January 28, 2006

The Most Fabulous Recipe Ever...

I’m sure that by now everyone and their mother is aware of how much I love macaroni and cheese, especially all of those friends of mine who forwarded me the New York Times article about it. Enough already you temptresses!!!

I felt it was my duty then to actually try the recipe. The picture looked great. I’m guessing half the country fell off the low-carb wagon after seeing it. The article was basically calling most recipes for Mac ‘n Cheese pansy-ass because they don’t use enough cheese. I tried their recipe for the “crusty” macaroni and, to be honest, it wasn’t my favorite. Trust me, I do come from the school of “you can never have too much cheese” but this recipe was literally pasta with melted cheese on it. Crusty, it was, and incredibly greasy. I guess I’m just too fond of the creamy kind.

I’m quite certain that I’ve tried all the variations of Macaroni and Cheese. The one with a béchamel sauce made with cheddar and usually baked in the oven (with or without bread crumbs.) There is the stove top version that gets thickened with evaporated milk and an egg. Now I’ve made the all-cheese one and tried a variety of cheeses. I must say it’s been a beautiful journey. Everyone is going to have their favorite. Thankfully, I have enough room in my heart for all varieties.

Here's a picture to give you hunger pains...

Some Advice:

The baked variety requires a rather thin béchamel sauce since the cheese will further thicken the sauce. The mistake is to make a thick béchamel that becomes thicker with the addition of the cheese. My other recommendation is to use lots of extra sharp cheddar or it won’t taste cheesy enough, which I think was the complaint in the NY Times article. Also, you could layer half the combined pasta and sauce mixture in the casserole pan, add a layer of grated cheese and top with the rest of the pasta. So, I agree with the Times about needing to use more cheese than is generally given in most recipes.

I love bread crumbs on baked casseroles, but just be sure to sauté them in a little oil or butter first so that they brown in the oven. If you dump them on the casserole they will simply absorb your sauce and never brown.

My stove top version comes from a great cookbook called, The Bride and Groom First and Forever Cookbook, by Mary Corpening Barber and Sara Corpening Whitford, which is full of really great recipes for the basics. I played around with the amounts here and I use only an egg yolk, not a whole egg. I know you will love this recipe. It tastes really good and it can be made in the time it takes the pasta to boil.

Creamy Stove Top Mac 'n Cheese

2 cups dry macaroni or other small pasta
1 egg yolk
¾ cup evaporated milk (more may be needed)
½ tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp salt
Pinch of nutmeg
An aggressive amount of Tabasco
2 or more cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
*replace half the cheddar with aged gruyere if you want to play around.

Cook the pasta according to package directions in salted water. Whisk together the egg yolk and ¾ cup of evaporated milk. Add salt, nutmeg, mustard and Tabasco. Drain pasta when done and return back to the pan over low heat. Add cheese and milk mixture and stir to combine. The sauce will thicken and the cheese will melt completely as it heats. Stir continually. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding my cheese if needed. Add more evaporated milk if it gets too thick. Remove from heat and serve immediately. Serves 2.

You’ve now completed my grand summary of Mac ‘n Cheese. Good luck and my apologies to anyone on a diet. At least there's no picture. *Update 3/4/06, oh wait, sorry. Now there is.


Emily B.M. said...

You are the foul temptress, my friend!! Just reading your blog makes me want to shove mac 'n cheese down my throat. It's to the point where I could have a creamy bechamel type sauce, or crusty nytimes kind, or kraft-which I hear from a friend of mine tastes divine with some canned tuna and a little Mrs. Dash!

Anonymous said...

Does this sauce freeze well?

Chez Megane said...

I don't think this sauce would freeze well. I guess it's always worth trying, but I don't really enjoy this type of mac n cheese reheated all that much, so my guess is that freezing it and then reheating it wouldn't turn out all that well.