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Gourmet Mac & Cheese

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I was recently send a package of French Comte cheese to try.   It wasn't a cheese that I had knowingly tried before.    Comté is a French cheese made from unpasteurized cow's milk in the Franche-Comté region of eastern France. Comté has the highest production of all French AOC cheeses, around 40,000 tonnes annually.  Made in flat circular discs it has a dusty brown coloured rind and an interior of  pale creamy yellow, with a relativly hard and flexible texture and a strong and slightly sweet flavour.  This cheese which is sold at the Borough Market stall, was sent to me in four different aged bits, 12 months, 18 months, 24 months and 36 months.

As a person who grew up only ever eating Velveeta or processed cheese slices this was quite an adventure for me!  (Happy to say my cheese palate has strongly developed in recently years and I do now appreciate a good piece of cheese!)

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The Twelve months piece was very mild in flavour and had rubbery  texture, which was quite acceptable.  It grated nicely as well.

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The 18 months aged piece was very similar in looks but had an almost waxy texture and I found it to be a bit stronger in flavour and could definitely detect the fruity flavour.

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With the piece that had been aged for 24 months, there was a definite difference in the appearance and a stronger aroma.   I found it to be gorgeously flavoured and almost crumbly in texture.  It was a bit less fruity and a bit more cheesy.  See those nice white flecks?   Lovely.

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You can see that there is a very different appearance to the piece which had been aged 36 months.  I have to say that this was my favourite of the four.  It had a lovely strong flavour with definite salty overtones and a rich flavour and almost crumbly texture.  I have to say I adored this!    I have been eking it out in small bits so that I can make it last as long as possible.  It is just wonderful.

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I thought this would be a beautiful cheese to put out on a cheese tray over the holidays, especially the longer aged variety . . . the younger cheeses would be put to really good use in a special sauce, or a Macaroni and Cheese, which is a real favourite in my house, well . . . by myself anyways.  The Toddster, he just tolerates pasta of any kind, but he does seem to like Macaroni and Cheese more than any other pasta dish.

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Because I had such a gorgeous cheese to use in the Comte cheese, I called this Gourmet Mac and Cheese.  I combined it with two other cheeses, a nice strong cheddar and some taleggio cheese to make a rich and well flavoured sauce.

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Topped with more cheese (including some Parmesan) and some buttered whole wheat cracker crumbs, this  turned out lovely and we both really enjoyed it.    I am sure it tasted all the better for having been made with Comte cheese!

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Which only goes to prove that if you want to make something really special, you will use quality ingredients to begin with.   This was absolutely lovely.  Many thanks to the Comte people for sending me this gorgeous cheese.  Do check them out at the Borough Market as they have a lot more than cheese on offer.   Orders can also be placed online.   Yayy!!

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*Gourmet Mac & Cheese*
Serves 4
A truly creamy and rich version of macaroni and cheese with three delicious cheeses and a crunchy topping.

fine sea salt
8 ounces of maccheroni pasta (macaroni or some other tublar pasta)
2 TBS unsalted butter
a handful of crushed buttered Italian crackers, I used whole wheat (Similar to Saltine crackers)
90g of finely grated Parmesan cheese (1/2 cup)
2 TBS plain flour
450ml of whole milk (about 2 cups ), gently warmed
2 ounces grated strong cheddar cheese (3/4 cup)
2 ounces grated Comte cheese (3/4 cup)
2 ounces grated taleggio cheese (3/4 cup)
freshly ground black pepper to taste
pinch of ground nutmeg  

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Cook the pasta to al dente according to the package directions in lightly salted water.  Drain well, rinse in cold water, and drain again.  Set aside.

Melt  the butter in a large saucepan.   Whisk in the flour in and allow to cook over low heat for about a minute.  Slowly whisk in the warm milk.  Cook and wisk until the sauce coats the back of a spoon and thickens.  Stir in the cheddar cheese and all but 3 TBS each of the Comte and taleggio cheeses.   Whisk and stir until all of the cheeses have melted and the sauce is smooth.  Season to taste with salt, pepper and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg.    Remove the pan from the heat and fold in the cooked pasta.

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Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.  Butter a shallow 1 litre baking dish.  Pour in the pasta and cheese sauce.   Mix together the remaining cheeses along with the Parmesan cheese and sprinkle over top  Sprinkle the crumbled crackers over top.  Bake in the heated oven for 30 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.  Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Marie Rayner
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  1. Cheese! Did I tell you I was part rat! Love me some cheese.

  2. When I left school I lived in France for a year became completely addicted to comte'! It's a shame that it's impossible to find in Italy as I don't think the Italians really do anything which is that similar. You have reminded me that I need to cook my family a Mac and Cheese though as they've never tried it!

  3. Ramona and Beth, this Comte cheese is the best I have ever tasted. I have a big hunk still in the fridge and every time I open the fridge I have a little nibble, just like a moust!

  4. Oh my goodness, the word that springs to mind is ooziness. Your pictures are alluring.


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