Friday, January 19, 2007

Mmmmmmmac and cheeeeeeeeeese

One of my favorite comfort foods is mac and cheese, but I rarely make it because, unlike most things, I find that the mac and cheese I get in some restaurants is better than what I can make at home. It's because I haven't had a really good recipe for mac and cheese. I don't like many of the baked versions because they are too dry. And the non-baked versions are too gloppy, dripping with cheese. I like macaroni with enough cheese to coat the pasta without drowning it, but I like it chewy; not hard, nor crunchy.

So, when Jess asked for mac and cheese the other night, I thought I’d better try something different than my old recipe. Because my old recipe was too gloppy and too salty, I decided to look another up online. Not knowing what I was really looking for, it was just a wild guess as to what would produce the proper product.

I found a recipe that I thought might work. Of course, I had to embellish upon it somewhat, because I don’t like it made exclusively with cheddar. I have never found a cheddar that is perfect all by itself for mac and cheese. Even though Cracker Barrel Vermont Sharp White is about the best cheddar there is, it’s not perfect all by itself in mac and cheese. You need a blend.

So I blended. And what I wound up with was delightful. Baked, yet creamy, with a slightly browned top that was wonderful and firm, but not crunchy. Simple, too. And Jess loved it, which is the really important aspect for me.

Macaroni and Cheese

1 1/2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups half-and-half
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 1/2 cups grated sharp cheese, divided
6 slices American cheese (Kraft)
freshly ground kosher or sea salt, to taste
1 tbsp. plain bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350°. Cook macaroni in boiling salted water according to package directions; drain well and set aside. Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Blend in flour with whisk, stirring constantly, until smooth. Gradually stir in half-and-half. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture boils and thickens, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add mustard, paprika, pepper, American cheese and 2 cups of the cheddar; stir until cheeses are melted and sauce is smooth. Combine sauce with the macaroni and add salt to taste. Place in a buttered 1 1/2-quart casserole dish. Garnish top of casserole with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese; sprinkle breadcrumbs lightly over all. Bake 25 to 30 minutes. Use convection and a shorter baking time if you like yours more browned on top.

Don’t skip the dry mustard! Don’t substitute milk for the half-and-half unless it’s whole milk. The results won’t be as good. And don’t use lowfat cheese; what’s the point? You’re eating pasta, with cheese and butter, for heaven’s sake. Indulge. I can guarantee you that the mac and cheese you’re eating at your favorite restaurant isn’t being made with 2% milk, buttery-flavored spread, and lowfat cheese. This one is all about the ingredients.

Serves 4 to 6.

8 Comments:

At 6:09 AM, January 20, 2007, Blogger Cincy Diva said...

I am not a huge mac and cheese fan either. I abhor the box versions. This one sounds like a good one to try. Now go hug your boyfriend!

 
At 10:29 AM, January 20, 2007, Blogger Jess said...

It was wonderful and just the right thing for an evening that called for comfort food! Thank you, Bokey!

 
At 11:32 AM, January 20, 2007, Blogger Marc said...

Cincy - yes I don't consider the boxed versions to be "real" mac and cheese.

Now you got me to thinking - when I was a kid, there was a woman we knew from church who was a marvelous cook and she happened to be the supervising cook at the high school I went to. The woman could make some mac and cheese! I should ask her for her recipe! But this one is actually quite close.

 
At 12:12 PM, January 20, 2007, Blogger pinknest said...

oh sounds delicious! thanks for the recipe. although i do like a bit of crunch to the top. i abhor low-fat cheese. it tastes so disgusting!

 
At 7:42 PM, January 20, 2007, Blogger MzOuiser said...

I am SO trying this. And yes, trying to make Mac-n-Cheese a diet food is ridiculous... although I admit loving the boxed stuff. Nobody in my entire family, or my friends, ever made it from scratch, so I never learned the difference until I was in my late twenties!!

BTW - Smac Sarita's! Mmmm...

 
At 9:59 AM, January 26, 2007, Blogger OnlyInTheSouthEnd said...

If I can make a tastey, yet health conscious Kugel I think I can take on the challenge of making this Mac and Cheese recipe health conscious as well. Oh and yes, my health conscious Kugel is a rave at my Congregation dinners and nobody believes me when I tell them it is low fat. Any Kugel maker knows that its loaded with butter, sour cream and cheeses!

 
At 2:40 PM, January 26, 2007, Blogger doggybloggy said...

this sounds tasty to me..low fat..what is that?

 
At 11:45 AM, January 27, 2007, Blogger Marc said...

Josh - cheeses?! Cream cheese and maybe cottage cheese? I can't imagine any other kinds to use! I love a great Kugel, but most everyone's is too dry for me! A great Kugel that I really loved was my mother-in-law's...and alas, she is gone, so I can't have that anymore, and don't have the recipe!

doggybloggy - Welcome! It is really good.

 

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