Saturday, June 26, 2010

Open Ended Mac & Cheese

Who doesn't love a good mac & cheese. Like the horizontal mambo, even a bad one is still pretty good. It's one of the few food items in America that people have an opinion about. Like a mother's tomato sauce in Italy or a grandma's hummus from anywhere in the middle east, people across the states debate the way mac & cheese should be. In the oven or on the stove top? Saucy or gooey? Eggs or no eggs? With topping or without?
Like many Americans, my first impression of macaroni & cheese came from a box. (which I still indulge in from time to time for posterity's sake) So for me it's a saucy concoction made on the stove top. Though these days I go for a little more flavor than my original.
This recipe has a base cheese sauce that's good on just about anything. The recipe is perfect for a one pound box of pasta. I like cavatappi in particular, it's reminiscent of elbows, but longer for substance and with ridges to hold onto the sauce. I'm always tempted to put some hot sauce in with the cheese mixture, but you have to avoid this as it can make the cheese separate. Lastly, I included and "accent cheese" so you can make it your own. Put in whatever cheese floats your boat or sub in some more cheddar for strait old school.

Mac & Cheese

5 tbsps Butter
4 tbsps All Purpose Flour
1 qt. Milk
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp mustard powder

1 Cup Gruyere, grated
1 Cup Sharp Cheddar, grated
¼ cup accent cheese (Parmagiano Reggiano, Blue Cheese, stinky cheese: Tallegio, Camembert)

1 lb. Pasta

1. Melt the butter over medium heat until bubbling. Whisk in the flour. Cook for 5 minutes continuing to stir with a wooden spoon or spatula being sure to scrape the bottom of the pot. (you're making a roux here by the way)
2. Add the milk and whisk vigorously. Bring to a simmer, whisk in the garlic and mustard powder and cook for 8 more minutes.
3. Add the cheese, kill the heat, and stir gently until the cheese is completely melted.
4. To complete, simply follow the directions on whatever you deem to be the best pasta for the job. Stir the 1 pound of cooked pasta into cheese sauce and your ready to go.

The roux, the cheese sauce, and the final product . . . mmmm!

Note: I like it best straight out of the pot. You could put this in a casserole dish and reheat in the oven, but I find it heats better in a pan with a splash of milk. It keeps the sauce nice and creamy.

For a topping I slowly toast 1 cup of panko in 3 tbsps of butter and
then toss in some herbs. Each helping then gets a healthy dusting.
HOWEVER, crushed kettle cooked potato chips make a great topping as well.
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Grill-a-Chef by Joshua Stokes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.