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Add a little pep to creamy mac ’n’ cheese

By Robin Domeier
You Asked For It
Restaurant writer Robin Domeier tracks down Charlotte restaurant recipes that readers have requested. Domeier is owner of Nibbles Personal Chef.

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  • Bull & Barrister Draft House and Grille

    WHERE: 3615 Mount Holly-Huntersville Rd., in the Callabridge Commons shopping center.

    HOURS: 11 a.m.-midnight Sunday-Thursday; 11-2 a.m. Friday-Saturday.

    PHONE: 704-971-3313.

  • Bull & Barrister’s Baked Mac ‘N Cheese

    12 cloves garlic, peeled

    1 teaspoon olive oil

    1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

    2 pounds Velveeta, diced into medium-size cubes

    1 1/4 pounds mild cheddar, shredded

    1 1/4 pounds white cheddar, shredded

    1/2 pound Asiago cheese, shredded

    3 3/4 cups 2 percent milk

    1/2 cup red peppers, diced small

    1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper

    1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds

    1 (16-ounce) box of elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions and drained

    PREHEAT oven to 400 degrees. Coat garlic cloves with olive oil and wrap them in a square of aluminum foil. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the cloves begin to soften and brown slightly. Cool.

    DICE the roasted garlic and combine it with the crushed red pepper. Set aside.

    COMBINE the cheeses, milk, diced red pepper, cayenne and fennel in a bowl that fits on top of a double boiler or a pan of simmering water. Place over the simmering water. Once the cheese begins to melt around the edges, begin stirring every 5 minutes to speed the melting. (Don’t worry if the mixture looks curdled. Keep stirring and it will smooth out as the cheese melts.)

    COMBINE 1/2 cup of the cheese mixture with 8 ounces of macaroni in an oven-safe dish (if making individual servings). If making 6 servings, combine 3 cups of cheese sauce with the entire box of cooked macaroni in an oven-safe baking dish. (Leftover sauce can be used to another dish, such as topping baked potatoes.)

    BAKE at 400 degrees until the top begins to brown slightly.

    SPRINKLE the chopped garlic-red pepper mixture on top.

    Yield: 6 servings.

  • Want a recipe?

    Are you looking for a recipe from a Charlotte-area restaurant? Send your request to Robin Domeier, Please include your name, why you like the recipe, the area where you live and the restaurant’s location.

Elizabeth Ryan of Charlotte writes: “My fiancé and I would love the mac ‘n’ cheese recipe from Bull & Barrister in Mountain Island Lake. Everyone who tries it agrees it is the best they’ve had. We have tried re-creating it at home, but cannot get the right creaminess or just the right spices, or even the right broiled crispness on top.”

The menu at Bull & Barrister lists the macaroni as “secret,” and truthfully, it took some coaxing to get executive chef Dan Glasser to part with the recipe.

Having had the macaroni and cheese, I understand why he was reluctant to give it up.

The sauce has a bit of a kick, thanks to some cayenne pepper. There are fennel seeds, which have almost a sweet, grassy flavor. Maybe that sounds odd, but the fennel does a suburb job of punching through the richness of all the cheese. Diced red pepper and roasted garlic are around for texture. And after the macaroni is baked, there’s a brown, chewy crust.

So I’d have an idea of what my final product should look and taste like, I popped into Bull & Barrister to try the macaroni. The restaurant bakes it in individual, 8-ounce portions.

After baking one large casserole and an individual serving, I like the individual method best. You get a larger amount of crispy top and the cheese seems to flow through the macaroni better, creating more creaminess.

Experiment with portion sizes to your heart’s content, because this recipe yields a large amount of sauce.

What to do with the leftovers? The sauce goes great on nachos and baked potatoes. You could even thin it out with more milk, throw in some cooked, diced potatoes and garnish with crisp bacon and green onions for a mean potato-cheese soup.

Robin Domeier is owner of Nibbles Personal Chef.
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