Monday, January 20, 2014

Mac N Cheese To Be Celebrated Year Long!

So the holidays are pretty much over, and one dish that's almost always on the menu is Macaroni and Cheese. It's definitely one of my most favorite-est dishes - the creaminess, the cheesiness, the savoriness.... uhhhh! Oops, I digress. Mac N Cheese is traditionally a simple casserole, originating as a simple French dish of just parmesan cheese, melted butter, and a rough that was brought to England in the 14th century. I had no idea it had been around that long, but as a Francophile, I should have known there’d be a French connection! 

It has evolved into something that's not just a side dish mind you, it’s something that you can actually turn into a full on meal too. You can add bacon and broccoli, or mushrooms, or truffles and lobster, or cauliflower and, well you get the picture. And you can also play around with the type of pasta noodle you use too; and please don’t forget the cheese! Cheddar of course, but what about fontina, Havarti, smoked mozzarella, or gruyere? There are so many ways to keep this most basic and humble of dishes interesting, fun, and unique!
And if you LOVE mac and cheese like I love mac and cheese, and think about all the different creative combinations you can come up with, then you must get yourself over to HOMEROOM in Oakland quick like a bunny. They have made this simple and amazing dish the focal point, and the creations they come up with seem to be boundless! Though no where close to Homeroom, my own mac and cheese is pretty darn good! I’ve worked on it for many years, working hard to perfect the balance of creaminess, cheesiness, and firm noodles. Try it out and let me know what you think (send pics too)!

Also, most of my recipes are in my head, and since I’ve started this blog, I’ve been feverishly learning how to write out recipes, making notes on measurements, tools, and techniques when I cook. So bear with me fellow foodies, newbies, and wannabes, as I get it all out. And try out and let me know what you think!
Be well

½ cup of all purpose flour (‘apf)
6 tablespoons of butter
2 ½ cups of milk
1 cup of heavy cream
½ cup of chicken or vegetable broth
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and white pepper to your taste
1 pound of elbow noodles (I like the ones with ridges!)
3 cups (or more!) of cheese; I use:
2 cups of sharp cheddar
½ cup of smoked mozzarella
½ of Monterey Jack
½ cup of parmesan *optional*
Panko or Italian bread crumbs

Small sized heavy bottom saucepan
Medium sized heavy bottom saucepan
Box grater if the cheese isn’t already grated
Casserole dish

·         Pre-heat your oven to 400*

·         Boil your noodles in salted water for 6-7 minutes if you plan on baking the dish in the oven; boil for 8-10 minutes (package directions) if you are not.

·         Get your milk, heavy cream, and stock all heated together in the small saucepan to just about simmering and set aside.

·         Heat the other saucepan to medium heat, melt the butter, then add the flour and whisk til it’s a very light brown, almost blonde. This should take about 2 minutes.

·         Reduce the heat to low, then add the heated milk, cream, and broth mixture slowly, a little bit at a time, while whisking vigorously until smooth - NO LUMPS!
·         *it will get very thick at first, but just keep whisking and slowly adding the liquid – it will be ok!*

·         Let the mixture thicken, then thin, and add more milk if you feel it needs to be thinned out even more. Add salt, white pepper, and nutmeg to taste, then add your cheese slowly and combine til smooth and cheesey!

·         Once you’ve got your cheese sauce done, combine with your noodles and pour in to a baking dish. Feel free to top with bread crumbs if you wish, then bake for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly on top (crumb top or not). 

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