The Mac & Cheese Quest

*note – the title addictive mac and cheese comes from food blogger Emily Weinstein 

Last week, I took to the professionals and asked about something that I absolutely LURVE! That’s Mac N. Cheese. I remember hoarding it in college (of course, I got the boxed kind) but ANY of it usually makes my heart skip a beat.

For the holidays, my side of the family makes this fantastic baked kind that consists of layers upon layers of Colby, elbow macaroni and a mixture of evaporated milk, an egg, a little sugar and some salt and butter. This is what my heart pines for every holiday – and to boot, my granny makes it. It’s fantastic, AND I’m pretty proud to say that I come pretty close to making it just like her each and every time I make the attempt. However, I wanted to branch out and get more of a savory taste with macaroni than I was getting with just the Colby cheese kind.

When I posted the question on my Facebook page, I wasn’t prepared for what I got. Links, upon links, came flying in, and I made up in my mind to just try a bunch of them out, and blog about it each time. I promise you, I’m not turning into a food blog, but I love food, so that’s part of my life – so there ya go.

I decided to go with one of the recipes that had Gruyere cheese in it – mostly because it got the most votes via RT’s (retweets) as well as comments on Facebook. I went to my favorite place to discover new things – Whole Foods and picked up a couple of packages of the Gruyere and by the suggestion of the cheese expert, I also picked up a wedge of Cotswold English Cheese to mix with it. Talk about a great suggestion!!

Here’s the recipe that I used from Martha Stewart’s website, I also omitted the breadcrumbs because I just didn’t have time to do them:

Serves 12
6 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
5 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyere or 1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated pecorino Romano
1 pound elbow macaroni

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place bread pieces in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour butter into the bowl with bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.

2. Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.

3. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere or 1 cup pecorino Romano. Set cheese sauce aside.

4. Fill a large saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 fewer minutes than manufacturer’s directions, until outside of pasta is cooked and inside is underdone. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.) Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.

5. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar and 1/2 cup Gruyere or 1/4 cup pecorino Romano; scatter breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes; serve.

The secret to this macaroni and cheese being as gooey as I wanted it was the white sauce that you make to bind the flavors. Cheeses were also important as well. Like I said, I didn’t use any cheddar, but used the Cotswold in its place. I still give it two very cheesy thumbs up!

And EVERY person in my household loved it as well. Even the twizzlers. Silence around the dinner table is a SURE sign that everything went right in my kitchen that night.

Stay tuned for the next cheese that we will be using – GOUDA!!

~Make It A Fantastic Day!!

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