Monday, February 22, 2010


It’s MLK’s Iron Chef Week!
And the secret ingredient is:


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.

chamel 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.”



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.



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!!!!!!


  1. Thanks for the mention! The least I can do, after the shout out, is leave a post, right? Hey, there's a prize involved, too. Your bechamel sauce sounds divine. I wish it were low cal, but that wouldn't be as good, would it?

    I got some cookie cutters as Christmas gifts once that were really cute. They were shaped like gingerbread girls and boys and red and green ribbon was glued on the edges, with ribbon hangers to put on the tree. I still have them.

  2. Wine week! So exciting! :)

    I love your spiked fusilli and cheese, Avery. And I love your presentation in the picture...beautiful!

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  3. Mmmmmm...That sounds yummy! I might have to try this one. I know Liz Zelvin, too, and was so excited to see her nomination! Congrats to all the nominees!


  4. This looks delicious!! Just perfect for a snowy day like the one we're having *AGAIN* today ;-) What a wonderful way to introduce Wine Week! Thanks, Avery!


  5. Who knew Mac and Cheese could ever look and sound so good. This would be a great recipe to use if you wanted to surprise someone with your cooking. Tell them "Oh we're just having Mac and Cheese" and watch their surprise at this. Thanks Avery, have to try this.

  6. Sounds delicious! Looks delicious too. How come there is no penguin shaped cookie cutter?? Huh? They still look adorable. Have a great week.

  7. Yum. I have started cooking again...a good end to the writing day. But my wife is eating gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, and, I believe, free free. Thanks for the Agatha shout out!

  8. No fair--now I'm hungry again.

    I thought of you yesterday as I was wandering through the cheese section at Whole Foods. I want one of those, and I have to have some of that, and I'd better get a little of that...I escaped seven cheeses later. So good!

  9. What gorgeous pictures, Daryl! Mac and Cheese just became elegant, and not just to look at -- I love the idea of adding wine.

    Kaye, they do make penguin cookie cutters -- saw one yesterday!

    ~ Krista

  10. Yummy yummy yummy. I love mac and cheese. And wine. And cheese. And wine and cheese. Last night I made chicken cutlets with pesto and provolone, and the browned parmesan on top really worked. And you're right, Sheila, now I'm hungry, too.

    Thanks for the Agatha mention--yes,I'm so happy! And what an honor to be in such a special group!

  11. Thanks to all for your comments. So nice to see all of you joining us.

  12. This sounds yummy. It's not for nothing that a favorite pasta sauce here in Italy is Quattro Formaggi--four cheeses. It usually has ricotta, gorgonzola, parmesean and scamorza (which can be smoked or not). I'm going to try yours soon.

    Thanks for posting it.

  13. Oooooo.. I so totally would love to try this... it sounds so FANCY though! I can do mac and cheese..but with the fancy french sauce and different types of cheeses? Intimidating!

    Oh and of course, want to be entered for the cookie cutters.. I do need an excuse to make some!

    Oh and let me just say...BRILLIANT idea for an ingredient!

  14. I love mac & cheese. The wine sounds like a fabulous addition! Yipee for wine week!!

  15. Fusilli would be perfect for capturing that yummy cheese sauce. I haven't made mac & cheese for a long time, and never with wine. Thanks for the inspiration!

  16. This looks fantastic, mac and cheese is my favorite comfort food! And the idea of adding wine is brilliant. I don't have rice flour, but I'll buy some!

  17. Now I know what I'm having for dinner tonight!

    Three of my favorite ingredients - pasta, wine, cheese - how can we go wrong!

  18. very interesting and one to certainly try. Thanks for sharing

  19. Oooh, that looks wonderful. The kids (24 & 27) would love it, too.

  20. As soon as the weather cools down enough to cook again, I'm trying this!