Mac N’ Cheese


Good old macaroni and cheese. From my personal experience, it was a staple elementary school cafeteria dish, usually served as a mess of congealed macaronis stewing in a puddle of melted processed cheese. When I moved on to middle and high school, I tried to recaptured that nostalgia with 25 cent packs of Easy Mac, which somehow managed to taste even crappier with its faux cheddar tang (that tasted nothing like cheddar) and unnatural orange coloring. The venerable mac n’ cheese is one of the most iconic and yet most bastardized of American comfort foods.

Here is a basic recipe for real macaroni and cheese. Nothing fancy, nothing difficult. From this recipe endless modifications can be made, to spawn as many variations of baked pasta as you would like (but not lasagna, which is something different). If, like me, it has been a while since you have had macaroni and cheese, this is a good dish to try.

Ingredients

Such lucious breasts you missed out on.

What? Real cheese? Preposterous. But the dish is called "macaroni and cheese", not "macaroni and processed cheese product (now with real milk!)".

Cooking time: ~1 hour

8 oz dried macaroni*
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
milk**
bread crumbs***
2 cups cheddar****
salt
pepper
nutmeg

You will also need: A pan, a pot for pasta, and an oven-safe vessel which will be the ultimate resting ground for your finished dish.

*Many varieties of pasta can be used, really. I’ve even seen linguini cut into small pieces to make this.
**You need at least 1 1/2 cups, so make sure your milk carton/bag/jug isn’t almost empty.
***You can buy them or make your own. Method for making own bread crumbs is shown below.
****Fancier recipes call for a mixture of cheddar and gruyere, and possibly some goat cheese. I decided to forgo gruyere since it is quite expensive in the US.

Cooking

First, let’s start with the breadcrumbs. If you have store-bought breadcrumbs you can skip this part. Some weeks ago when I first conceptualized this blog I intended to make baguettes ahead of time to make breadcrumbs, but that didn’t happen for various reasons.

All you need is a baking sheet, aluminum foil if you need it, and a few slices of bread. White bread is preferred so you can make white breadcrumbs, which are useful mainly due to their ability to turn various shades of golden and brown to indicate doneness (or burnt-ness). I only had store-bought wheat bread, which makes it much more difficult to tell doneness, but whatever. Place a single layer of bread slices onto your sheet and toast in the oven at 250F (120C) for about 45 minutes to 1 hour until bread is completely crisp and dry. You may need to turn the bread a few times through the process.

Oh look! The same photo from the cheesecake entry! Just kidding it's wheat breadcrumbs. Or is it?

Once the bread is toasted, toss either into a food processor or a zip-loc bag and crush until into tiny bits (but not powder, which is too fine). If you are going the zip-loc route I highly advise actually using a zip-loc type bag, which are quite sturdy. I’ve tried doing the crushing in various other ghetto plastic bag, including the bread bag that the original loaf came in, but all of those bags tend to tear rather easily. So don’t do that.

To the finished breadcrumbs you can add a variety of herbs and spices which are purely optional. I added some black pepper, basil, parsley, and garlic powder. Onto the main dish.

Prep work comes first. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the macaroni. Meanwhile, shred either with a grater or a knife about 1 1/2 cups of cheddar cheese.

Picture of shredded cheese for the uninitiated, and people from Kazakhstan.

Melt your butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Sprinkle all of your flour over the melted butter and mix around for a few minutes. Try not to let the concoction brown. If it is starting to turn brown, turn down the heat and move on to the next step, which is…

"I'M MELTIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINGGGGGG!!!!! AHHHHH!!!" "SO AM IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!!!!!!!!!" Was what the butter squares said to each other.

…adding milk to your roux. Some recipes recommend adding room-temperature milk to avoid lumps or some shit like that, but cold milk is just fine if you add it slowly while whisking until each bit of milk you pour into the pan is absorbed by the roux. You’ll end up with a nice thick shiny sauce.

AKA Bechamel sauce, which was invented by the French so they had something white to surrender with at all times, even when cooking.

Now is a good time to season your sauce. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste, but keep in mind that cheddar also has salt content. At this point your water is probably near or at boiling. Pre-heat your oven to 350F (176C, or probably 180 on your oven dial).

Add macaroni to your boiling salted water. Cook for 5-6 minutes or until they are just short of al-dente. Turn the heat off for your milk sauce. Add all but 1/2 cup of cheese to your sauce and stir incorporate. Save this 1/2 cup of your cheddar for later.

Sorry, I just can't help but make fun of France whenever it comes up. They're kind of like Canada in that way. Except when you make fun of Canada fewer people get offended.

Drain your cooked macaroni and fold it into your sauce. It probably looks like a lot of sauce at first (about 1:1 volume ratio between sauce and pasta), but it’s perfectly fine. Deposit all of this sauce/macaroni amalgamation into your oven-safe vessel. Sprinkle your remaining cheddar cheese on top and top off with a layer of breadcrumbs. Stick this into the oven for 30 minutes.

This would look a lot less brown if the breadcrumbs were white and not wheat. In other words, it's not burnt.

After 30 minutes have elapsed remove your pan from the oven. Let rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.

The Result

If you were French, you could eat the top part and surrender with the bottom part. LAWL.

4.6 / 5 These ratings are just getting more and more arbitrary. It tastes good. Crispy topping, gooey cheese, pasta with creamy sauce. If you’re not someone who likes cooking you might take a look at this and think, “who could even bother to make this souped up version of mac n’ cheese? It’s ridiculous”. But in reality once you’ve made mac n’ cheese this way, you’ll realize that this is how mac n’ cheese is meant to be. It’s not souped up at all, and anything less is just some bullshit that is only fit to be fed to young children in shitty American elementary school cafeterias.

Conclusion

Have you ever felt that feeling where you’re writing a rather long piece, and somewhere in the middle you realize that you’re slowly running out of steam? Your writing turns to crap and you lose the inspiration to keep churning out interesting sentences. That’s what happened with this conclusion.

Anyways I apologize for not writing these blogs as often as I’d like. Oftentimes ideas come up but I didn’t have ingredients, or sometimes I try to alter a recipe to use cheaper, different ingredients only to have the result come up sub-par. I do usually have at least 3-4 ideas floating around at all times, so each blog is a combination of luck with ingredients, time constraints, and my own limited skill. Happy cooking.

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