Jean-Georges' Famous Family Mac And Cheese Is Topped With A Creamy Ingredient

If you don't know Jean-Georges Vongerichten by name, there's a good chance you've dined at one of his iconic restaurants in New York City, Miami, Los Angeles, or Nashville (among other cities). His restaurant collection, which includes ABC Cocina and ABC Kitchen, is known for sustainable, seasonal ingredients, and meat from humanely-treated animals. Even Vongerichten's former location, Mercer Kitchen, which closed in December 2022, featured delectable dishes like tagine of steamed black sea bass, chicken and coconut milk soup, almond angel food cake, and Vongerichten's famous family mac and cheese.

When it comes to his exquisite mac and cheese, Vongerichten can't take all the credit — it's his wife, Marja, who created the recipe. While there are a plethora of fun additions to jazz up mac and cheese – including bread crumbs, truffle oil, and bacon bits — Marja's creation doubles down (or should we say, quadruples down) on the cheese by incorporating a unique and creamy ingredient. Luckily for us home chefs, you probably already have it in your fridge.

Cream cheese creates a rich custard

In his book, "Home Cooking with Jean-Georges: My Favorite Simple Recipes," Vongerichten sings the praises of his wife Marja's homemade mac and cheese. "This is one of the most requested dishes in my home, especially when we have children over," he wrote. "Marja's always happy to bake it for a crowd, and everyone's always happy to eat it."

The dish's success may be credited to the four different types of shredded cheese it uses: extra-sharp cheddar, sharp cheddar, mild yellow cheddar, and Monterey Jack. But Marja also uses cream cheese as the secret ingredient that creates an extra-creamy topping. Right before baking the mac and cheese, the recipe dictates to disperse cold cream cheese cubes over the top, which will melt and bubble in the oven (via Food & Wine). The result is a crispy crust broken up by gooey cream cheese and a drool-worthy comfort food.

While Marja may only be featured in Vongerichten's cookbook, she also has her own, "The Kimchi Chronicles," which focuses on modern Korean recipes. Back in 2011, Marja and her husband hosted a PBS series funded by the Korean government, in which they ate their way through Korea to showcase the local cuisine. And although Marja's mac and cheese was a highlight of the Mercer Kitchen menu, she also influenced her husband to feature hotdogs with kimchi relish in the now-closed restaurant.