Deluxe Mac & Cheese

Recipe by Marc Liautard, executive chef, Barrel Room

Why did I leave France? Well, I was curious. I grew up in Clermont Ferrand in Auvergne in the center of France. One day, I answered an ad in a professional newspaper for a job in La Jolla and the restaurant owner picked me. I was, like, All right. Cool. America, here I come.

Being in La Jolla was like being in a movie because the only thing I knew about the U.S. was through soap operas and Hollywood and everything. So I was spending hours on the corner just watching the big American cars.

Very early in my childhood I helped my mom and dad with cooking and I loved it. With my parents I cooked a cake with cream filling. I used to have a very sweet tooth. We also cooked rabbit stews, lamb stews, and beef stews. These are the recipes that are tradition in my region of France. We have many different stew recipes and different ways to cook stew meats.

I studied at culinary school as soon as I could. I graduated in three years and was working. I still use many of the traditional French techniques at the Barrel Room. Everything here is made from scratch, even the dessert. I take time for the dishes I prepare and I believe you can taste that.

When I’m not working at the restaurant, I cook. It’s hard not to. This weekend I was experimenting with a shepherd’s pie but it didn’t work out so I won’t be using that. I did have success with a popular dessert — puff pastry and bananas and dark chocolate. Our customers ask for it all the time. For dinner at home I like cooking steak or pasta. Sometimes jambalaya. Yesterday I made some mac and cheese, but a deluxe version. Yep. It was milk, cheddar cheese, sharp cheddar, white wine, and cream. I added some nutmeg and bay leaf and let it simmer. Everything gets creamy. Sometimes I add honey-baked ham and sun-dried tomatoes. And there you have it — mac and cheese deluxe. Nothing about it is a secret. If it was a secret, I would not tell even you.


Serves 2–4

  • 16 oz. cooked macaroni noodles
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 pinches paprika
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1 1/2 cups Tillamook cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/3 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • dash of olive oil
  • 6 oz. honey-roasted ham, diced
  • 2 oz. sun-dried tomatoes, cut julienne style
  • 3 tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped


Cook macaroni noodles per the directions on the box. Set aside. In a large saucepan, combine the white wine, bay leaf, paprika, and nutmeg. Cook for about five minutes over high heat until reduced. Turn the heat to medium and add the cream and half-and-half. When the mixture starts to boil, remove the pan from the heat. Add both cheeses and stir until the cheeses melt. Add the cornstarch and season with salt and pepper to taste.

In another sauté pan, over medium heat, add a dash of olive oil and sauté the ham and sun-dried tomatoes. Add the parsley and sauté for about three minutes. Combine with the prepared ingredients and cooked macaroni noodles. Cook for an additional three minutes over low heat and then serve. Bon appetit!

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Sort of close to my own version, which I call "Gourmet" Mac 'n' Cheese. Mine is a side dish, so no ham and I add other ingredients, but that's a secret.

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