Chef Josh Smith flew from Las Vegas to New York with a 3-loaf terrine mold in a white plastic garbage bag as his carryon luggage. Had there been a mac-and-cheese emergency on the plane, he'd have been prepared: the mold is essential to what his Vegas restaurant Bardot calls a "macaroni & mimolette gratinée" and what we call Crispy, Creamy Mac and Cheese. But whatever you want to call it, the fact remains that it's a fried mac and cheese terrine that will give every tryphophobia-haver serious pause.
The noodles look like some poor prep cook had to arrange them painstakingly in precise rows, probably with tweezers, but it turns out it's easier than that, due to hollow tubes of pastistio and the aforementioned terrine mold.
The noodles get cooked and then sauced with a cheese goop combo of mimolette, parmesan, sodium citrate and unholy amounts of creme fraiche.
After that, Smith stacks the long strands of pasta in the mold while they're still warm, so their cheese sauce can work its magic and firm them up as they chill.
Once they're set up, the whole cheese loaf gets unmolded, sliced, then carefully pan-fried.
At the restaurant, it's paired with a v. old-school French bechamel-and-onion sauce—because what pan-fried mac and cheese needs, obviously, is more rich sauce—and a shower of chives.
For us, because we're a super fancy and like to feel like we're healthy, he added a ton of fresh seasonal greens to the sauce before pureeing and then blanched a few more of those seasonal vegetables to go on top.
And about that blanching: this is a very precise man. He takes seasoning his blanching water very seriously, like calculator-and-kitchen-scale seriously. (He also claimed our induction cooktop, and its ability to set precise cooking temperatures by number, gave him a "kind of a standardization boner," so take that with a carefully-weighed-and-measured grain of salt) His pasta-water-salting instructions mean that the pasta gets so nicely seasoned that his cheese sauce doesn't get any salt, so if you're not as hardcore about standardization than he is, check your sauce seasoning.
Otherwise, this is a fairly soigné way to serve mac and cheese. If this is what all Smith's noodz look like, we're in.
MAKE THIS: Crispy, Creamy Mac and Cheese