A little background: Several months ago I was reading about a couple of restaurant meals enjoyed by a blogger with a weakness for macaroni and cheese. She lamented that the servings are always too big (especially when you consider that it's never, really, your main course; you've ordered one of those too).
I suggested in a comment to her that restaurants ought to offer mac 'n' cheese "cupcake-style," that is, in small, individual pots with maxed-out flavors and pretty toppings and all.
She liked the idea so much, she wants to put it on her "imaginary restaurant" menu. Imaginary restaurant! Great idea, but a whole different subject.
Today the subject is macaroni and cheese. And, taking a hint from me, I made mine in individual pots with maxed-out flavors and pretty toppings and all.
Briefly, I'll describe them, but you're on your own for concocting a recipe. Not only are these recipes Cookiecrumb-style, they're lazy (oh, wait, that is Cookiecrumb-style). No bechamel. Just noodles, cheese and flavors, melded with a spurt of cream, every one of them topped with buttered breadcrumbs, and baked until done.
1) Dungeness crab chunks stirred into cooked elbow macaroni with heavy cream, cream cheese, a pat of truffle butter, tarragon, salt and pepper. Crab was the star here, though goat cheese might have worked instead of cream cheese.
2) Point Reyes Farmstead blue cheese stirred into cooked elbow macaroni with heavy cream, sautéed sliced scallions and sautéed chopped maitake mushrooms — plus salt and pepper.
3) Pizzaroni! This was made from chopped pepperoni stirred into cooked elbow macaroni, with egregious proportions of chopped mozzarella, a little grated dry Jack cheese, some heavy cream, sautéed chopped maitake mushrooms, a squirt of tomato paste from a tube, a squirt of anchovy paste from a tube, dried red pepper flakes, a good pinch of dried oregano, and a drizzle of kalamata olive juice. (You ordered olives, right?) Grated parmesan cheese over the crumbs.
OK. Verdicts? The pizza mac wins for over-the-top tastebuds-jangling weirdness. Just awesome; it tasted exactly like cheap-ass pizza, and it makes me want to dream up a cheeseburger mac next. The crab mac was silky and subtle with a truffled thrill; perfect for January and very grown-up. The blue-cheese/mushroom mac was perhaps the easiest and least expensive bang for the buck: swanky and mouthy.
Next time I'm thinking something with feta and olives. Well, after the cheeseburger mac.
Update: Oh, Kevin, Kevin, Kevin, my mac 'n' cheese partner in crime. You think you've been so pure, using bacon, when all I'm "cheating" with is this dumb slide show? (I'm disabling the slide show tomorrow, by the way; it's really munching my computer's memory.)