Roasted Garlic + Chanterelle Mushroom Mac and Cheese

Roasted Garlic and Chanterelle Mushroom Macaroni and Cheese. I'll let that sink in for a minute.  

Ok, ready? This is everything a mac and cheese should be: cheesy, comforting, delicious, filling... It's definitely not your fluorescent Kraft macaroni and cheese, but it fills the need for a heartening winter meal when it's cold and raining outside and all you really want is a big bowl of cheesy noodles. We've all had those moments. Foodie that I am, though, I couldn't resist adding some grown-up flavors like earthy chanterelle mushrooms and creamy roasted garlic. Two fall flavors that I love. I also chose three different types of cheese because no one is ever satisfied with a mac and cheese that has only one cheese. Right? The cheddar adds a sharp zing while the sweet comte balances it out. The parmesan is there because pasta dishes always need parmesan.    

Let's talk about chanterelles for a minute. Chanterelles are delicious, especially sautéed in butter. They're super high in ergocalciferol (plant form of vitamin D) and they're even the Oregon State Mushroom because of their abundance in the Pacific Northwest. I've always secretly wanted to be one of those mushroom hunters who goes off into the woods and collects edible mushrooms to sell at the farmers market. I took a mycology class during my undergrad at St. Lawerence and another weekend course at Bastyr, but I'm far from being a mushroom expert. The only mushroom I'm 100% sure of identifying correctly by myself in the woods is the big, orange, fleshly, shelf-like fungus called chicken-of-the-woods. It really does taste like chicken. Noah and I have an ongoing competition (with a indeterminate prize) for whoever finds the best chicken-of-the-woods. So far I'm in the lead with the discovery of a decaying specimen found attached to a dead log on a beach somewhere along the north shore of the Olympic Peninsula. Maybe we'll have better luck next year... As for chantarelles, I'm sure I've seen them popping up out of the earth during hikes and walks through the woods, but when I think about sauteing them in butter and eating them I can't help but wonder if they're actually chanterelles. So I leave them where they are and buy mine from the mushroom hunters at the farmers market.     

// Roasted Garlic + Chanterelle Mushroom Mac and Cheese // serves 6-8
There's not much to say about this mac and cheese other than I hope you make it! It's really that good. If you're not into chanterelles you could substitute another mushroom or veggie like asparagus or snap peas, but I really wouldn't recommend it until you try this version. 

1 large head of garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch of salt and pepper

1 lb pasta such as elbow macaroni, farfalle, or cavatappi 

1 lb chanterelle mushrooms, ends trimmed
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups milk (whole or skim)
7 oz cheddar, grated
8 oz comte or mild gruyere cheese, grated
4 oz parmesan, grated, divided
1 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Large pinch of grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

8 oz sourdough bread, ripped into small pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut 1/4 inch off the top of the garlic head so the cloves are showing. Drizzle garlic with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap garlic in tin foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool

2. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente (not quite done). Drain and set aside.

3. In another large pot, heat 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the chanterelles and salt and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft and have released their juices. Spoon mushrooms and juice into a bowl and set aside.

4. In same pot, melt 5 tablespoons butter. Once butter is melted, slowly whisk in the flour until a thick roux has formed. Cook for 1-2 minutes, whisking constantly, until roux is golden brown. Slowly pour in milk and whisk until well combined. 

5. Once milk is warm, add grated cheddar, comte, and 1/3 of the grated parmesan. Set remaining parmesan aside. Add the thyme, nutmeg, and salt to the pot. Stir until cheese is melted. Remove from heat.

6. Place the bread in the bowl a food processor fitted with s-blade. Pulse until bread resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the remaining parmesan, olive oil, salt, garlic, and thyme. Pulse a few more times to combine.

7. Butter a deep 9x9” baking pan. Squeeze the garlic out of its husk into a small bowl and mash with a fork or back of a spoon until cloves are broken up. Add the pasta, garlic, and mushrooms to the cheese sauce and mix until well combined. Pour macaroni and cheese into prepared baking dish then top with breadcrumb mixture. 

8. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes then low broil for 5 minutes or until top has turned crispy and golden brown.