Sometimes you get an idea stuck in your head and have no idea how it got lodged there in the first place. That happened to me recently when I found myself thinking about “macaroni and cheese wellingtons” and no idea what sparked the thought. I recently made individual beef wellingtons so that does explain how there came to be an extra box of puff pastry in my freezer but still fails to explain the impulse to stuff it with mac and cheese.
So I made them the other day for a Sunday dinner and they turned out to be something I am going to be asked to make again at Thanksgiving — and at random craving intervals as dictated by my aforementioned better half. I leaned heavily into mushrooms to connect them to the idea of the duxelle that is often found in Wellingtons but you can go whatever way you want with the filling.
2 pound of penne pasta (you will have leftover mac and cheese and you will be happy about it.)
3 pounds of your favorite mushrooms (I used cremini and shiitake for this)
2 cloves of garlic
salt and pepper
several sprigs of fresh thyme
Oil for sautéing
1 quart of milk
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup of AP flour
pinch of cayenne pepper
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper
5 or 6 cups of freshly grated cheese (I used emmental and parmesan for mine)
1 package of thawed puff pastry
1 tablespoon of water
salt and pepper
How to make it:
Cook the pasta in heavily salted water to a little short of al dente, tougher than you would serve it, since it is going to cook again in the oven later. I would say 5-6 minutes is a good estimate. drain and set aside.
Slice and sautee your mushrooms with some minced garlic and fresh thyme. No matter how much you have in the way of fresh muhrooms it is going to feel like you want more when they are cooked down. You can definitely up the mushroom ratio. Toss with cooked pasta and set aside.
Begin heating one quart of milk over low heat. Do not let it come to a boil. You just want it warmed through so you are not adding cold milk to the roux. In another saucepan melt six ounces of butter over medium heat and add the 1/2 cup of flour. Stir with a wooden spoon. You want the flour to cook in the butter but not brown. When it starts to bubble it is ready for the milk. Throw in the nutmeg and cayenne and then add the milk while whisking. Cook until the mixture has thickened for two to three minutes. Remove from the heat and add the shredded cheese and stir until it melted in. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Butter the sides and bottom of a casserole dish with the remaining butter. Toss the macaroni and murshroom mixture with the cheese sauce and pour that into the baking dish. Refrigerate for at least four hours until the dish has firmed up and you can slice it into bricks. I actually divided my mac and cheese over two baking dishes so I could use one up for the wellingtons and froze the larger remaining one for Thanksgiving (when it may just be converted into Wellingtons again). You want the bricks to be around the size of a thick filet mignon — maybe 3 inches wide, 5 inches long and 2-3 inches thick.
Roll out your thawed puff pastry (you really want to look for one that is just made with butter and not other shortenings. I love Dufour Classic Puff Pastry which is always on hand at Whole Foods and online as well as a couple of other local markets) and slice it into four even sections. On each section diagonally place a brick of the mac and cheese. Brush the edges of the pastty with an egg beaten with one tablespoon of water to act as the glue. Fold up the corners to completley envelop the brick. There should be no gaps for cheesey goodness to escape during cooking.
Place the sealed bricks on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet and brush the exterior with the remaining egg wash. I then added some flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper to the top. Set your oven to 400 degrees and chill the pastries in the refrigerator until it comes to temperature. You want the pastry to be cold and it will have warmed up some in the handling.
Bake for 22 to 25 minutes until gold brown and dry to the touch. I served mine with a fresh arugula salad.