Friday, March 18, 2011
Mac & Cheese
Allrecipes.com sends me daily suggestions for things to make. Often, I delete the recipe, but sometimes they send me something that sparks my interest. A week or so, they sent me an article about mac and cheese with links to their best recipes. Once I got the idea in my head, it wouldn't leave me alone.
I had never successfully made home-style macaroni and cheese before. I'd tried melting Velveeta and pouring it over cooked pasta, and that was incredibly disappointing. I'd tried making a sauce with melted cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese and milk, but it's always had that grainy, unpleasant texture that melted cheddar gets. I guess this is an example of why I shouldn't cook without a recipe in front of me.
I played around on the website until I found a recipe that looked good to me, and decided to check it out one evening after work. Not surprisingly, it had me start off with a bit of melted butter and flour, stirred to make a paste. This is the basic white roux for a lot of sauces, so it looked familiar to me.
Once it's a paste, pour in the milk, salt, and pepper. Also, I was intrigued by the instructions to add Dijon mustard and, strangely enough, cream cheese. Cream cheese, my favorite secret ingredient, in mac & cheese? A bit skeptical because I don't want my mac & cheese to taste like cream cheese, I went for it anyway. But I also used reduced fat cream cheese, in an effort to make this slightly less unhealthy.
Meanwhile, start cooking up some pasta. I managed to find "macaroni style" pasta at the store, with the bonus being that it is quick-cook.
I'm not sure what makes "macaroni style" different from just plain macaroni, but I went with it. Also, while waiting for the sauce to get sufficiently creamy, I grated some cheddar cheese.
And once the sauce looked like this...
... I stirred in the macaroni and the cheddar cheese until it looked like this:
In a small bowl, I added a bit of butter to some Italian-seasoned bread crumbs (I didn't have regular) and dried parsley, and used my pastry blender to make a streusel-like topping.
Put macaroni in a casserole dish, top with the bread crumb mixture, and bake at 400 for 20 minutes.
Wow. I am no longer afraid of attempting home style mac & cheese! I wasn't sure how the flavors would blend, and I was afraid that it would be bland (reviewers suggested adding onion powder, garlic powder, and crumbled bacon or chopped ham), but this pretty much tasted how I would expect mac & cheese at a restaurant to taste. It was creamy and I was glad that I'd added only skim milk, not half-and-half as some reviewers suggested, as that would have been too much. The hint of Dijon really gave it a good flavor without being overpowering.
Definitely a keeper, and definitely something that I will make for Andy when he gets home. I brought it in to work and shared it with Kanchana, and even when eating microwaved leftovers out of a solo cup with a plastic fork, she said it was delicious. That's all I need to know. I will be posting this recipe in that tastebook ASAP.