Have you seen this yet? Well, you should take a look. It’s Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese,  the brand new cookbook released by Stephanie Stiavetti  and Garrett McCord . And, it’s gorgeous! Truly stunning! Of course, with luscious photography by Matt Armendariz , I expected nothing less.
As a food blogger, I get quite a few requests to write cookbook reviews. Sometimes, I say yes. Most times, I don’t. It’s not that I don’t like discovering new cookbooks, because I do. But I hate the pressure, time constraints and feelings of obligation that often go along with writing a review. I like to do my own thing. If I like the cookbook, I don’t want to sound like I’m gushing. If I don’t…well…then things can get awkward… And sometimes, it seems like no matter what I say, someone involved is not happy about it. I remember one time, I published a glowing review, and the author’s publicist demanded that I rewrite it using his exact verbiage. Now, that really ticked me off! I pulled the post and sent the cookbook back.
But, I couldn’t have been happier (or more flattered) to be asked to offer my opinions on Melt. For one thing, Stephanie and Garrett are both respected food bloggers, who have contributed much to the food blog community. For another, I’d been following along (and salivating) as they tested each recipe and shared their progress on Facebook and Twitter. I also know them both and like them very much. And perhaps the most compelling of reasons, I love cheese and pasta, which are the foundations of all of the recipes in the book.
You’ve probably already seen several other write-ups and publicity pieces about Melt. I’m just one of many that were invited to review the book. But I have to tell you, I am impressed. Not only are the pictures drop dead gorgeous, the recipes are unique, fresh and inventive – elevating the humble mac ‘n cheese to new heights. This is cozy comfort food at its sophisticated best. You can just throw out the Blue Box now, dear readers, because you’ll never be satisfied with it again!
The first recipe I tried from Melt was for Red Hawk Macaroni with Prosciutto and Raspberry Jam. Red Hawk is a triple-cream, washed-rind, full-flavored, cow’s milk cheese from Marin County’s famed Cowgirl Creamery . It has an earthy, nutty flavor that can border on funky – but in a good way. Having won many awards over the years, Red Hawk is one of the jewels in Cowgirl Creamery’s crown. The cheese is paired with pops of the rich, salty savoriness of prosciutto, tossed with elbow macaroni and baked in a bath of sweet cream. The finished dish is then served with a lovely, little dollop of raspberry jam, which is utterly brilliant. I won’t even try to tell you that this is healthy diet food. It’s a splurge – pure and simple. But, doesn’t everyone need to splurge now and then?
Melt isn’t only about the recipes either. It’s a loving tribute to cheese, with tutorials on how to buy it, store it and how to enjoy it. There is also a detailed section on the different varieties of pasta, as well as a resource guide and list of online sellers. The book is engaging, encouraging and inspiring!
Here’s my mac ‘n cheese, going into the oven. I had to fight to keep Mr. SGCC from sticking a fork in it, right there and then!
Creamy and salty, with a little hit of sweet, this was one sumptuous, seductive and all around incredible dish!
Do yourselves a favor, people. Get a copy of Melt. You’ll be glad you did! It’s a lovely, lovely book! And, if I sound like I’m gushing, it’s because I am.
Red Hawk Macaroni with Prosciutto and Raspberry Jam
from Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese  by Stephanie Stiavetti and Garrett McCord, Courtesy of Little, Brown and Company
8 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni
1 full wheel Red Hawk, rind intact, chopped into chunks
4 thin slices prosciutto, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups heavy cream
4 tablespoons raspberry jam (plus more per your indulgence)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain through a colander and set aside.
In a large bowl, mix pasta, cheese and prosciutto. Sprinkle with salt and a few good turns of the pepper grinder. Toss until well combined.
Lightly oil four 8-ounce ramekins and fill them with equal amounts of the pasta, cheese, and prosciutto mixture. Add a scant 1/2 cup of cream to each ramekin.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place your ramekins onto the sheet. Slide into oven and bake for 35 minutes, or until the cream has thickened into a nice gratin. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes. The cheese is supposed to bubble over the edges of the ramekins – that’s part of the charm of this dish. And it’s why you lined the baking sheet with foil.
Top each ramekin with 1 tablespoon raspberry jam before serving. Add more spoonfuls of jammy goodness if you see fit.
Promotional Photos: Matt Armendariz, Courtesy of Little, Brown and Company