In Which There is MORE Mac ‘n Cheese

As I’ve cooked my way through the first few months  in the apartment, I’ve established a few culinary goals:
1. Make macarons (too scary. TOO SCARY.).
2. Make bread (we keep planning on it but still haven’t).
3. Find a mac ‘n cheese recipe that my future children will be proud of.
I think I’ve done the third one. Finally. Some would disagree (*cough cough* Boy), but I think this is excellent, cheesy, kid-friendly mac ‘n cheese. You are probably thinking, “Mac ‘n cheese, that’s not so hard. I make mac ‘n cheese from a box with powder all day every day. I make mac ‘n cheese in my sleep.” Well, I wanted a from-scratch recipe (crazy, I know), and we’ve already tried at least two (maybe three?) with no luck. So thank you, Rebecca Krump. I can die happy now. Or at least make children happy. Hopefully without dying.
Anyway – this mac ‘n cheese starts, as most do, with cheese:
CHEESE, o sweet nectar of the gods.

Then you melt the cheese with some milk and butter and other stuff:

Sweet, SWEET nectar.

Then you make pasta and add to the cheese:

Sweet, sweet cheesy pasta…

Add MORE cheese…(here I stopped and wrapped and refrigerated for final cooking day-of, hence all the wordy wordiness you’re about to see):

MMM SO MUCH CHEESE.

And finally you cook it so the top cheese gets all bubbly and crusty-cheesy in the best way, and the part underneath gets hot and all melty-cheesy in the other best way.

OH GOD CHEESE.

And then you eat it. And think how happy your future children will be.

Look, we had a salad too. To highlight the CHEESE.
Macaroni and Cheese
I suppose somewhere I have to give you the bad review as well as the good – the Boy liked this mac ‘n cheese, and agreed that it was the best of all our attempts thus far, but he still feels we can do better. He thinks there’s something more interesting out there, basically. I, on the other hand, while happy to keep searching through the gooey and delicious world of cheese on pasta, think this is a great basic mac ‘n cheese to satisfy all your comfort-food cravings. I mean, CHEESE, people. And plenty of it. What’s not to love?

Yield: 3-4 Servings
1 1/2 c. (6 oz.) grated extra-sharp cheddar
1 c. (4 oz.) grated monterey jack
1/2 c. (2 oz.) grated parmesan or gruyere
2 1/2 c. milk
3 tbs. unsalted butter, plus more for the dish
3 tbs. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground mustard
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. minced garlic (optional) [I used this. We love garlic.]
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
Dash of cayenne
1/2 lb. (8 oz.) elbow macaroni
Hot sauce (optional) [I skipped this, but the Boy added some to his post-cooking]
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Set a baking rack in the top-third of the oven. Butter a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish (or an 8″-by-8″ baking dish). Set aside.
Combine the cheddar, Monterey Jack and Gruyere cheeses in a medium bowl. Transfer 1 cup of cheese to a small bowl; reserve for topping.
In a medium saucepan, warm the milk over medium heat.
In a Dutch oven or saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter. Add flour immediately; whisk to combine for about 1 minute. Raise the temperature to medium, and slowly whisk in the milk. Bring it to a boil to thicken, whisking the entire time. (You might need to raise the temperature slightly to get things going.)
Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the mustard, salt, garlic, pepper, nutmeg, cayenne and the 2 cups of mixed cheeses (from the larger bowl). Set the cheese sauce aside.
Fill a large saucepan with water, and bring it to a boil over high heat. Add macaroni. Return the water to a boil, and cook for about 10 minutes. Drain well, and add pasta to the cheese sauce. Stir to combine. Taste, adjust the seasonings, and add hot sauce, if you wish.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Top with reserved cheese, and bake in the top-third of the oven for about 25 minutes, until the top is golden brown and bubbly, but the inside is still creamy.
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