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Monday, August 01, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese

I think macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food.  I'm seeing it on the menu in more restaurants and often they have a variety of macs - like the local Jack's Restaurant and Bar, which has a choice of six different "Jack's Macs."  Over the years I've tried many recipes.  It's not a complicated concept - a roux, some cheese, some pasta. One of my favorites was a macaroni and cheese I made while on vacation.  We'd rented an apartment for a week and every morning we'd stroll to get a cappuccino, baguette and cheese.  By the end of the week we had a lot of bits and pieces of cheese so I used them all in a hodge podge mixture that was the best!  Since then I've been on the lookout for that one recipe - my go to recipe - and I think I have finally found it.  I've made this many times now and it is the dish that is requested when the college kid is coming home for some home cooked meals, it's the perfect drop off dinner for a friend, it freezes well, tastes good leftover and it's easy.  Can't ask for more.  The original recipe is here at epicurious.com - the recipe as I make it is below.  I use a bit less butter, fat free milk instead of whole milk and a little more pasta. A really strong, sharp Cheddar is the key.  This recipe makes a lot - perfect for sharing and or freezing.  I usually get two 9 x 12 pans out of this.  It's not something we have very often because let's face it - it's not exactly health food.  But it is the perfect thing when you just need a little comfort...

Macaroni and Cheese
For the topping:
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups panko bread crumbs
3 ounces coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar
1/2 cup grated parmesan

For macaroni and sauce:
1 stick butter
6 tablespoons all purpose flour
5 cups fat free milk
16 ounces coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar
1/2 cup grated parmesan
19 ounces elbow macaroni

Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in the middle

For the topping, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter, Combine the panko and cheese until combined well, mix in melted butter.  Set aside.

Get the macaroni going in a big pot of boiling water.  You will want to cook it al dente and be sure to reserve one cup of the pasta water.  While that cooks melt the 1 stick of butter in a medium saucepan over medium low heat and then stir in flour.  Cook roux, stirring, three minutes and then whisk in milk.  Bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly, then simmer, whisking occasionally. 3 minutes.  Stir in the cheeses, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper until smooth.  Remove from heat.  

When the pasta is done, drain it (don't forget to reserve one cup of the cooking water) and return it to the pot.  Stir in the cheese sauce and the cup of water.  Mix well and then put in your baking dishes (I sprayed the baking dishes lightly with olive oil).  It is a very soupy mixture (but don't worry, it bakes up perfectly) - you may want to ladle it into the baking dishes.  Spread the topping evenly on the macaroni  and bake until golden and bubbling, 20-25 minutes.

The original calls for putting it in two 2 qt baking dishes but I prefer to use a shallower pan so I can spread out more of that topping!  You can make one large dish and then a couple of smaller ones to freeze.  It's pretty flexible. 

3 comments:

Mindy said...

Um yeah, mac n' cheese is most definitely on my top 10 list of favorite foods. I could finish off an entire pan with nothin' but a fork. This looks fantastic and now my mouth is salivating.

Mindy said...

This is going to be our dinner tonite. I'm excited. :o)

Guinnah said...

oooh! I hope you like it :-) Yum!