly with reserved breadcrumb mixture on top.
  6. Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake uncovered until hot, breadcrumbs are light golden brown and edges are bubbling, about 45 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Enjoy!
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