You will love this recipe....
Here in Seattle it's no big deal to have access to some pretty amazing cheeses. "Locally made" includes here in Washington or a little south into Oregon; anything in NorCal is apparently enemy territory (p.s. I'm still pissed Whole Foods won't carry Point Reyes bleu cheese!). It's either made within 100 miles of my house or it's imported from Europe; anything in between is simply not good enough for us here. And I fucking love that about living here. So, there's a new cheese in town I'm seriously obsessed with.
This gorgeous cheese is locally made using Cascade hops -- the same hops used to brew beer locally -- are used to flavor this effing amazing cheese. It's a goat milk, semi-hard cheese with (I think) a slightly nutty flavor packing a punch of tanginess but like in the best way possible. Basically if fontina and cheddar had a threesome with beer, they would produce this cheese.
And it's effing amaze balls.
Here's my version for the Pondhopper Mac n Cheese. I agree completely with using the smoked paprika, and add a little more with a crunchy topping using panko, garlic, and fresh chopped chive. Make this now. You will love it.
Pondhopper Mac n Cheese with Chive and Smoked Paprika
1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cream, at room temperature
1 1/4 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1/8 tsp ground white pepper
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
2 cups grated pondhopper cheese
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 Tbsp fresh chives, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the elbow macaroni and cook until just under al dente, about 8-9 minutes. Drain well and set aside.
Now make the cheese sauce. First, make the roux. Heat a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the butter all at once and melt it completely, then add the flour all at once and begin whisking them together immediately and vigorously. This is a roux. You need to stir it constantly to prevent it from browning in color (which would give the dish a darker shade; we want to keep it white to compliment the color of the cheese we're using). Cook this roux for about 4 minutes, stirring it constantly.
Next, slowly add the cream to the roux, continuing to stir as you add. You can warm the cream and whole milk which will make them blend in easier and faster; or using cold cream and milk, just note it'll clump the roux when introduced. Don't panic -- just keep whisking together to smooth it all out if it clumps on you. Keep the heat under the pot around medium-low to low to prevent burning the roux.
Once you've added all the cream, begin to slowly add the whole milk. Again, continuously stir to make sure the sauce is blended well and incorporated. Now you have a classic béchamel sauce.
Season the sauce with salt to taste and the peppers, and the smoked paprika. Whisk again to combine. Take the sauce off the heat and add the cheese a little at a time, again stirring to help it melt in. The warmth of the sauce should melt the cheese on its own, but if you find you're having trouble you can go ahead and put the sauce back under the lowest heat while incorporating the cheese. Keep stirring (you can continue with a sturdy whisk or switch to a wooden spoon for the cheese) until all of the cheese is melted and you have a lovely, thick creamy sauce. Remove from heat.
If the saucepan is large enough, go ahead and add the pasta directly in and mix to coat; or combine pasta and sauce in a large mixing bowl. Make sure to mix quite well, careful not to break up the pasta, so each piece is coated in the sauce. Transfer to a baking dish of your choosing and prepare the topping. (if you're skipping the panko topping, you can eat the mac n cheese right now)
In a small bowl combine the panko, garlic, and chives. Add the oil and mix to combine. Sprinkle over the top of the mac n cheese and place in oven. Bake until top begins to get golden brown, about 25 minutes (depending on your oven's strength). Let stand a few minutes before serving.