Did you catch the episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” where Kid Rock escorted Guy Fieri to some of his favorite restaurants in the Detroit area? If so, you probably recall the mac & cheese made at the Clarkston Union restaurant. The restaurant is known for their mac & cheese, so much so that, according to Kid Rock, they “almost had some gangster activity goin’ on” when the recipe was stolen!
Being a suburban Detroiter, we decided to venture out to try some for ourselves. Alas, it seems there are several Detroit-area “Triple D” fans who had the same idea: http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/dpp/news/local/customers-flock-to-clarkston-eateries-following-food-network-showcase-20111214.
Instead of enduring the long wait at the restaurant, I decided to replay the episode and make my own rendition based on the description provided during the show. I’m not entirely sure how it compares to the original, but it is quite good nonetheless. Enjoy!
Step 1: What You'll Need:
16 oz. (1 box) Penne Rigate pasta
2 cups lowfat milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. each salt and pepper (more or less to taste)
1.5 cups (more or less) half & half
3 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. flour (not pictured)
2-3 cloves pureed garlic
1 small onion, thinly sliced
0.4 lb. (approx. 2 cups) shredded parmesan cheese
12-16 thin slices Pinconning cheese (or extra sharp cheddar cheese, for those of you not in close proximity to Pinconning, Michigan)
1 ½ cups (more or less) shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
½ cup (more or less) Panko crumbs (not pictured)
Step 2: Pasta
First, prepare pasta al dente according to instructions. Drain, rinse and cool. Set aside.
Step 3: Wet Stuff
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine milk, whipping cream, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Simmer on low heat to warm.
Step 4: Rue!
In a large skillet, sauté the onion and garlic in the butter over medium heat until the mixture becomes fragrant and the onions turn translucent. Add the flour and stir constantly. The flour and oil should combine to form a thick paste. Continue cooking until the rue has the color and consistency of peanut butter.
Step 5: Rue + Wet Stuff + Parmesan Cheese = a Cure for Detroit's Pothole Problem
Add the milk and cream mixture to the skillet. Stir constantly until the rue is thoroughly mixed. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil and allow the mixture to thicken, approximately five minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the parmesan cheese, and continue stirring to melt the cheese into the milk mixture. Once the cheese is melted, allow this mixture to cool as well.
Step 6: Build It Up
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
Place the cooled pasta in a large mixing bowl. Add the milk/cheese mixture, one scoop at a time, and mix with your hands (a spoon will also do). Add half & half as necessary to help mix the cheese mixture into the pasta.
Place a layer of the pasta mixture in the bottom of an oven-safe bowl or casserole dish. Place slices of the Pinconning cheese on top of the pasta and cheese mixture, then cover the Pinconning cheese with more pasta and cheese. Top with a generous sprinkle of the sharp white cheddar cheese, and then top the white cheddar cheese with the Panko crumbs.
Step 7: Cook and Enjoy!
Cook for approximately 12 minutes, or until the top layer of the mac & cheese turns golden brown.
Allow to cool and enjoy!
A few notes:
(1) this recipe produces a fairly dry mac & cheese. For those who prefer a creamier mac & cheese, consider adding more milk.
(2) The cooking times were the ones prescribed in the TV program. When I did this, it did not produce the thick brown layer on top. Consider cooking at a slightly lower temperature for a bit longer, followed by turning on the broiler for a few minutes if you would like to recreate the crust shown on the TV program.
(3) This makes for great leftovers! Simply add 1-2 tablespoons of milk to the mac & cheese and microwave until warm.