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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Macaroni and cheese

The first time I set out to make homemade macaroni and cheese years ago, I decided I'd go with a fancy version.  It was called "Cheesemonger's Mac and Cheese" and used, among other cheeses, brie.  I remember tediously taking off the rind of the brie and then cutting it into cubes which was, given brie's natural softness, difficult at best.  Then, I hand-grated the other cheeses.  It was hard work and I anxiously awaited the final version, only to be let down by the finished product.  I remember it being bland and not at all cheesey (in the "full of cheese" not the "corny sense of humor" way). 

I set out on a mission to find a new, cheesy-tasting macaroni and cheese, and actually found it in the same place, on epicurious.  The second one I made was exactly what I was looking for in a mac n' cheese, and it's been my go-to mac and cheese recipe since then.  Just a warning: this recipe makes A LOT of cheese sauce.  So much so that I recommend you either half the sauce or double the amount of pasta.  I add a little jack cheese just for a little extra richness.

This is mac n' cheese made with half of the sauce and topping recipe, and 1 pound of pasta! 

Macaroni and Cheese


For topping:
1/2 stick of unsalted butter
2 cups panko or 3 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs
1/4 pound (1.5 cups) coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar (I add some jack cheese)
1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

For cheese sauce:
1 stick unsalted butter
6 Tbsp flour
5 cups whole milk
1 pound (6 cups) coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar (again, I add some jack cheese, too)
1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano

1 pound elbow macaroni

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Make the topping.  Melt butter and then stir with the panko crumbs and the cheese for the toppings until well combined.
3. Make the cheese sauce.  Melt butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat and stir in flour. Cook the roux, stirring, for 3 minutes.  Then whisk in milk. Bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly, then simmer while whisking occasionally, for 3 minutes. Stir in cheeses, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper until smooth. Remove from heat and cover surface of sauce with wax paper.
4. Make the pasta.  Cooke pasta in a pot of salted water (2 Tbsp salt in 4 quarts of water) until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water and drain macaroni. Stir together macaroni, reserved cooking water, and sauce in a large bowl. Transfer to 2 buttered 2-quart shallow baking dishes.
5. Put together the mac and cheese.  Sprinkle topping evenly over macaroni and bake until golden and bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes.

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