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Using cheese in mac and cheese

Using cheese in mac and cheese

Using cheese in mac and cheese doesn’t have to be complicated. The right balance of cheeses is a work of art. I’m going to show you how to make sure every bowl of mac and cheese that you create integrates beautifully to showcase all of your ingredients.

When you take a bite of cheese, pay attention to when the flavor starts to develop. Sometimes it comes out immediately but fades away quickly. Think cheddar, young Gouda, or mozzarella. When you bite into them you immediately taste the cheesy flavor. However, this flavor is gone before you finish eating it. These are what I call opener cheeses. You want to include an opener cheese in your recipes to make sure you are welcomed to the bowl with cheesy flavor.

Other cheeses have a flavor that comes out after a few seconds but it carries thorughout the end of the bite. Think Parmesan, Asiago, and Gruyere. These are your closer cheeses. You should include a closer cheese in your mac and cheese recipes so that cheesy flavor carries thorough the entire bite.

Take a look at my simple mac and cheese recipe. It features extra sharp Cheddar and Parmesan cheeses. Cheddar is the opener.  It says hi and welcomes you to the bowl like a warm hug.  Parmesan is the closer.  Always fashionably late to the party, but sure to leave you with an impression.  Both serve vital roles, and the mac and cheese just isn’t the same without each of them working together.

In my fridge, you will always find extra sharp Cheddar and Parmesan. You never know when you will have a cheese emergency and they are great cheeses to have on hand. When experimenting with new cheeses, you want to balance the flavor with an opposite counterpart.  If your new cheese is an opener, combine it with parmesan. Is the flavor of the cheese you bought at the end of the bite? Use your emergency cheddar to help it stand out. 

We aren’t limited to one type of each cheese. You can include a variety of opener or closer cheeses, just make sure you have at least one counterpart to balance your recipe.  Feel free to use Cheddar, Asiago, and Parmesan all in one bowl. Was there a mega sale on Gouda and Mozzarella? Use all of it! Just make sure and balance it out with another closer cheese. Using cheese in mac and cheese isn’t complicated, as long as you include at least one opener and one closer cheese.

A note on cheese flavor. Keep an eye on the strengths of cheese you choose to incorporate. Aged Cheddar is almost always a better choice over mild, and Mozzarella is something you’d want to use for texture rather than how it tastes. The flavor of your cheeses to be highlighted, and some cheeses are simply too mild to serve a flavor role. Consider adding other flavorful cheeses (or even other ingredients!) to help your mac and cheese stand out. However, if you used plenty of cheese but the flavor is lacking, try adding a little salt. Salt is a flavor enhancer, and it should pull out the cheesy flavor.

There are so many different flavor combinations you can make following this formula. Our grocery store routinely puts different cheeses on clearance, and I love to take it as an opportunity to test out different Mac and cheeses. I know I have all the tools to experiment successfully and now you do too. Using cheese in mac and cheese doesn’t have to be complicated.