Sunday, February 7, 2016

My Mac Attack

Many could probably vouch that Macaroni and Cheese is the ultimate comfort food of all. In whatever version you are familiar with, whether it's from the iconic blue box made by Kraft that most people grew up with, or as the sidedish of choice at fastfood joints, or the more upscale version served in bars and restaurants using proper cheeses (the grown-up version so to speak), this simple combination of ingredients and flavors - the warm elbow pasta, mixed with the creamy cheesy sauce, certainly brought satisfaction in the stomach and warmth in your heart and soul.

Recently I was at Lily & Bloom in Lan Kwai Fong for a dinner tasting of a special "Mac Attack" menu they are launching from mid-January til end of February. During the promotional period, Chef Billy will collaborate with five different chefs from around town to introduce a series of new "Mac n Cheese" dishes, one created by each chef based on their own interpretation of this ultimate comfort food.

Little Bao Mac & Cheese - Applewood Cheddar Sauce, Drunken Foie Gras, Steamed Rice Roll
Black Truffled Carbonara Mac & Cheese - Egg Yolk, Chives, Fresh Black Truffles
Most of us probably suffered from a bit of carbo overload that evening, taking (more than) a bite of each of the wonderful creations, from one using steamed Korean rice cake with applewood cheddar and drunken foie gras (by Chef May of Little Bao and one of my favorites of the night!) to one topped with salmon roes, scallops and mountain yam (by Santoru-san of Sushi Kuu). I remembered trying Chef Vinny's Carbonara Mac n Cheese (mixed in with an raw egg) at his restaurant Stone Nullah Tavern and loved it, and this time, he's up the game with grated black truffles on top - what's not to love of this aromatic combo?)

The Lobster Mac & Cheese - Local Rock Lobster, 36-Months-Aged Parmigiano-Reggiano, Cognac, Basil Breadcrumbs, Three Cheeses
Rounding up the entries Chef Fabrizio (of NOM) went for a traditional Italian approach, presenting the baked rigatoni version with gruyere cheese, beef cheeks and meatballs and claiming "home-court advantage", Chef Billy finished his Mac n Cheese with half a baked lobster along with pasta mixed and flambe in a giant aged parmigiano-reggiano wheel with a dash of cognac, prepared by the table in much fanfare.

After I returned home after the dinner, I started to wonder, what would I do for my own creative interpretation of Mac n Cheese? And ladies and gentlemen, here's what I have come up with. You might be shocked at what I put in there, but trust me, it's good.

My Mac Attack: Mac n Cheese with Fermented Tofu and Chinese Liver Sausages
Mac n Cheese with Fermented Tofu and Chinese Liver Sausages (serve 4)

  • 1 lb of macaroni pasta (feel free to substitute with pasta of any shape)
  • 2 tablespoon of butter
  • 2 tablespoon of general flour
  • 1/2 cup of whole milk
  • 3 cups of shredded/grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 blocs or tablespoons of Chinese fermented tofu (I use the spicy one but the regular one works just as fine)
  • 2 pairs of Chinese liver sausages

1. Cook the pasta according to the packaging instruction. Drain and set aside.
2. Steam the liver sausages over boiling water or in steam oven until soften, in 5 minutes. Cut into slices and set aside.
3. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour into the pan over medium heat and quickly mix together to form a roux. Wait until the roux is slightly-browned (it would take around 5 minutes - do not over-burn) Pour the milk slowly into the roux and stir in to mix. It should thicken into gravy-like consistency. That's the bechamel sauce which would be the base of our pasta.
4. Turn the heat to low, with bechamel sauce still in the saucepan, whisk in the shredded cheese followed by the fermented tofu until it's completely melted and mixed in to the sauce.
5. Remove saucepan from heat, add the pasta in, stir well and serve with slices of liver sausages on top. Optionally, you can also bake to give a crusted top by adding panko bread crumbs on top and bake on broiler mode for 5 minutes in an oven pre-heated at 190C.

(Note: The Mac Attack dinner tasting at Lily & Bloom was by invitation. My version of Mac n Cheese was unfortunately not available in any restaurant - yet)

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