JANUARY 14, 2013

MEET THE SOUS CHEF

MIKE WHISENHUNT, SOUS CHEF, REVEL

What's the sous chef at a modern Korean restaurant doing giving us a recipe for ultra-creamy, smoky pasta? Let's face it: No one is immune to the power of macaroni and cheese, including Mike Whisenhunt, sous chef at Revel in Seattle.

The Seattle native decided early on that he was "never going to sit at a desk," embarking instead on a career in the kitchen. For his take on the comforting dish, he makes a rich, silky sauce by blending cheese into a hot velouté (a roux thinned with chicken broth). Should you feel guilty about using an entire pound of cheese for the recipe, take heart: Whisenhunt uses whole-wheat pasta.

TRACK THIS CHEF

Mike Whisenhunt's:
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DAY IN THE LIFE

TIPS & TECHNIQUES

Cheese Whiz

To make the silky sauce that coats the noodles, Whisenhunt first makes a velouté--a combination of chicken stock and cream thickened with a roux. He adds the grated cheese and purees the sauce in a blender until smooth; a hand blender could also be used. After making this dish for years, he no longer needs a recipe, and says, "I'm not a measuring-type person."

Gouda to the Grain

Whisenhunt recommends using smoked gouda, which is processed, as it gives the cheese sauce a pleasant texture and flavor, but he says you can substitute another cheese, such as cheddar or fontina. A younger cheese has a higher water content and will you give you the smoothest sauce; an aged cheese will yield a more granular sauce.

MAKE THE
Macaroni and Cheese

YIELD

4 servings (plus leftovers)

INGREDIENTS

Ghee, 5½ tablespoons (or melted unsalted butter)

All-purpose flour, ½ cup, plus extra if needed

Chicken broth, 2 2/3 cups (hot)

Heavy cream, 2 cups

Kosher salt, 1 tablespoon plus 1¼ teaspoons, and extra for serving

Freshly ground black pepper, ½ teaspoon plus a pinch, and extra for serving

Shallots, 3 medium (halved lengthwise and roughly chopped)

Garlic, 7 whole cloves

Smoked gouda cheese, 1 pound (coarsely grated)

Whole-wheat pasta shells, 1 pound

Panko bread crumbs, 2 cups

Extra-virgin olive oil, ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon

EQUIPMENT

Chef's knife

Cutting board

Measuring cups and spoons

Box grater or food processor

Medium saucepan

Wooden spoon

Whisk

Medium skillet

Blender

Mixing bowls

Fine-mesh sieve

Soup pot

Colander

Ladle

9-inch baking dish

DIRECTIONS

1. In a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat, use the wooden spoon to combine:

  • 5 tablespoons ghee
  • All-purpose flour

The mixture should look like wet sand; if it doesn't, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue to stir until the mixture (roux) is smooth and thick and starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, 1 to 3 minutes. While whisking, vigorously add in:

  • 1⅓ cups hot chicken broth

Once the chicken broth is incorporated, whisk in the:

  • Heavy cream

Simmer the sauce until thickened and reduced slightly, about 15 minutes. Season with:

  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Turn off the heat.

2. In a medium skillet set over medium-high heat, add the:

  • Remaining ½ tablespoon ghee
  • Roughly chopped shallots
  • Garlic cloves

Cook, using the wooden spoon to stir often, until the shallots are translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Pour in the remaining:

  • 1⅓ cups hot chicken broth

Simmer the shallot-garlic mixture until the shallots and garlic are soft, about 5 minutes, then transfer to a blender and blend until completely smooth. Pour the blended shallot-garlic mixture into the saucepan with the cream mixture. Turn the heat on to medium and simmer the mixture for 5 minutes (if the sauce seems too thick and pasty, thin it with a little water).

3. Pour half of the hot cream sauce into the blender and blend on low speed while adding half of the:

  • Grated smoked gouda cheese

Once the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth, pass it through a fine-mesh sieve set over a large bowl. Repeat with the remaining hot cream sauce and cheese. Stir the two batches together in a large bowl. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if needed.

4. Preheat the oven to 350°. Bring a soup pot filled with water to a boil. Add:

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • Whole-wheat pasta shells

Cook, following the package instructions, until the pasta is al dente. Drain into the colander and transfer to a large bowl. Using a ladle, add enough of the cheese sauce to generously coat the pasta, then transfer to a 9-inch baking dish. Ladle the remaining cheese sauce over the top of the pasta, pressing down with the bottom of the ladle to compress the pasta so it is somewhat flat on top.

5. In a small bowl, mix together the:

  • Panko breadcrumbs
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Remaining 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Remaining ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Sprinkle the seasoned breadcrumbs evenly over the top of the pasta and bake until the breadcrumbs are toasted, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with a little more freshly ground black pepper. Serve hot.

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