Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ooey-Gooey-Crispy Mac and Cheese

We've been bad about posting the last couple weeks, not because we haven't been doing much cooking (we have) but because we've been busy and it's been cold and gross. Today is not cold and gross. Today is lovely and warm (relatively speaking), with a pale blue, winter sky. I heard birds chirping, and when I was walking from the bus stop home I didn't even need to wear my hat and mittens.

However, down in the dumps weather has its advantages-- namely the creation of some wonderful comfort foods. I have no idea where my Mom got this Mac and Cheese recipe (not that's it's so different from many other such recipes). I associate this with a well-thumbed index card, located on the front end of one of my Mom's many recipe boxes. In the interest of full disclosure, I don't have the exact recipe with me, and thus I might be missing an ingredient or two/have my proportions off, but what I've got works too. Enjoy.

Mac and Cheese à la Cohen

  • 1 lb box of pasta (rotini works really well, as do shells, and of course you can't go wrong with elbows. I'd recommend shapes over spaghetti type noodles)
  • 3 TBS butter
  • 3 TBS all-purpose flour
  • dash of worcestershire sauce
  • 2 1/2-2 3/4 cup milk (I used 1%--the higher the fat content the richer the sauce. This could be a good or bad thing.)
  • 1 lb cheddar cheese, grated
  • dash of parmesan cheese
  • toasted bread crumbs (about 2 slices of bread worth. I used a couple pieces of whole wheat bread, but use what you've got)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • paprika (garnish)
  • Grease a casserole or a 9"x 13" pan. I prefer the deep-dish casserole types, but we don't have one. The 9"x13" is a decent substitute.
  • Put up water to boil and prepare the pasta
  • Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat (simple, right?). Add the flour and whisk vigorously for 2-3 minutes. It'll get super clumpy and golden-looking. Add the worcestershire sauce.
  • Add the milk, slowly, stirring to eliminate lumps, and let cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly. Milk burns super easily, so if this starts to happen you have the heat up too high. It should be on the low side of medium. Eventually, the milk will start to boil around the edges and thicken.
  • Remove the roux (that's the white sauce you've just made--congrats) from the heat, and stir in most of the cheddar, reserving enough to sprinkle fairly generously over the top of whatever pan you're using. Continue to stir until the cheese has melted. If you need to, you can turn the heat back on and keep it on low.
  • Dump the sauce onto the drained pasta and stir it up. At this point, it should look like a classy version of the stuff that comes out of a box. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Once the pasta and sauce are sufficiently mixed, dump the whole thing into your pan, pre-heat the oven to 375°F and get ready for toppings.
  • Sprinkle the bread crumbs all over the top of the Mac and Cheese and top them with the reserved cheddar and the parmesan. A dash of paprika makes a nice finishing touch.
  • Bake for 15-30 minutes, until the cheese is crispy to your satisfaction.
As a side note, the unbaked casserole will stay happy in a fridge for a day or two. Also, the unbaked casserole is super yummy too, and, whenever I make this, a few noodles inevitably disappear before being properly baked.

1 comment:

  1. Pretty similar to a recipe I use for a baked macaroni casserole. I like to split the cheese half cheddar half swiss and mix in 1.5 tsp of mustard power into the cream sauce before the cheese. I also really like to use panko (japanese bread crumbs) they're super crunchy.
    -Cousin Brian