I was sick last week with a VERY SORE throat. All I could eat was soft bland food – no citrus, no salty, no spicy, no crunchy! So that left only one thing to survive on: Macaroni and Cheese!!!
I know you what you are thinking…
Do we really need another macaroni and cheese recipe on the internet?
As a confirmed cheese addict – I say yes.
Mac and cheese was not part of my childhood. I had a mother who was very ahead of the curve and did not allow that little blue box in the house. But once I got to college; watch out! That blue box (and the yellow one too) became my late night snack, my rainy Saturday comfort food and sometimes even breakfast!
“creamy versus baked”
As an adult with my own kitchen and a fondness for cooking; I figured out how to make the best baked macaroni and cheese. Inspired by the version we got as a family from the hot items bar at Whole Foods and armed with a Martha Stewart cook book I perfected a casserole style baked mac and cheese. It was a masterpiece of 3-4 specialty cheeses, real cream, lots of butter and crispy topping! It took plenty of time to prepare and at least 45 mins in the oven! It really couldn’t be made in less than “feed 10 people” size!
Some people fondly remember the first day of school or their solo in the school play – I can actually remember the day I made my first classic white sauce. I had carefully cooked the roux of flour and butter and whisked in the milk. I added some shredded cheese, cooked pasta and voila! I had the creamy style mac and cheese! Quick and delicious.
No need to get fancy!
At first I would follow the recipes for the creamy versions. I would chop and shred fancy cheeses. I played around with seasoning. Adding a little dry mustard. (classic!) Adding a little nutmeg (revolutionary!) Adding a dash of Worcestershire sauce. (my own secret weapon!) Eventually I figured out one thing. You can make mac and cheese out of any cheese! Oh sure the purists would tell you that some cheese doesn’t melt quite right or the health-nuts wouldn’t dream of using American cheese. But as a “cheese survivalist” I am here to tell you that when you need a “fix” of mac and cheese – any cheese will do!
So this past week I made mac and cheese for my throat and for my husband’s dinner. Each time I make the creamy stove top version it is different. Never to be repeated again because I may never have that particular combination of leftover bits of cheese in the fridge again. I like to “use up” those bits of cheese.
A cabinet stew of mac and cheese if you will.
Macaroni and Cheese version #365 – measurements approximate*
1 box of pasta (shape of choice) cooked to box directions.
4 tbsp flour
4 tbsp butter
2 cups +or- milk* – warmed
1 tsp* dry mustard powder
1/2 tsp* Nutmeg
1/2 tbsp* A-1 sauce (I was too lazy to find the Worcestershire sauce!)
Salt and pepper to taste.
about a 1/3 of an 8oz bag* of reduced fat shredded mozzarella
about a 1/3 of an 8oz bag* of reduced fat shredded mild cheddar
about 2/3 of an 8oz block* of some sharp cheese that I had removed from it’s original wrapper and re-wrapped in plastic. I think it was “McAdam Empire Jack”
Cook and drain pasta. Set aside. Melt the butter with the flour and cook for about 1 min on med-high heat. Add in the dry mustard and nutmeg and cook for 1 min longer. Slowly whisk in warmed milk – allowing the mixture time to thicken properly. Add in A-1 (or Worcestershire sauce) and salt/pepper. Stir. Add in cheeses and take off heat. Continue stir until just mixed. Add in hot cooked pasta and stir to mix. Serve immediately. Tastes great re-heated the next day as well but may be slightly less creamy.