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Feb 7, 2017
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WINE WITH…Mac and Cheese Provençale

There is no doubt that good old American mac and cheese is one of the world’s great comfort foods. For an occasional change of pace we like to bring in the flavors of Provence by topping the dish with Provence’s emblematic trio: tomatoes, garlic and a pungent dose of herbs.

We also like the fact that this particular recipe is a variation on the standard mac and cheese preparation in that instead of pre-boiling the macaroni, the uncooked pasta bakes right in the milk and cheese mixture until it is soft and succulent.

Mac and Cheese Provençale

Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons butter
3 cups whole milk (not skim or low fat)
1 cup whole milk cottage cheese
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
about 2 ½ cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 pound elbow macaroni or cavatappi
1 large or 2-3 smaller tomatoes, cut in ¼ inch slices
2-4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon oregano
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Grease a 6-cup baking dish with half the butter, reserving the rest.

Place the milk, cottage cheese, mustard, cayenne, ½ teaspoon of salt and some pepper in a blender and process until thoroughly blended. Pour the mixture into a large bowl and stir in 2 cups of the grated cheddar, reserving the remaining ½ cup. Cover the baking dish tightly (use foil if it has no lid) and bake for 30 minutes.

Uncover the pan and stir the macaroni. Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer on top of the pasta. Mix together the garlic, thyme, oregano, salt and olive oil, and spread each tomato slice with some of the mixture. Dot the pasta and tomatoes with the remaining butter and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Return the dish to the oven, uncovered, and bake another 20-30 minutes or until it has begun to brown around the edges.

* * *

This turns out to be a very adaptable dish when it comes to wine pairing. The creamy, cheesy sauce likes a rich white, while the garlicy tomatoes prefer a robust red. With the ingredients put together, both types of wine work just fine. Don’t go for too delicate a white or too tannic a red. Pretty much everything else should work just fine.

Because we think of mac and cheese as a weeknight dish, we limited the wines we tried to those with price tags under $25. We still found plenty to like.

Questions or comments? Contact us at Talkofthevine@gmail.com

Selection

Approx. Price

Comments

Bella Grace Vineyards, Amador County (California) Zinfandel

2013

$21

Succulent but soft, this wine still tastes briary and rustic. It didn’t overpower the macaroni, while complementing the tomatoes beautifully.

Bernier, Val de Loire (France) Chardonnay

2015

(Imported by Vineyard Brands)

$13

Always a fine value, this unoaked Chardonnay tastes clean and crisp, with fleshy stone fruit flavors but no hint of vanilla from barrels to clash with the cheesy sauce. Yum!

Fairview “La Capra,” Coastal Region (South Africa) Chenin Blanc

2015

(Imported by Vineyard Brands)

$11

Is there a better value in white wine than Chenin Blanc from South Africa? I can’t think of one. The wines are ripe and vivacious, with surprisingly vivid and compelling that echo autumn fruits like golden apples and sweet pears. And many of them cost very little. This example is a case in point. It loved the creamy dish, and the favor was returned in spades.

Liberty School, Central Coast (California) Merlot

2014

$16

California Merlot gets a bum rap nowadays. Especially in the under $25 price category, if offers significantly better value than either Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir. This rendition feels lush and tastes rich, without excessive sugar or oppressive tannins. Like mac and cheese, it provides comfort above all else.

Wither Hills, Marlborough (New Zealand) Pinot Noir 2012

(Imported by Distinguished Vineyards & Wine Partners)

$22

Oh, if only comparably priced American Pinot Noir could taste like this. The wine exhibits overt cherry fruit flavor, but it’s tart, like baking cherries, not sweet like maraschinos. It also provides plenty of refreshing acidity and a silky texture, something that allowed it to it pair very well with our equally silky dish.