Oh, yeah. I love wine. In my twenties, I was asked to be a wine rep. Didn't do it, but I’ve been learning about it and tasting it ever since.
[Coincidentally enough, one of the main characters in my new book, Matthew Bessette, was a wine sommelier. Matthew now co-owns Fromagerie Bessette with Charlotte.]
I also love to cook with wine. I love to experiment. And I love mac and cheese.
So, put the whole combination together, and I had FUN this week. Tasty fun, fun, fun!
As I’ve said before, writing A Cheese Shop Mystery series has opened my eyes to the variety of cheeses offered not only in Europe but in the United States. There are hundreds and hundreds. So why create a mac and cheese with just one?
Here’s what I did. First, because Charlotte Bessette, my protagonist, is partly French -- she was raised by her French grandparents -- I wanted to start with a French sauce. I created my version of a béchamel sauce.
Béchamel sauce or sauce blanche is a favorite of French cuisine. It is traditionally milk, flour and butter (which creates a roux). I added onions and then WINE to this. [I chose Estancia Sauvignon Blanc for this recipe. I like its crisp flavor, filled with citrus and melon flavors.]
And then I added not one but four cheeses. [Murray's White Cheddar, Wisconsin Sharp Cheddar, Edam, and Parmessan]. To class it up, instead of macaroni, I used fusilli, which is a pretty version of macaroni. The result was a yummy spiked “mac and cheese.”
SPIKE FUSILLI AND CHEESE
1 1/2 dried fusilli, cooked to tender (about 4 cups)
1/2 onion, chopped
3 Tbs. butter
1 1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup white wine [Estancia Sauvignon Blanc]
3 Tbs. rice flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 1/2 cup mixed cheeses (two cheddars, edam, Parmessan)
1/2 cup Parmessan cheese
Cook fusilli according to package directions. Drain and set aside. May be made a day ahead. Note: Do not forget to drain and set aside. You do not want the pasta to be “wet.”
In a large frying pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and cook until clear, about 2 minutes. Add rice flour and stir. Cook 1 minute, let boil and thicken, stirring constantly.
Add milk and wine, stir and let boil to thicken.
Remove from heat and add cheeses and seasonings.
Put cooked pasta into a 6-quart saucepan. Pour cheese mixture over the pasta and stir well.
Pour pasta mixture into a 9 x 5 bread pan. Sprinkle 1/2 cup Parmessan cheese over the mixture. Set pan into a 300 degree oven for 15 minutes. Turn the oven to broil. Broil for 4 – 8 minutes, until nice crispy brown.
NOTE: FOR MY CELIAC (GLUTEN-INTOLERANT) FRIENDS, THIS RECIPE IS FRIENDLY IF YOU JUST SUBSTITUTE THE PASTA FOR GLUTEN-FREE PASTA.
If you want to see more about Charlotte or the first book she stars in, The Long Quiche Goodbye, or if you want to read more of my recipes or sign up for the Say Cheese Newsletter, click on this website link: Avery Aames. [Another note: I'm going to make a mini-movie of making this wine dish and put it on the site for fun. Would love your comments.]
Before I sign off, remember we have a NEW CONTEST. Win a set of COOKIE CUTTERS from Wilton. To enter the contest, all you have to do is leave a comment! [Simple as pie, no?] Maybe we can all come up with clever ideas to decorate. [My personal favorite is the butterfly!]
Check back on March 2, when the cookie cutter winner will be announced, and Jenn McKinlay will launch her new book Sprinkle with Murder, as well as a new CONTEST. One you won't want to miss!
Also, don't forget to enter Jenn’s Name the Cupcake Contest. Go to her website to enter. You and your cupcake might be the lucky ones to be written into BUTTERCREAM BUMP OFF.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST, congrats to all my Sisters in Crime pals who are nominated for Agatha Awards. Lorna Barrett, Kaye George, Meredith Cole, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Lisa Bork, Elizabeth Zelvin, Chris Grabenstein and Stephanie Pintoff. Way to go!!!!!!