18 July 2016

Cowgirl Creamery Cooks

Once upon a time...the short version.

Sue Conley and Peggy Smith were both from the D.C. area, but they met in a dorm room at the University of Tennessee. They became fast friends. After college, they worked in D.C. until they save enough cash for a beat up Chevy van. They packed it up and headed to San Francisco.

San Francisco in the 1970's was a hotbed for food innovation and what would later be called California cuisine. After several years, Peggy Smith wound up at Chez Panisse, spending nearly 17 years working there. Sue Conley worked at her own restaurant finally selling her share and moving to Point Reyes. With all those years in the food business, the duo knew just about everybody.  After becoming involved in an organic dairy, Sue called Peggy and suggested a new business.

As their barn was being renovated, they saw a guy ride up on horseback, tie his horse up, and stroll into the bank. When someone said it was the wild, wild, West, Sue laughed and said, "I guess that makes us cowgirls, and this is the Cowgirl Creamery." 

And the rest is...history.

With years of making award winning cheeses, the duo decided it was time to gather their favorite recipes into a cookbook, Cowgirl Creamery Cooks.  In addition to tasty cheese recipes, the book serves as a primer for eating, making, and putting together a fine and dandy cheese plate.

Now what would be the ultimate cheese dish? That would be mac and cheese. The most amazing thing about mac and cheese is that is, well, macaroni and cheese. Add those two ingredients and the possibilities are quite literally, endless.

 The Cowgirl Creamery's version features there own Wagon Wheel cheese along with a wagon wheel pasta, rotell.

Cowgirl’s Version of the Classic 

1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 pound large rotelle pasta
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk, at room temperature
1½ pounds coarsely shredded Wagon Wheel cheese
8 ounces coarsely shredded sharp white cheddar
5 slices bacon, diced, fried crisp and drained
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder (such as Coleman’s)
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
4 medium red heirloom tomatoes, cored and sliced

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart baking dish.

Bring an extra-large pot of water to boiling. Stir in the salt and rotelle. Cook the pasta until it’s just shy of being tender, 6 to 7 minutes. Drain well.

In a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt 6 tablespoons of the butter. When the butter is bubbly and fragrant, whisk in the flour to form a smooth paste. Cook, whisking, until the mixture turns golden, 2 to 3 minutes. While still whisking, slowly pour in the milk. Whisk over the heat until the mixture thickens and bubbles, an additional  3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

With a wooden spoon, stir in both cheeses, the bacon, pepper, nutmeg and mustard powder. Add the cooked pasta; mix well but gently.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a small pan, remove from the heat, and combine with the bread crumbs. Set aside.

Transfer the cheese mixture to the prepared baking dish. Arrange the sliced tomatoes in wagon-wheel fashion over the top of the pasta mixture. Sprinkle with the buttered bread crumbs.

Bake, uncovered, until the top is a nice golden brown and bubbling on the edges, 30 to 35 minutes. Let the dish cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Check out the Cowgirl Creamery web site for info in where you can buy their wonderful cheeses or you can sign up for a monthly cheese collection.

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