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Mac & Cheese…

Mac & Cheese…

Mac & Cheese…

I love Mac & Cheese!

It’s one of my favorite comfort foods. I don’t make it often, but once the holidays come around, it’s a given. I grew up having it at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and now, once the Hallmark Christmas movies begin (end of October), I start craving it.

Last weekend, Chris and I drove to Lake Willoughby and stayed in a cabin on the lake. I didn’t want to cook much while we were there, so I made ahead my mac and cheese along with my cornbread and biscuit dressing (recipe to come soon). It also gave me the opportunity to take pictures and get the recipe ready for this post… just in time for Thanksgiving.

I use four cheeses– sharp, extra sharp, monterey jack, and gouda. You can mix it up however you wish. Just make sure you have at least one or two creamy cheeses– like gouda and monterey jack. Fontina would also work. Growing up, we used Velveeta. Use whatever gets your taste buds going.

Here’s a big tip: Grate the cheese yourself. Don’t use already grated cheese; they have additives and preservatives that prevent them from melting as ooey-gooey as you want for mac and cheese.

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Oky, now we have the cheese grated and ready, let’s get to the rest.

First, cook the pasta by the al-dente directions on the box. However, it’s best to cook 1-2 minutes less because the pasta will continue to cook while in the oven. Drain the pasta and put aside.

I used Mario Batali’s pasta. I like how big it is, which allows the cheese sauce to get inside the pasta.

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Now, on medium heat, make a roux by melting 6 tablespoons of butter and then slowly whisking in the ½ cup of flour. Continue to whisk for about 3-5 minutes until the roux is light brown. It should be a creamy texture. If not, add a little more butter.

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Keep the heat on medium to medium high and slowly add in the milk and continue to whisk. The milk should never boil. Whisk until it becomes a smooth, thick consistency— it should be able to coat the back of a spoon. This normally takes 10-15 minutes. Be patient and continue to whisk. Once it’s thick, add salt, pepper, and a dash of nutmeg.

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Turn off the heat and then add all the grated cheese (you don’t want to leave it on the heat, because it would break the fats down and make your cheese sauce gritty). Keep stirring until all the cheese is melted.

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Once all the cheese is melted, add in your cooked pasta, stir, and pour into a pan.

Since we were traveling, I used a 9 x 13 tin pan. You can use a casserole dish of your choice.

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From this point, you can do one two things– cook it right away or put it in the fridge overnight. I almost always make it a day ahead. Having it chill out for a night sets it nicely and seems to thicken it up a bit. If you do this, be sure to take it out, and let it come to room temperature before baking it. This cuts down on cook time, which means you won’t overcook it.

Cook for about 45 minutes at 400 degrees.

I like a crunchy top on mine, so once it becomes bubbly hot and cooked through, I take it out, and add my topping.

To make the topping, melt butter, and combine with panko breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan cheese. Mix together with your hands until the butter is well incorporated. Spread the mixture over the top of the mac and cheese and put back in the oven.

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Once it’s browned and crunchy on top, take it out, and let it rest for about 5-10 minutes. Then, it’s time to dive in!!

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What you’ll need for the mac and cheese:

Approx. 1/2 lb. each of your favorite 4 cheeses– I used sharp cheddar, extra sharp, monterey jack, and gouda.

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup flour

4 cups of whole milk

Dash of nutmeg

1 Tablespoon salt

1 Tablespoon pepper

1 16-ounce box of pasta (You can use your choice of pasta, I used Tortiglioni)

What you’ll need for the crunchy topping:

2 cups panko breadcrumbs

1-cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ stick  unsalted, melted butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Grate all your cheeses.

Cook the pasta by the al-dente directions on the box. However, it’s best to cook 1-2 minutes less because the pasta will continue to cook while in the oven. Drain the pasta and put aside.

On medium heat, make a roux by melting 6 tablespoons of butter and then slowly whisking in the ½ cup of flour. Continue to whisk for about 3-5 minutes until the roux is light brown. It should be a creamy texture. If not, add a little more butter.

Keep the heat on medium to medium high and slowly add in the milk and continue to whisk. The milk should never boil. Whisk until it becomes a smooth, thick consistency— it should be able to coat the back of a spoon. This normally takes 10-15 minutes. Be patient and continue to whisk. Once it’s thick, add salt, pepper, and a dash of nutmeg.

Turn off the heat and then add all the grated cheese (you don’t want to leave it on the heat, because it would break down the fats and make your cheese sauce gritty). Keep stirring until all the cheese is melted.

Once all the cheese is melted, add in your cooked pasta, stir, and pour into a pan.

From this point, you can do one two things– cook it right away or put it in the fridge overnight. I almost always make it a day ahead. Having it chill out for a night sets it nicely and seems to thicken it up a bit. If you do this, be sure to take it out, and let it come to room temperature before baking it. This cuts down on cook time, which means you won’t overcook it.

Cook for approx. 45 minutes at 400 degrees.

I like a crunchy top on mine, so once it becomes bubbly hot and cooked through, I take it out, and add my topping.

To make the topping, melt butter, and combine with panko breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan cheese. Mix together with your hands until the butter is well incorporated. Spread the mixture over the top of the mac and cheese and put back in the oven and bake until browned and crunchy on top.

Let it rest for about 5-10 minutes before diving in!

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