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Comfort Food: Mac & Cheese

January 17, 2010

Comfort food.  A cliché?  Overrated?  NO WAY!

I have tried for ages to find the macaroni of my youth.  Not the macaroni and cheese made by my grandmother or my mother, but the macaroni and cheese served in the cafeteria at my school – not necessarily the flavor, but the texture.  I thought I was the only one who might like that kind of mac & cheese, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.  I served it on Christmas Eve to rave reviews from my friends and their families and in talking about that lots more have said that “cafeteria” macaroni has been what they were looking for as well.  How strange is that?

There are millions of recipes out there.  Martha has her $40 version, of course.   I think this is one of those foods that is so engrained in us that anything less than “the one” is a waste of time, regardless of how expensive or exclusive the ingredients are.  I am going to leave the cheese choices up to you, but I have made this with lots of cheesy cheeses in various amounts: Gruyère, cheddar, white cheddar, American, and bleu.  The important thing to remember when experimenting with cheeses is to start slowly.  Add a cup of cheddar and a cup of Gruyère.  You’ll need more, but which way do you want to go?  What flavor are you looking for?  Want more zing?  Go more Gruyère.  Still more?  Add a handful of bleu cheese crumbles.   Taste and add, taste and add.  You will finally find that thing you’re looking for and it will be your own wonderful creation.

Sadly, I have to admit that my favorite has no fancy-schmancy cheeses in it.  I like mine with plain, sharp cheddar.  It’s worth the bloody knuckle and the extra time to shred your own, too.  The flavor is much better when you shred your own and you may be able to cut back the amount a little  (saving you a calorie or two).

Macaroni:

Boil 2 cups of dry elbow macaroni in salted water until tender, drain, and rinse.  Set aside.

Cheese Sauce:

Slightly beat 3 eggs in medium-sized bowl.

 

Shred 4 cups of cheese.

Combine:  1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. pepper, 1 tsp. ground mustard, 1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg

Measure and set aside 4 cups of milk.

Start by melting 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup) in a large sauce pan over medium heat.  Add four tablespoons of flour and whisk for three or four minutes.

 

Add two of the four cups of milk to the butter/flour.  Whisk for about three minutes.  Pour 1/3 of the milk mixture to the bowl of eggs (to temper).  Beat eggs & milk and then add back to the sauce pan.  Add the 1 1/2 cups of remaining milk and continue whisking until thick.

 

Add the cheese.  If you are experimenting with flavor, add them slowly so you can taste as you go along.  Whisk all cheeses until melted and add spice mixture.  When the cheese sauce is smooth, pour over prepared macaroni.

 

Mix it all together and pour into a greased baking dish.  Thick or thin – whichever way you like it.  I make mine in a bigger, more shallow pan because I like the golden, crusty stuff that forms on top and you get more of it that way.  HA!

Bake at 350 for about 35 – 40 minutes on the middle rack until he top is golden.

 Yum.  Welcome to my favorite 4th grade lunch.  All you need now is some square fish.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Tanya permalink
    January 18, 2010 12:07 pm

    Yum Yum Yum….

  2. momromp permalink
    January 19, 2010 5:41 pm

    You have absolutely made my day! I have yet to find a mac and cheese recipe that matches that great taste from childhood. I can’t wait to try this. (I swear, you’re making me at least two pounds heavier with each food post you write.)

  3. momromp permalink
    January 29, 2010 12:04 pm

    Just wanted to tell you that I made your recipe last night (I used a mix of regular cheddar and sharp and yes, I grated the cheese myself as per your suggestion). SO GOOD! Even my extraordinarily picky daughter ate it happily.

    Thanks!

    • January 30, 2010 7:32 pm

      HOOOOOORAY!~ I am so glad she liked it!

      We have fallen into that old southern tradition ~ Sunday = fried chicken with macaroni & cheese! My mouth is watering already 🙂

      Thanks momromp!

  4. Lisa permalink
    March 4, 2010 2:34 pm

    Ann – I thought you forgot about posting a mac n’cheese recipe, yet I was poking around Lemon Tart today and here it is. I cannot wait to try this. Great idea on using the shallow pan. XOXO Lisa

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