- Great Taste - 20140226 - Cowgirl Creamery and Melanie Wagner

Classic Mac and Cheese

Sue Conley, one-half of the the amazing creative team responsible for Cowgirl Creamery cheeses along with her collaborator, Peggy Smith, talked with me about their recently published book, Cowgirl Creamery Cooks. It's much more than a cheese book as it is filled with entrancing recipes, kitchen tips, and the personal story of the Cowgirls.  Mac and Cheese lovers make certain you check out their recipe for this classic soul-warming dish.  You can find it at the end of the post.

If you haven't experienced their organic cheeses made in Point Reyes, California, the Mt. Tam and Red Hawk are currently available at Whole Foods in Des Moines.  Gateway Market in Des Moines is expecting their next shipment of the same two cheeses the first week of March.  Both stores will have the seasonal special St. Pat cheese the first part of March.

Hello, Wine book coverIn the second half of the show, Hello, Wine author Melanie Wagner discusses the approach she took to what is, for many people, a complicated world that can seem daunting to newcomers and wine-lovers alike.  She absolutely opens the door and makes the wine universe accessible, interesting, and enjoyable to everyone from the uninitiated to someone who knows a bit about the subject.  In addition to Melanie's charming and engaging writing, the illustrations by her cousin, Lucy Engleman, add another layer of fun to the book.

Classic Mac and Cheese

Serves 4

This version is creamy and simple, so the flavor of your cheese comes through. Choose a good sharp Cheddar as a base; you need 16 oz/455 g of cheese plus the Parmesan. You can use all Cheddar or a combination of half Cheddar and half ends and bits. Some folks add parsley or other herbs before baking (as shown in photo). We like to make it without herbs.




2 tbsp

Unsalted butter

2 tbsp

2 tbsp

All-purpose flour

2 tbsp

2 1/2 cups

Whole milk

600 ml

3/4 cup

Heavy cream

180 ml

1 tbsp

Dijon mustard

1 tbsp

1 lb 

Grating cheese

455 g

1/4 tsp

Sea salt

1/4 tsp


Freshly ground black pepper


1/4 tsp

Hot sauce

1/4 tsp

12 oz

Pasta (elbow or corkscrew)

340 g

11/2 cups

Panko or fresh bread crumbs

170 g

3 tbsp

Grated Parmesan or other cheese

3 tbsp

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C/gas 6. Place a rack in the bottom third of the oven, and butter a 3 qt/2.8-L baking dish. Set a large pot of unsalted water over high heat.

While the water heats, melt the butter in a large saucepan. When the butter has finished foaming, stir in the flour, whisking until the flour takes on a little color, about 3 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and pour in the milk slowly, while whisking continuously. Return the pan to medium heat. Stir until the mixture begins to thicken (about 5 minutes) and then take the pan off the heat again; stir in the cream, mustard, and three-fourths of the cheese. Stir in the salt, a few grinds of pepper, and the hot sauce. Set the sauce aside.

Cook the pasta just until al dente. Drain (don’t rinse) and quickly stir the pasta into the cheese sauce, then pour into the prepared pan, scraping all the cheese sauce into the dish. Sprinkle the remaining grated cheese over the pasta. Sprinkle the panko over the cheese, and sprinkle the Parmesan on top of that.

Bake until the mixture is bubbling on the edges and showing some golden brown color on top, 25 to 35 minutes. Let the dish cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Mac and Cheese photo courtesy of Hirscheimer and Hamilton

Recipe from Sue Conley and Peggy Smith, Cowgirl Creamery Cooks, Chronicle Books (2013)