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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Twice-a-Year Macaroni & Cheese

I feel like I've been working on a Mac & Cheese recipes for ages. It's a hard one to test because it's so rich you really can't eat it more than once a month (at least I can't and that's saying something). I do have a plan to make a lighter, less health-devastating Mac (what one of my my aunts would call French-style), but that's not what I was in the mood for when I was working on this one. I call this Twice-a-Year Mac because it's seriously rich, but seriously delicious. So many Macs that I've had (and made) are too dry. The cheese and sauce are sucked into the noodles and you get good flavor, but not good sauce. I finally let go of the basic recipe I started from (Martha's) and tried some real experiments and - Voila! - it came together. I have Brussel Sprout and Kale Salad on the side so I don't feel quite so guilty.


Macaroni & Cheese
serves about 6

4 T butter
4 T flour
3 cups whole milk
2 cups grated jack cheese
2 cups grated Swiss cheese
4 oz cream cheese, cubed
1/2 t garlic granules
1/2 t paprika
1/2 t mustard powder
salt & pepper to taste
1 pound of noodles (anything short)
2 cups bread crumbs* combined with 2 T melted butter
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • The sauce takes about the same amount of time as it takes for water to boil and pasta to cook, so have that going while you work on the rest. It's best if the pasta is al dente since it's going in the oven at the end.
  • Over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large pan (you can cook the whole dish in this pan if you have one big enough). When the butter is bubbling, sprinkle the flour over the top and whisk it well to combine. Keep whisking until the flour is light brown. Pour in the milk and stock and whisk like crazy. Ok, you made the roux, that's the only hard part.
  • Sprinkle the spices over the milk/roux sauce and blop in the cream cheese. Stir until the cream cheese is mostly melted. 
  • Sprinkle in the jack and Swiss (or Gruyere if you feel like splurging) while stirring until melted. Keep the heat on the low side or the cheese might separate.
  • Stir in the al dente noodles and top with the breadcrumbs and Parmesan.
  • Put this in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. If the top isn't golden and the Parm melted, broil it for a few more minutes.
  • Let it stand for about five minutes before serving or you will burn the you-know-what out of your mouth.
* The best bread crumbs for this are homemade and cut like a small crouton. I take the crusts off of a few pieces of sourdough bread and cut them into cubes. Then I toast them in the oven while I'm grating my cheese. If you use really fine bread crumbs you'll probably only need about a cup.

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