Add some flare to your mac and cheese

Published 3:03 am Saturday, October 15, 2016

The new Garden and Gun had several articles about new twists on Southern foods. The one that interested me the most was an Indian spiced macaroni and cheese. The story goes that a young Indian man named Vishwesh Bhatt, arrived at age 19, at the University of Kentucky from his home in Gujarat, India, and there he had his first taste of mac and cheese. He thought it was very bland. He asked his friends why they didn’t spice up their food!

mac-and-cheeseThe mac and cheese reminded him of his mother’s cheese sandwiches but she would add chopped onions, green chilies, and cumin seeds. “They were salty, spicy, and gooey in the middle.” So why not do this with the mac and cheese? So Bhatt doctored the dorm-room Kraft with the familiar flavors of home. Building on his budding talent for cooking, he hosted different parties for friends, which led him to paid gigs and culinary school. Bhatt began cooking with chef John Currence in Oxford, Miss., in 1995, and now he runs the kitchen at Currence’s Snackbar, where he oversees a French-Southern menu with a strong Indian influence: Kashmiri style creamed collards: Mississippi-milled grits spiked with mustard seeds, ginger, and sliced green chilies. This mac and cheese has a base of spiced-steeped cream that thickens without a roux. It is delicious. It makes a lot so I took some to my son and a friend in New Orleans and they thought it was fantastic.


Taken from October/November 2016 ‘Garden and Gun’

Indian Spiced Macaroni and Cheese

Serves 8

Ingredients for the cream:
1 quart heavy cream

Zest of 1 lemon

1 small shallot, sliced

1 clove garlic, smashed

1-inch piece of ginger, sliced

1 tsp. coriander seeds

4 whole cloves

1 tsp. whole black peppercorns

2 bay leaves

½ tsp. nutmeg


For the Pasta:

1 tsp. cumin seeds

2 tsp. whole black peppercorns

2 tbsp. + 2tsp. butter, divided

1 cup panko bread crumbs

2 shallots, minced

2 tsp. minced ginger

1 lb. shells or elbow noodles, cooked according to package instructions

4 cups shredded sharp white cheddar, divided

2 cups grated Parmesan, divided

Kosher salt to taste



To make the cream, combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to steep for 15-20 minutes before straining and reserving liquid. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat for 4 minutes, and then add cumin seeds and peppercorns. Toast for 1 minute or until fragrant, cool, then transfer to a ziplock plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin. Set aside. Next, melt 2 tsp. butter in the pan and add bread crumbs. Toss well and then toast until light brown (about 5 minutes), stirring occasionally. Set aside. Add remaining butter to pan and sauté shallot and ginger until soft and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in noodles, and then add toasted, crushed spices, spice-infused cream, and half the cheese. Stir until mixture is thick and creamy, and season with salt as needed.

Transfer mixture to a 2-or3-quart baking dish. Top with remaining cheese and toasted panko. (Or you can finish the dish in the skillet.) Bake until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 10-12 minutes. Serve immediately.