Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Macaroni and Cheese

I once went through a phase as a child where I would only eat macaroni and cheese. I don't really remember this phase much other than I got sick and ended up having to take some weird medicine that tasted like chalk.

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese by freshfromthe.com

Nonetheless, my love of macaroni and cheese did not diminish. In fact, I still love it to this day, grown up adult or not. I'm not sure why it's acceptable to like fettucini alfredo as an adult and not get one of those "oh you're such a kid at heart" looks when it's basically the same thing as macaroni and cheese with just a different pasta and type of cheese sauce. Come on people, don't make the mac and cheese lovers feel bad. You know you secretly love it too!

A lot of kids, on the other hand, sadly will not deign to try non-Kraft varieties of macaroni and cheese. To which I say: silly kids! True, the boxed macaroni is good (though I will argue that now I prefer the Trader Joe's variety to Kraft! Truth!), but if you like mac and cheese at all and are still skeptical about home varieties, I urge you to give this one a go. I really don't think you'll regret it.

You'll eat it and you'll like it! I command it so!

Macaroni and Cheese

  • 4 cups dried macaroni
  • 1 whole large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Bread Crumbs (a la Panko)
  • Optional other spices: season salt, cayenne pepper, paprika, thyme
Cooking Directions
  1. Cook macaroni until very firm - too firm to eat right away. Generally a minute or so less than the time listed on the packaging. Make sure to douse in cold water to stop them cooking once you drain. Set aside for now.
  2. In a small bowl, beat your egg. Set aside for the moment.
  3. In a large pot, melt butter and sprinkle in flour. Whisk together over medium-low heat. Cook this for five minutes, whisking constantly. You don't want it to burn.
  4. Pour in the milk and whisk until smooth. Cook for another five minutes until very thick, then reduce the heat to low.
  5. Take 1/4 cup of the sauce and pour into the beaten egg, whisking constantly to avoid cooking the egg. This is called tempering, and is done so you don't end up with scrambled egg bits in your sauce. Whisk until smooth.
  6. Pour this egg mixture into your sauce, whisking constantly. Stir until smooth.
  7. Add in the cheese and stir to melt. Leave some cheese out to top later.
  8. Add in the salt and pepper. Taste and add in more salt as you like. Don't be shy!
  9. Mix together with your cooked macaroni, stirring to combine into mac and cheese deliciousness.
  10. You can serve this now if you want, but no! Instead, you should preheat your oven back up at the beginning of all this to 375F and pour your mac into a buttered baking dish, top with the bread crumbs and extra cheese on top, and bake for 20-25 minutes until the crumbs have browned a little and the extra cheese is bubbly and golden. Go for it!
(Adapted from The Pioneer Woman)

In photos:

  Boil that water! Boil it all up! Also, preheat your oven to 375F if you're going to bake the dish - which you totally should!

 In go four cups of elbow macaroni. Cook those about a minute under what the packaging says you should.

Shred the cheese! One pound of sharp cheddar, if you please.

Drain the macaroni, douse with some cold water to stop it cooking, and set it aside for now.

In a good-sized saucepan, melt your butter and sprinkle in your flour, whisking to combine. Keep whisking that over medium-low heat for six minutes. You whisk to not let it burn! No burning allowed!

Pour in your milk. Cook for another five minutes, whisking intermittently.

In a small bowl, beat an egg. Sloooooowly add in 1/4 cup of the milk mixture, whisking constantly. Temper that egg so it doesn't cook through!

Add the egg mixture into your milk, whisking constantly until smooth. Now for the best part...

Dump in the cheese, man! Dump it in! But leave a little bit out to sprinkle on the top later.

Stir and stir and stir that cheese. Melting action! Once melted, mix in your salt, pepper and any additional spices you may want. Taste test that stuff - you don't want it to be undersalted.

Pour that into your macaroni! I did mine in a Le Creuset pot to bake in the oven. You can also do this in a 9x13 baking dish.

I mean. Yum.

Now if you want, you can stop here and call it a day. It's perfectly good to eat at this point - but don't you want to make it perfectly awesome to eat?

I know you do. You're going to want some of this action. OR, if you're feeling really adventurous, you can crumple up some potato chips instead. Gives it a fun crunch.

Sprinkle on the bread crumbs, yes yes yes. I probably used a half cup. You'll use more if you're doing a 9x13 pan. That's more surface area than something this deep. Math!

Remember that cheese you saved earlier? Now it gets to go on top of the bread crumbs! Melty top goodness is coming!

That baby's ready to go into your 375F oven for 20-25 minutes until the cheese is all melted.

Oh boy, oh boy, it's ready!!

So ready! You can add more cheese on top if you want, too. I just didn't save more than that. Silly me.

Scoop yourself a portion and dig in!

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