Cooking with Greg – Beer Mac and Cheese

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I like to take a bit of pride in the fact that I know a bit about cooking. I’ve worked in a restaurant, had cooks for roommates, and learned quite a bit from my parents as well. I’ve watched the food channel for as long as I’ve had TV. I know my way around a kitchen.

However, there are a few things I dare not attempt – lest be ridiculed for my poor execution – and just let my lovely wife do it. What follows is a horrible confession:

I, Gregory Loudon, have never once made a roux or bechamel.

Shocking, I know. My dependence on premade and prepackaged sauces has lasted for a long time. Even now, when I’ve finally freed myself of the shackles of canned ‘red’ sauces, I was still considering just ordering a bulk container of the powdered cheese stuff they put in with the macaroni. But, with a little coaxing from Bev (who is very experienced in roux making), I decided to give it a try by making a Macaroni and Cheese sauce made from bechamel, beer, and melted cheese.

Unsurprisingly, it did not turn out that well. I’m not even going to list the recipe/ingredients because:

  1. It’s less about the ingredients and more about the execution anyways
  2. I didn’t have exact measures of my ingredients and would just be guessing anyways, but most importantly
  3. It was kinda gross if I’m honest.

I’ll now outline my experiment in phases.

Roux:

My sauce was flawed from the start. The saucepan was way too hot to start, so my butter started to burn. When I added flour, I saw that the mixture was a little loose, and instead of letting it naturally cook I panicked and added more flour which made it stiffen right up and start to burn at the bottom.

Bechamel:

Turning a roux into a bechamel is easy: Add milk. I also decided to add beer in this step, about two parts milk to one part beer. This part honestly went okay, except that my roux was so thick that it ended up looking like my final desired consistency before I had even added any cheese.

Cheese Sauce:

I added cheese. I decided to use what I had, which was a little bit of mild shredded cheddar (good) and some old funky camembert (not so good). I took the rind off of most of the camembert in hopes it would melt quicker and add a creaminess. What it ended up adding was a funk that did not jive well with the beer I had put in before. It was now the consistency of a loose bread dough (like, a good focaccia dough is more loose than this). At this point I tried to water down the sauce by adding a bit more beer. It didn’t work, but now it tasted more like beer than before.

I tossed (read: folded) in the pasta and added salt and pepper. When I tasted the ‘finished’ product, I found a piece of camembert rind that I missed, which detracted from the overall tasting experience, but I did note that it tasted pretty bleh. I added ketchup. Everything’s better with ketchup.

Taste notes:

The beer flavour, along with the rawness of the flour, made for a rather unpleasant acidity. The camembert’s funk left an aftertaste that made me want to wash out my mouth. While the cheese did melt thoroughly (except for that first bit of rind), the amount of mild cheddar was not enough to give it a nice cheddar-y taste.

Learn from my mistakes. I’ll be better next time, and so will you.

The pasta was perfectly cooked though.

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