Mac and Cheese, the perfect winter comfort food

Mac and Cheese, the perfect winter comfort food

Recipes from Chef Heidi Fink

  • Dec. 25, 2019 7:30 a.m.

– Story and recipes by Chef Heidi Fink Photography by Don Denton

Blustery winter days call for the most comforting of foods: warming bowls of soup, piles of buttery mashed potatoes or melty grilled-cheese sandwiches. Hearty, nourishing and so delicious, comfort foods like these bring feelings of familiarity and satisfaction to the darkest days of the year.

After coming in from a brisk walk in Uplands Park or along the seashore in Oak Bay, I love to warm up the family with a pot of my stovetop macaroni and cheese. Quicker to make than our mothers’ mac and cheese, this has a decadent, silky sauce, thanks to the magic of three different cheeses and a couple of eggs.

The sauce ingredients are prepped while the pasta is cooking and then stirred into the drained and buttered noodles to make something more than the sum of its parts: a very flavourful and rich sauce that no one will know took you less than 10 minutes to make.

I almost always add something extra. My favourite add-in is Red Barn double-smoked bacon, or the wonderful maple-rosemary bacon from Whole Beast, cooked and crumbled into the creamy sauce just before serving.

For a veg-friendly option, try roasted florets of broccoli or cauliflower, always the perfect vegetables to pair with cheese sauce. If there is time, stop at Ottavio’s delicatessen for some gourmet cheese ends to add to your sauce, or some olives and crackers to nibble on while you wait for the meal to cook.

Whatever your comfort food, whether mac and cheese or something entirely different, make sure to enjoy it on as many cosy evenings as you can this winter.

THREE CHEESE STOVETOP MAC & CHEESE

Serves 4 to 8, appetites depending

Pasta:

454 g (1 lb) dry macaroni

10 ml (2 tsp) salt

Sauce:

2 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

500 ml (2 cups) light cream

1 ml (¼ tsp) Tabasco sauce

1 ml (¼ tsp) salt; more, to taste

1 ml (¼ tsp) ground black pepper

5 ml (1 tsp) dry mustard

10 ml (2 tsp) cornstarch

60 ml (4 Tbsp) butter

114 g (4 oz) block-style cream cheese

114 g (4 oz) mozzarella cheese, grated

284 g (10 oz) sharp white cheddar cheese, grated

Add-ins:

454 g (1 lb) bacon, cooked and chopped

or

454 g (1 lb) vegetables, roasted (broccoli or cauliflower are my favourites)

Add-ins:

If using bacon, place bacon slices evenly on a parchment-lined tray and bake in a 350 F oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until done to your liking. Remove to a plate lined with paper towel. As soon as the bacon is cool enough to touch, place cooked slices on a cutting board and chop.

If using broccoli or cauliflower, chop into medium-sized florets, toss with a bit of oil and salt, place on a parchment-lined tray and bake in a 400 F oven for about 8 minutes (for broccoli) and 15 minutes (for cauliflower) until tender-crisp with some browning around the edges of the florets.

Pasta:

Place 3 litres of water and 2 tsp of salt in a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the macaroni. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until cooked to your preferred firmness.

Sauce:

Meanwhile, mix the eggs, egg yolks, light cream, Tabasco sauce, salt, pepper, mustard powder and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine well. Set aside. Chop the cream cheese into cubes, and get the other two cheeses grated and ready to go.

A few minutes before the pasta is done cooking, heat up the roasted vegetables or cooked bacon, if using. I usually pop them back into the oven on the tray I roasted them on.

Once the pasta has finished cooking to your liking, drain and return to the pot along with the butter. Keep the pot on low heat. Stir to melt the butter. At this point add your heated vegetables (if using) or bacon (if using).

Pour the egg mixture over the buttered noodles and vegetables along with the cubed cream cheese and all of the grated cheese. Stir until thoroughly combined and cheese starts to melt. Stir constantly while cooking over low heat, until mixture is hot and creamy and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Be careful not to overcook. Serve immediately.

For more recipes and for classes from Chef Heidi Fink, visit her website here.

FoodRecipes

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(File photo)
Case of COVID-19 confirmed in School District 69 (Qualicum)

Individual was at PASS/Woodwinds, with a last date of attendance of Jan. 22

The Qualicum Beach Cafe team: from left, host owner Eli Brennan, general manager Amy Turner, host owner/chef Alan Tse, chef de cuisine Todd Bright, sous chef Jack Mitchell and pastry chef/baker Noemie Girard. (Submitted photo)
Fresh start: Qualicum Beach Cafe set to offer West Coast dining

New operators bring wealth of culinary, hospitality experience

Professional hockey goalie Connor LaCouvee of Qualicum Beach. (PQB News file photo)
Qualicum Beach goalie Connor LaCouvee joins AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners

Backstop returns to North America after stint in Slovakia

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

The sky above Mt. Benson in Nanaimo is illuminated by flares as search and rescuers help an injured hiker down the mountain to a waiting ambulance. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Search and Rescue)
Search plane lights up Nanaimo mountain with flares during icy rope rescue

Rescuers got injured hiker down Mt. Benson to a waiting ambulance Saturday night

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo hospital

Two staff members and one patient have tested positive, all on the same floor

A long-term care worker receives the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic in Nanaimo earlier this month. (Island Health photo)
All Island seniors in long-term care will be vaccinated by the end of this weekend

Immunization of high-risk population will continue over the next two months

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Most Read