My Amazing Macaroni and Cheese Recipe and Story
An amazing recipe that’s changed over the years — just like me
I LOVE CHEESE! All kinds of cheese from good old traditional cheddar to chevre. I love it whether it’s made from cow’s or goat’s milk. I like creamy fontina to salty and somewhat chalky feta.
My all-time favorite cheese-centric recipe is macaroni and cheese. It’s just the perfect dish. It’s like a warm hug on a plate or in a bowl.
My recipe has evolved over the years and surpassed my Gam’s original, super yummy version. My Gam’s mac and cheese base had evaporated and whole milk with lots of hand-shredded cheddar. It was good, but I knew it could be better.
I helped my Gam cook since I was 9 because she lost use of her left hand from a work accident. My Gam used a cast iron pan for home physical therapy (but that’s another story for a different day). We had an arrangement — I would help with laundry and cooking after school and on Saturdays and she would clean my room and the kitchen after meals.
When I went to school, everyone had to take Home Economics (Home Ec) to teach us how to manage and maintain a home, make a budget, plan and prepare meals, sew and make minor home repairs. I only liked the cooking lessons.
My all-time favorite lesson was how to make macaroni and cheese. I was obsessed. I remember the class recipe was good, but I could taste the flour in the sauce and it didn’t have enough cheese.
I went home and started experimenting with combining my Home Ec recipes and my grandmother’s. She loved tasting the experiments. We always had the ingredients in the house. (My Gam loved cheese too, but I take credit for upgrading and expanding her cheese knowledge.)
The first thing I did was tripled the cheese from the Home Ec recipe and used 1/3 the extra sharp cheddar cheese in the bechamel sauce to make a mornay (cheese) sauce and used my Gams method of putting some cheese in the pan with the noodles prior to pouring and mixing with the sauce.
For the first few years, I used sharp and mild cheddar and mozzarella. My Gam liked the cheesy stretch.
In college, I discovered real parmesan cheese and added a little in the mixture and on top — but my family preferred a crispy cheddar crust.
Since then I’ve added Bel Gioioso 4 cheese blend and Sargento’s Italian blend cheeses. fontina and I prefer Cracker Barrel extra sharp cheddar, but Cabot will also work.
Then, I discovered end cheese about 10 years ago. Most delis take the ends of cheeses and sell — it’s literally a mixed bag of mostly American and some other cheeses but I love it — because it gives my mac and cheese a unique twist every time.
I make a basic recipe— here is a good recipe from The Kitchn.com:
With the following modifications:
- I add a little more milk or cream — I like my mac and cheese to be a little creamy after I bake it.
- I use one crushed clove of fresh garlic, and dijon mustard, to the roux.
- When the heat is off, I like to add 1/3 of the shredded cheese, mascarpone cheese, a little pepper, and nutmeg.
- 1/3 of the shredded cheese is mixed with the cooled noodles
- The final 1/3 is reserved for the top instead of bread crumbs or tossed with bread crumbs, melted butter, and baked for 20 minutes or bubbly, golden, brown, and delicious (GBD — from Alton Brown’s Good Eats).
Macaroni do’s and don’t to maximize flavor and creaminess:
- Gradually add warm milk to the roux and let it come to a gentle simmer for 3 minutes — constantly mixing (otherwise you’ll taste the flour)
- Cut off the heat and add the cheese a little at a time until it’s mixed in
- Bake at 350 until it’s bubbling and crispy on top
Thank you for reading!
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