Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Smoked Salmon and Dill Macaroni and Cheese

Cedar Grove Smoked Salmon and Dill Macaroni and Cheese

Yields 6-8 servings

I first met Bob Wills from Cedar Grove while working on the documentary “Living on the Wedge: Wisconsin’s Artisan Cheesemakers.” I bumped into Bob at the Splash! Great Lakes Water Conservation Conference reception in November and had a chance to try the new addition to the Cedar Grove line: Artisan Cheddar with Smoke Salmon and Dill.

It inspired me to create this “adult” version of Mac and Cheese for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing's 30 Days 30 Ways Macaroni and Cheese initiative. It's quick but very elegant. The chunks of smoked salmon and minced dill in the cheese give you a head start in the flavor department. This Mac and Cheese makes a great weekend main dish accompanied by a dark green salad and a glass of Prosecco. (See the wine pairing notes below.)

This dish will make everyone think you’ve been slaving away in the kitchen for hours, when it really came together in less than 20 minutes from draining the pasta to putting in the casserole into the oven.


A dash of salt

A drizzle of olive oil

1 pound Campanelle* or other macaroni

1 pound (16 ounces) Wisconsin Cedar Grove Smoked Salmon & Dill Cheddar

3 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 tablespoon flour

1 1/2 cups milk

2 cloves garlic, finely diced

1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

1/2 cup of moist sun-dried tomatoes**, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

Fresh parsley for garnish


Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and olive oil. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Add the pasta to the boiling, salted water. Campanelle are little bell shapes that usually take 10-11 minutes to cook. Check package directions.

While the pasta cooks, cube the cheese and cut the sun-dried tomatoes into 1/4 inch bits.

When the pasta is ready, drain it and set aside in a different bowl. Using the same pan melt the butter over medium-low heat.

Briskly whisk in the flour and make a quick blonde roux. Keep the roux moving as the flour toasts: about 5 minutes.

Stir in the milk, garlic, and cayenne into the roux. Simmer on low.

Next, add the Cedar Grove Smoked Salmon and Dill Cheddar to the sauce and allow it to melt.

Stir often, don’t allow the sauce to stick.

Add the sun-dried tomatoes to the sauce and stir well.

Meanwhile, butter a 9 by 13 inch casserole dish.*** Add the drained pasta to the dish. Pour the sauce over the pasta. Toss gently.

Bake for 20 minutes. Switch the oven to broil for the last 5 minutes to brown the top.

Garnish with fresh parsley and serve with a dark green salad.

*I used Barilla Campanelle because it has a texture that is close to handmade pasta.

** I used Tuchten Moist Sun-dried Tomatoes because they are so meaty and don't need to be soaked.

*** I used two round baking dishes because they photograph better.

Wine Pairing Notes by Damien from Candid Wines:

“Maybe its the time of year, or maybe its the richness of the dish, but your recipe screams out for bubbles. Well made prosecco, with good acidity and bright fruit will complement the dish without breaking the bank, and for a comfort-food meal, I think that is important.

We work with the Spinazze family who make Santome extra dry Prosecco from 100% prosecco grapes that would be perfect. With a touch less heat, you could also use a Brut rose. The richness of the cheese needs some acidity and the smoked salmon will likely disagree with tannins of a dry red, but pink is perfect.

If you can't find a pink sparkler that works, look to a dry rose. The key with Rose to me is often finding a winemaker who loves pink wine as opposed to a wine made as a brand. in our lineup, Fred Scherrer and Joey Tensley are two such wine makers. In wine, as in food, it pays to know your producers!

At the same time salmon and cheddar make me think of red fruits so why not use a sparkling pink wine? I would let the amount of heat dictate the sweetness in the wine; the more peppers used, the more residual sugar I'd look for.”