Welcome to another edition of Wednesdays with! Today, our guest poster needs no introduction. You know her from Twitterverse as @PastryChfOnline and you probably remember her previous guest post and video on how to make chocolate – from scratch! Meet Jenni Field, pastry chef and teacher of all things food! Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and be sure to read her blog! I’d also like to share that Jenni is a lover of not only food, but furry friends and helps fund raise for the Johnston County Animal Protection League. If you can, be sure to share this URL and if you can donate (every dollar helps!), even better! Now, on to delicious food love! Take it away Jenni!

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First of all, I’m back! Thanks so much to Nelly for inviting me to write a guest post for her wonderful Cooking With Books blog.  Nelly is one of my favorite twitter buddies. It’s always great to see her and chat with her, and I love to follow along as she knocks it out on the line in the MV.  I hope that one day soonish we can actually sit down and enjoy a hot cup of coffee and a whole bunch of laughs. Last time I was here, I talked about making chocolate. From scratch! Hard to top that, so I thought I’d go in the opposite direction: comfort food.  An easy supper that will please most folks and is pretty much endlessly adaptable.
So, Rotini in Mornay Sauce. How is that comfort food?  Because it’s just a fancy-schmancy way of saying Macaroni and Cheese. See? Comfort food!
If you’ve ever read my blog (and thanks if you have) you probably know that I’m not so much a fan of recipes.  I’d really rather teach folks to make basic components and perform basic techniques. That way, they can pretty much make whatever they want, even if they don’t have a recipe to follow.
Today is no different. Here’s what we’re doing:
  • Making Mornay sauce
  • Cooking pasta
  • Mixing the two together
You also have the option to pile the whole shebang in a casserole dish, top it with crushed crackers or seasoned bread crumbs or potato chips or Your Favorite Crunchy Item, drizzle on a bit of butter and then broil until golden and crisp.  Or, you can just scoop it, all creamy and gooey, straight from the pot onto your plate. Either way is A-OK with me.
Mornay sauce is a French sauce based on Béchamel.  And béchamel is pretty much just a roux-based cream sauce classically seasoned with bay and nutmeg.  If you’re feeling Anti-Classical, season it however you want. To magically transform your béchamel into Mornay sauce, all you have to do is stir in grated cheese. Classically, it’s Gruyere and Parmesan, but neo-classically or unclassically or downright redneckedly, it’s whatever melty-melty cheese you want to use.
Once you have your Mornay, you can either stir it together with cooked pasta, or you can stir in some Extra Goodies before mixing.  In the photo up there, I stirred in 3 small cans of Albacore tuna and some peas. Why? Two reasons.
1.       I like them.
2.       They were in the house. And that equals free.
Another thing you can do if you’re feeling spunky is to stir in an egg yolk or two off the heat.  This will add some richness, because you know: roux-thickened creamy, cheesy sauce isn’t rich enough. If you want to do that, temper them in:  put the yolks in a bowl and whisk in about half a cup of the hot sauce.  Gradually add more sauce, whisking madly all the while, to bring the temperature of the eggs up slowly. Because when the temperature rises too quickly, you’ll end up with wee pieces of scrambled egg. Not creamy. Not comforting.  Once you’ve added the egg yolk/s, keep the sauce hot but don’t let it regain a boil.
Now that you know what you’re going to do, you might ask how to make this without a recipe.  The only critical thing to decide is how much sauce you like to have per cup of pasta.  I like mine pretty loose with lots of cheesy goodness, so I go with about one cup of sauce per 2 cups of cooked pasta.  You can make more or less according to your taste.  If you’re not sure, err on the side of making too much. You can always save it in the fridge and use it within 5-7 days.  And not only for mac and cheese, either. Use it as a sauce for vegetables or on your burger, or dip French fries in it if you want.
To Make the Mornay Sauce
This is a very basic Mornay with no additional seasonings except salt and pepper.  Feel free to add your favorites.  For example, dried mustard and a hint of cayenne work very well with cheddar.

Per cup of dairy, you will need:
·         1 Tablespoon butter
·         1 Tablespoon flour
·         Salt and pepper, to taste
·         1 cup whole milk (you can use richer dairy for béchamel, but since we’ll be adding cheese to this, I’d stick to milk rather than half and half or cream)
·         About  ¾ cup grated cheese
Melt the butter over medium heat.
Whisk in the flour along with a heavy pinch of salt and black pepper and any other seasonings you decide to use.
  1. Cook, whisking constantly, for about 1 minute.
  2. Whisk in the milk and bring to a boil.  Let boil for about 30 seconds, whisking constantly.
  3. Turn the heat down and simmer to thicken and reduce slightly, about 5-10 minutes.
  4. Off the heat, whisk in the cheese, a handful at a time, until the sauce is nice and smooth.
  5. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper as necessary.
Now What?
Now that you’ve made your Mornay sauce, all that’s left is for you to add in whatever bits of cooked meats and/or vegetables that you want. Or just leave it plain.
When you’ve added whatever you want to your sauce, stir it well to evenly distribute the mix-ins and heat them through. Be sure to do this over moderate heat. You don’t want your sauce to boil now that you’ve put the cheese in. The cheese can break and you’ll end up with a mess.
Now, simply stir your sauce and your cooked pasta together. Taste it again and season it with some salt and pepper if it needs it. If you’d like it to have a bit of a kick, add a bit of hot sauce.  The whole goal here is to make something that is comforting and yummy for you, so just go for it.  Here are some ideas to get you started, including my own tuna/pea variation.
Mornay: Seasonings and Cheese
Topping (if Baking)
Tuna and Pea
Dry mustard and cayenne
White Cheddar and Parmesan
Fresh or Frozen Sweet Peas
Tuna (canned is just fine here)
Bread crumbs
Crushed potato chips
Melted butter
Patty Melt
Dry mustard and caraway seed
Gruyere cheese
Browned ground beef
Caramelized onions
Rye bread cut into small cubes and toasted
Melted butter
Mexican style
Minced chipotle in adobo sauce and cumin
Pepper Jack Cheese
Black Beans
Cooked Crumbled Chorizo
Finely crushed tortilla chips
Melted butter
Now go forth and create your own version of mac&cheese tailored to your and your family’s taste. I think you’ll enjoy it!  Thanks so much for taking the time to read, and thanks again to Nelly for letting me do my thing over at her place.

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  1. I love that handy little table! I’d never thought of all the different uses for one sauce!

    1. I’m all about the variations, Jenny:) Glad you found it useful–hope you make it sometime and add your own twists!

  2. I made a mistake up there, all! Under “To Make the Mornay Sauce,” where it says “melt the butter over medium heat,” the next direction should be to whisk in the flour with salt and pepper. Not the butter! Sorry for any confusion!

  3. Great informative post. I add all kinds of things to my mac and cheese too – buffalo chicken, bourbon chicken, pulled pork – the possibilities are endless.

    1. Oooh, buffalo chicken! And make the mornay w/blue cheese… 🙂 Mmmmm!

  4. I love that she just suggested that I dip french fries in mornay sauce!!! Mwahahahahhaaaaa, oh Jenni, you are so MY kind of gal!

    Diced things I like to add to my mac ‘n cheese: leftover london broil; crispy bacon; sweet/hot italian or smoked sausage; ham; or the skillet roasted paprika pork roast from my guest post here a few weeks ago. And peas. Or broccoli florets, I LOVE broccoli in my mac ‘n cheese.

    1. Hee, Micaela!! I would eat any version of your mac and cheese:)