Fall has finally fallen. I love the crisp air when I leave the house. There is something so satisfying about those brisk mornings and the colourful leaves as I walk down the street to catch my bus to work, swinging my briefcase full of freshly sharpened pencils and marked homework assignments. Of course, this being a food blog, I also love that September means the farmers’ markets still carry the last of the summer’s bumper crops. Yet, the stalls are also stocked with the golden colours of an autumn harvest.
In our household, the start of a new school year marks a change as Don and I re-adjust our schedules now that I’m back to work. After a long work week, I like to kick back and be, what my sister describes, a lazy panda. But, Don and I also like to spend a Saturday afternoon cooking something fun and different. As we both grew up with a mainly Asian diet, I find North American comfort foods such as mac and cheese, fascinating. As a child, my only taste of this dish was the occasional Kraft Dinner my mom purchased to make and serve as an after-school snack. However, while my siblings took a shine to it, I recall being less than fond of the powder cheese. I didn’t have my first taste of scratch mac and cheese until I was in my mid-20s when Don baked a dish for dinner one wintery evening. After that, I was hooked. It is a pasta dish I like to order when dining out. Wonderfully versatile, it can be served plain or with vegetables and/or meat. Baked or made stove-top. It can even be deep fried.
And, it is simply delicious as a waffle. Yes, I kid you not.
Having tried our hand at making tuna nasi goreng, an Indonesian fried rice earlier this summer, Don suggested making tuna mac n’ cheese waffles. We were inspired by a mac and cheese dish we had been served at Allium Restaurant (87 Holland Ave.) during tapas night. Delightfully cheesy, savoury and perfectly seasoned, the pasta was also al dente. The bread crumb topping added a lovely crunch to every bite. We wanted to replicate these textures as waffles.
What You’ll Need:
- 1 can (170g) Clover Leaf gourmet chunk white tuna sun-dried tomato in olive oil, drained
- 4 cups dried macaroni (not instant)
- 8 cups of water (enough water to cover pasta by 2”)
- 2 cups of milk
- 1 cup 5% cream
- 3 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups medium cheddar, grated and divided into 3/4 cup portions
- 3/4 cup Parmesan (or Grana Padano), grated
- Salt and white pepper to season
- Cooking oil for brushing
- Egg-wash (2 eggs + 2 tsp water) to coat
- Panko breadcrumbs to coat
- Place the pasta in a container that can accommodate 2 qt of liquid. Let the pasta soak for an hour, stirring occasionally. Afterward, drain the pasta and set it aside.
- Combine milk and cream in a pot and set it over medium-low heat. Hot dairy incorporates into a roux more easily than cold.
- Take another pot, one that can accommodate the milk and cream mixture, pasta, and cheese, and set it to medium heat.
- Melt the butter in the pot. Do not let it scorch. When the butter stops bubbling, add the flour, stirring with a wooden spoon. Cook the butter until it becomes a golden colour and you smell toasted nuts.
- Take the pot with what is now a roux off the heat. Switch to a whisk and slowly add the warm milk and cream mixture. Whisk everything until smooth. Replace the pot on the heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer until thickened.
- Add half of the cheddar and all of the Parmesan a handful at a time until completely incorporated. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the drained macaroni and cook for 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Lower the heat to medium-low as necessary. Take the mixture off the heat and incorporate the remaining cheddar. Set aside to cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, pre-heat the waffle maker. Spray the surface with cooking oil or lightly brush a thin layer of butter or shortening to avoid pasta sticking to the waffle maker. Set out a tray of panko crumbs and a tray for the egg-wash. With the mac and cheese still warm, but comfortable to handle, portion the pasta into round balls using a 1/4 cup dry measure.
- Coat the pasta ball in the egg-wash. Then, coat the ball in the panko crumbs. When the light indicates the waffle maker is hot enough, place the ball in the center and gently close the lid. Depending on the maker’s make and model, the waffle should be ready in a few minutes. Using a fork or a spatula, gently transfer the mac n cheese waffle onto a plate. Serve warm.
[Now, if you haven’t a waffle iron, shape the lukewarm mac and cheese mixture into thin patties coat and pan fry (or bake on a rack set over a pan in an oven preheated to 400F) until golden brown and crisp. If you want a fussier presentation, use a ring mold or empty tuna can (with both ends cut out) to shape the patty.]
How was it? Absolutely delicious!
The pasta was still al dente, but the waffle was also creamy and a bit sweet from sun-dried tomatoes, with a really nice crust and crispy edges.
In collaboration with Clover Leaf, there is also a giveaway! The prize: One winner will receive one $50 Clover Leaf Gourmet Tuna Prize Pack ($25 of Clover Leaf Gourmet Chunk White Tuna product and a $25 gift card redeemable at any Winners, HomeSense, or Marshall’s locations).