Thursday, January 29, 2015

Macaroni and Cheese

The ultimate comfort food - warm, cheesy mac and cheese. This recipe is one I've made since time immortal and after having a bunch of people asking for the recipe I decided I'd better get it on here. I do have a disclaimer, though. I've never had a written recipe for this, always making it up as I go along and using whatever I had on hand. It is also one of the most versatile recipes I have and, since the ingredients can vary so widely, it tastes a bit different every time I make it. I usually make this recipe when I have a bunch of cheese bits and pieces in the fridge. The more types of cheese, the better it is. You should use a mixture of at least 3-4 cheeses and you should incorporate some parmesan and at least some soft cheese like American or even some cream cheese or goat cheese or feta. Cheddar should be as sharp as possible to add flavor. You can even add some sour cream for part of the milk to add a tang. In all likelihood it will take you several attempts to perfect your version, so be patient!

Ingredients:

2-1/2 cups dry elbow macaroni
4 cups cold water
5 Tbl butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tsp minced garlic
1/8 tsp black pepper
4 tsp garlic salt blend
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
pinch cayenne
1/3 cup flour approximately
3 cups milk
4 cups grated cheese: see notes about cheese above

Directions:


Place the dry macaroni in a medium saucepan.













Pour the cold water over the macaroni. Heat to boiling and then reduce the heat to a steady boil.












Continue to cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring frequently, until the macaroni is just barely tender and the water is absorbed. Cover it, remove from the heat and set aside.










In another pot or deep skillet melt the butter. Add the chopped onion, garlic, pepper, garlic salt, paprika and cayenne. Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent and the spices are fragrant.










Add enough flour to make a thick paste. It will vary depending on the humidity and the type of butter but it should be about the consistency of mashed potatoes. Stir and cook for 1 minute.










While stirring with a wire whisk, add the milk about 1/2 cup at  time, whisking well in between. It will start out lumpy but will turn creamy as you continue to add the milk.










Add 2-1/2 cups of the cheese and stir till melted. The sauce should be fairly thin if you want to bake the mac and cheese, and thicker if you want to eat it creamy from the stove top. You may have to add 1/2 to 1 cup milk extra if you want to bake it so it doesn't turn out dry.Add sauce to macaroni.






Stir well till combined.  At this point you can eat it as creamy stove top macaroni, or you can place in a greased 9 x 13 pan.












Top it with the remaining cheese and bake at 375° for 30-45 minutes or until the edges are crispy and golden and the cheese is bubbly throughout. You can make it up to a day ahead and bake it right before serving, but if you do this you will need to bake it for an hour or more due to the cold starting temps. You can also bake it at a higher temperature. This dish tolerates a wide range of temps from 350° up to 425°.
I have to apologize, but we had guests and I completely forgot to take a picture of the finished product again. Here's a picture of a demolished pan from a previous dinner - you get the picture, it doesn't last very long around here!


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