Monday, February 14, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese

I grew up on homemade mac-n-cheese.  My mom's version of it always received rave reviews from family and friends.  I remember really liking the "fake" stuff, the really yellow boxed version that I would have on occasion at friends' houses.  As an adult, I have made my mom's version plenty of times, but I decided recently that it isn't creamy enough.  I figured I needed to try a creamier, homemade version.  This was it.

Now, as luck would have it, my kids didn't eat it.  I think that they like the fake version better (you know, because powdered cheese is much better than real cheese.  Crazy kids.)  And no, I don't buy the fake stuff often.  At all.

They will see this recipe again.  And again.  Because it is good.  And creamy.  And yummy.

Macaroni and Cheese
Source:  The New Best Recipe, America's Test Kitchen

Gratin Topping (bread crumb topping):
6 slices of good-quality white bread, torn into rough pieces
3 tbl. cold, unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces

Pasta and Cheese:
1 pound elbow macaroni (or other small pasta)
5 tbl. unsalted butter
6 tbl. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
5 cups milk
8 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

For the bread crumbs, pulse the bread and butter in a food processor for 10-15 pulses.  Set aside.

Heat the broiler.

Bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil in a dutch oven over high heat.  Add the macaroni and a bit of salt and stir to separate the noodles.  Cook until the pasta is tender, just a bit past the al dente stage.  Drain in a colander and set aside.

In the now-empty dutch oven, heat the butter over medium-high heat until foaming.  Add the flour, mustard, and cayenne pepper and whisk well to combine.  Continue whisking until the mixture becomes fragrant and deepens in color, about 1 minute.  Whisking constantly, gradually add the milk; bring to a boil, still whisking constantly, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened to the consistency of heavy cream, about 5 minutes.  Off the heat, whisk in the cheeses and 1 tsp. salt until the cheeses are fully melted.  Add the pasta and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is heated through, about 6 minutes.   (That's a lot of whisking! :)

Transfer to a broiler-safe 9x13 baking dish and sprinkle evenly with the bread crumbs.  Broil until the crumbs are deep golden brown, 3-5 minutes.  Cool about 5 minutes before serving.

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