Monday, October 3, 2011

French Onion Mac and Cheese

Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to throw away those pesky diet books and work-out DVDs. I come bearing the answers to all your waistline worries!

Just kidding, y'all. I am the harbinger of delicious death. Before you get your panties in a bunch--while they still have room to bunch, that is--don't fret too hard. This meal is so rich and tasty that you'll find it difficult to overindulge. I hadn't eaten all day and I could hardly finish half a serving. No matter! More for later.

The onions entranced me here. Andy and I baked mac and cheese with caramelized onions and bacon last summer with wonderful results. With last night's dinner, I attempted to fill the bacon void by replacing the usual cheddar, mozzarella, etc. with some more exotic cheeses.

J'aime le fromage. Pictured: asiago, gruyere, edam.
 For my cheeses I used the ones pictured above, plus mascarpone. For the latter, I made a substitute out of 16-oz light cream cheese, 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream, and 1/3 cup sour cream.

Before I grated or substituted anything, though, I had to caramelize my onions. I heated two tablespoons of butter and two of olive oil over medium-low heat in my cast-iron skillet. Meanwhile I sliced the onions 1/8 inch thick on my mandoline.

After the butter melted completely, I added all the onions to the skillet. They needed a little stirring to separate, after which I covered the skillet for 30 minutes, lifting the lid every ten minutes to stir again.

 I cooked the penne in a medium pot of well-salted water--I won't baby you with directions--and set to work on my cheese sauce. I melted 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Once the butter melted, I added a 1/4 cup of flour and whisked until the mixture was even and at the onset of browning. Then I whisked in two and a half cups of milk and proceeded to gaze away from the pot, so it would boil.

(At this point, I preheated my broiler to 500 degrees.)

Once the surface began to distend and belch--attractive, I know--I added the edam, mascarpone, and asiago, stirring it in until the cheeses were just melted and heated through.

I combined the onions and the cheese sauce into the pot with the cooked and drained penne, tossing it all into uniformity. Then I filled my ramekins with the pasta and placed each onto a cookie sheet. Each bowl got a dusting of croutons and gruyere, after which I gathered together every ounce of daintiness, grace, and dexterity I have--this may not be necessary for you--and hoisted the cookie sheet into the oven.

After three minutes I had my a tasty treat, plus my calories for the entire day.

The beverage.
And the final product:

 Enjoy the decadence!

Ingredients (adapted from Cake, Batter, and Bowl):
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large yellow onions, sliced (9 cups)
1 pound penne pasta
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk (I used 2%)
2 cups shredded edam cheese
2 cups shredded asiago cheese
8 ounces mascarpone (or substitute)
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups croutons
3 cups shredded gruyere cheese

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