Monday, April 26, 2010

In Search of the Perfect Homemade Mac N' Cheese

I love mac n' cheese.  No, let me re-phrase that.  I adore mac n' cheese.  And I've managed to pass that love on to my darling wee things.  If you ask them what they would like for dinner, nine times out of ten, it's Macaroni  (and cheese for the girls).  They scarf it down like there's no tomorrow.  It's super yummy, in their words.  Unlike their Momma, however, somehow my wee things seem to think that boxed is best.  How that came to happen I can't imagine (although I blame their father!  =)  )

I love homemade macaroni and cheese the best.  I have fond memories of this wonderful, warm, ooey, gooey, cheesey dinner from a very young age.  Now, it's not my Mom's mac n' cheese I remember so fondly.  No, although my mother did made homemade, as the boxed variety was at that time quite a luxury item for us poor Pastor's family; it is a friend's homemade mac n' cheese that I remember so dearly.  She was a neighbor of ours when we lived in Grimes, Iowa.  I don't remember her name (and neither does Mom), although we think she had a daughter named Sarah that I was friends with.  My dad used to go pheasant hunting with her husband and we would sometimes go over to their house to be babysat while Mom and Dad went out for an evening.

Sarah's mom made some fantastic homemade mac n' cheese.  I mean, if I remember it from thirty-some-odd years ago, it must have been, right?  Right-O.  And in my mind, this is the way it should be.  And I've spent a good portion of my adult life trying to recreate that fantastic mac n' cheese.  And failed each and every time.  Now, I have found some good recipes along the way (after all no mac n' cheese recipe is a bad on, eh?), but never the "perfect" one of my memory.  So I continue the search....someday I'll find it.  (Although I may have to get my hands on some of that cheese the government used to give out to us poor people!  *laugh* )

In the meantime, I'll share a couple of good ones I've found.  Recently the Taste of Home  featured homemade mac n' cheese in their magazine.  Good stuff there!

A Basic Mac N' Cheese Recipe (otherwise known as the quick-time version)
Macaroni Noodles, cooked to tenderness
Velveeta cheese, cubed, probably about 1/8 of the big block

Once the noodles are cooked and drained, add the cubed velveeta to the warm noodles.  Stir and let melt.  Mix in warm veggies if desired.  Or a can of tuna fish, drained.

*Okay, I know Velveeta isn't the best.  In fact, it's pretty bad.  But it melts so nice and really, the flavor isn't that bad.  Just don't think about all the bad parts to it!  *laugh*

Bistro Mac N' Cheese
1 pkg (16 oz) uncooked elbow macaroni
3 TBS butter
3 TBS all-purpose flour
2 1/2 C milk
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 C shredded mozzarella cheese
1 C shredded cheddar cheese
1 pkg cream cheese, softened
1/2 C crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1/2 C sour cream

Cook macaroni according to directions.  Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, melt butter. Stir in flour until smooth.  Gradually stir in milk and seasonings.  Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.

Reduce heat.  Add cheeses and stir untl melted.  Sirt in sour cream.  Drain macaroni; sirt into sauce.

You can also bake this with a crumb topping.  Place macaroni in a greased baking dish.  Combine 1/3 C seasoned bread crumbs and 2 TBS melted butter; sprinkle over macaroni.  Bake, uncovered at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly.

TGI Friday's Gourmet Mac n' Five Cheese
(Probably not the healthiest, but when we're talking mac n' cheese, who cares?)
6 servings elbow macaroni
1 cups Bacon
.5 cups Onions, Diced
5 tablespoons light unsalted butter
6 tablespoons All-purpose Flour
1 tablespoons Mustard, Dijon
2.5 cups whole milk
2 cups Heavy Cream Bc
1 tablespoons Thyme, Fresh
1 teaspoons Bay Leaf
.5 teaspoons Salt*
1.5 cups Fontina Cheese
.5 cups Crumbled Blue Cheese (1/2 Oz.)
.75 cups Gruyere Cheese
.75 cups White Cheddar Cheese
.75 cups parmesan cheese, grated
3 tablespoons Parsley
.25 cups Breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F and butter a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain.
In a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot, saute the bacon until crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Saute the onion in the bacon drippings until soft. Add the 5 tablespoons butter to the onion mixture and melt the butter stirring with a wooden spoon.
Using a whisk, add the flour, and stir constantly until well mixed with the fat making a roux. Whisk in the mustard. Gradually add the milk and cream whisking constantly.
Add the thyme, bay leaf, and salt. Let come to a simmer and stir frequently for 15 minutes.
Strain the hot milk mixture into a metal bowl and discard the solids. Working quickly, mix in 1 cup fontina, blue cheese, 1/2 cup Gruyere, 1/2 cup white Cheddar, 1/2 cup Parmesan, the reserved bacon, and parsley. Continue to stir until all cheese is melted.
Add the cooked noodles to the cheese mixture to coat. Add the noodle mixture to the prepared baking dish. Mix the remaining cheese and bread crumbs together and sprinkle on top of the noodles. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes or until bubbling and golden brown. Remove from oven when done and rest for 5 minutes

*from The Daily Plate

Fried Mac N' Cheese (maybe not healthy, but YUM-O)
1 cup milk
5 teaspoons flour
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup monterey jack cheese
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups cooked small elbow macaroni or regular size macaroni
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cups seasoned dry bread crumbs or plain breadcrumbs
3/4 teaspoon salt
6-10 cups shortening or peanut oil or corn oil
1 teaspoon fresh parsley, minced

1Place flour in a small sauce pan over medium low heat. Whisk in milk till smooth, then add cheeses, olive oil and salt, stirring until cheese starts to melt.

2Reduce heat to low, simmer 30 minutes. Using whisk, stir sauce every few minutes to make sure the sauce becomes thick and smooth.

3Now place the 3/4 cup uncooked macaroni in a pot of boiling water. Boil for 10 minutes(8 minutes for small macaroni), or till tender. Drain. You should have about 1 3/4 cups cooked macaroni.

4When sauce is done cooking, reserve 2 tbs of the sauce for later.

5Pour pasta into a medium bowl and pour in remaining cheese sauce. Pour the mixture into an 8x8-inch pan that has been greased with oil. Cover and chill in fridge.

6When the macaroni and cheese is cold, slice into 16 squares(slicing down middle, then slicing those squares in half). Put each square on a piece of wax paper, place in covered container, and freeze 2 hours.

7When the mac and cheese has frozen solid, mix milk and egg in a bowl. In another bowl place flour. In a third bowl, mix breadcrumbs and 3/4 teaspoons salt.

8Heat the oil to 350°F.

9Bread the mac and cheese one piece at a time,coating a piece with flour, then placing it in the egg and milk mixture, then coating it with breadcrumbs. Place each piece back into the egg and milk, then in the breadcrumbs again. Repeat this process with all of the pieces, then place on a large plate. Let them sit about 15 minutes to defrost.

10Fry 4 to 6 at a time in hot oil for 3 minutes or until golden brown (test the first one to make sure it is hot all the way through. If it is cold inside, let the squares defrost a few more minutes). Drain on paper towels a few minutes, then place on a serving platter.

11Heat the remaining 2 tbs of cheese sauce for about 15 seconds (or until hot) in the microwave.

12Drizzle the hot sauce over the mac and cheese squares. Sprinkle parsley over the top and serve. Enjoy!



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