'Miso-Cheesy' Japanese Mac + Cheese

This recipe is cheesy in many ways.

First, the name. That's extremely cheesy. 

Then the actual recipe, I mean, it's mac + cheese.

How bad can it be?

First thing you want to do is make the 'miso cheesy' sauce. Although the name is corny, you don't need any corn.

Begin by making a standard béchamel sauce or white sauce. (Detailed directions in recipe at the end of post).

Then add cheese.

Glorious, glorious cheese.

I used fontina cheese because it's a great melting cheese and doesn't have too much flavor to compete with the miso paste, but it still isn't as bland as a mozzarella cheese, for example.

Stir the cheese until it has melted into the sauce.

Then add the star of the show, the miso paste.

This is the kind I used (I found it at Whole Foods):

Add as much as you like, since saltiness is so personal. I added a 1/4 cup (a tablespoon at a time, tasting after each addition).

Once that's done, your sauce should be cheesy and stringy and you should have a strong desire to stick your face into it.

If not, you may need to start over.

Sorry bout it.

Now, set this sauce aside and boil the pasta.

While the pasta boils, make the breadcrumb topping.

I love it when mac + cheese has a crispy topping.

In keeping with the Japanese theme, I went with Japanese Panko breadcrumbs and a Japanese spice blend known as Shichimi Togarashi, it's a little spicy and a little sweet and it has tons of umami flavor. You won't regret buying this. 

I had a finely ground blend from Williams-Sonoma already.

Then I went looking for furikake, another Japanese spice blend traditionally sprinkled on rice. I couldn't find furikake in Whole Foods, and being the queen of, "there's no way in hell I'm making another stop," I decided to go with another shichimi togarashi blend that was much coarser, for textural contrast of course.

If you find furikake or already have some, try using it here. I'm sure it'll all work out.

This is the coarser shichimi togarashi I found at Whole Foods. It was from the organic spices line where the spices are in small square carton boxes. 

I melted some butter in a skillet, added the panko breadcrumbs and about a tsp of each kind of shichimi togarashi.

Mix it up and toast until golden brown.

Set the breadcrumbs aside, by the now the pasta should be about ready, drain the pasta and add it to the 'miso cheesy' sauce.

Stir until combined and transfer to an oven safe dish.

I chose a cast-iron skillet because Pinterest.

If it looks too saucy, it isn't, because it will bake in the oven and tighten up some more.

Top with the breadcrumb mixture.

Wrangle the skillet into the oven while your husky tries attacking you.

Take it out of the oven when it's bubbly and dig in!

Behold her in all of her magnificent glory.

 

RECIPE

Ingredients:

8 oz elbow macaroni
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup miso paste, or more to taste
1 cup shredded fontina cheese
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp shichimi togarashi/furikake (found at Whole Foods, Williams-Sonoma or Japanese markets)
1-2 tbsp butter (for bread crumbs)

Directions:

Melt butter and add flour, whisk and cook for a minute or two. Add milk and bring to boil, reduce to simmer and cook until thick enough to coat a spoon and hold a line (see images above).

Turn off heat and add fontina cheese and stir till melted. Season white sauce with miso paste and salt + pepper, if desired. Set sauce aside and boil the macaroni according to the instructions on the box.

Melt butter in a skillet, add breadcrumbs and togarashi/furikake and cook until lightly browned.

Drain pasta, stir into white sauce and transfer to baking dish, cover with breadcrumbs and bake till bubbly.

Enjoy!