Mac & Cheese

Mac and Cheese (Closeup)

Image by sabine01 via Flickr

I love love looooooove mac & cheese.  I once had all my friends make their favorite mac & cheeses and we voted which one was their favorite and this one won.  It’s fancy and still retains it’s basic wonderful homey quality.  Enjoy!

It’s from May & June 2004 Cook’s Illustrated with some lazy adaptions by yours truly.

It’s crucial to cook the pasta until tender – just past the “al dente” stage.  In fact, overcooking is better than undercooking.  Whole, low-fat, and skim milk all work well in this recipe.  The recipe can be halved and baked in an 8-inch-square, broiler-safe baking dish.

Bread Crumb Topping – I use about a cup and a half of Italian Bread & about 3 tablespoon of butter.  (this is lazy me – they have you use 6 slices (6 oz) of good-quality white sandwich bread, torn into rough pieces 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces)

Pasta & Cheese

  • 1 lb elbow macaroni
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons powdered mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional – I totally option this.  yum.)
  • 5 cups milk (see note)
  • 8 ounces Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded (2 cups)
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)

1. For the Bread Crumbs: Get a nice size skillet and put the butter in and melt it up.  Add the bread crumbs.  Brown for about 5 min. Set aside (that’s the lazy me part – they have you pulse bread and butter in food processor until crumbs are no larger than 1/8 inch, ten to fifteen 1-second pulses. Set aside).

2. For the Pasta & Cheese: Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat broiler when you get to the 4th instruction.

3. In now-empty Dutch oven, heat butter over medium-high heat until foaming.  Add flour, mustard, and cayenne (if using) and whisk well to combine.  Continue whisking until mixture becomes fragrant and deepens in color, about 1 min.  Gradually whisk in milk; bring mixture to boil, whisking constantly (mixture must reach full boil to fully thicken).  Reduce heat to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened to consistency of heavy cream, about 5 min.  Off heat, whisk in cheeses and 1 teaspoon salt until cheese are fully melted.  Add pasta and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is steaming and heated through, about 6 min.

4. Transfer mixture to broiler-safe 9 by 13-inch baking dish and sprinkle evenly with bread crumbs.  Broil until crumbs are deep golden brown, 3 to 5 mins, rotating pan if necessary for even browning.  Cool about 5 mins, then serve.

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