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11.3.13

CREAMY MACARONI AND CHEESE


I used to make Martha’s baked macaroni and cheese and I was always mad at myself for what it cost with the fancy cheeses only to be ruined in the oven and ending up with stringy cheese, sticky pasta chunks and soggy breadcrumbs. I don’t care what Martha or America’s Test Kitchen says. The best mac and cheese is cooked on the stovetop, not from a package mind you, but nevertheless it must not go into the oven. Just watch the video, the chef prepares an adult version of mac and cheese with the same principle.
 
Be sure to make the béchamel first. It can be made ahead of time and then warmed up just before it is added to the hot pasta. When making béchamel, clarify the butter first. This will cut the butter you need in half! Clarifying is just slowly cooking away the milk solids and ending up with butter fat. The butter fat will combine with double of its volume of flour. Otherwise the ordinary proportion of fat and flour in roux is 1:1. Clarifying butter only takes a few minutes, but the benefit far outweighs the time you will spend on it. Never add the cheese to the béchamel sauce. If cheese is brought to the boil it becomes a stringy mass. When making cheese sauce, the cheese is always added to the hot béchamel before serving; the same applies here.
 
Cook the pasta al dante and always cook it just before serving. If your pasta is tender or for some reason has to be reheated, it is best to save it for some other use. Soft pasta makes for very overcooked macaroni and cheese. Not too nice. If you want your pasta with lots of sauce, increase the béchamel and the cheese. I like mine just coated with sauce and not swimming in it.

 
 
1/8 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1-1/2 cups milk
1 pinch of nutmeg, freshly grated
2 cups elbow macaroni
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
freshly grated parmesan for garnish [optional]
 
• Melt the butter in a large pot over low medium heat.
• Slowly simmer until the milk solids are cooked away.
• Add the flour and continually stirring make a roux.
• Gradually whisk in the milk and bring the mixture to a simmer.
• Grate the nutmeg into the mixture.
• If you end up with chunks of flour, strain the sauce into a bowl and pour it back into the pot. • Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.
• Add the macaroni and boil until not quite tender.
• Meanwhile grate the cheddar cheese and set it aside.
• Drain and rinse with a little bit of hot running water. Do not soak or submerge the pasta in water. You want some starch to remain on the pasta.
• Add the hot pasta to the hot béchamel.
• Add the grated cheese and stir to combine.
• Heat it through and serve the mac and cheese immediately.
• Sprinkle the top with freshly grated parmesan cheese or not.
  4 servings

7 comments:

  1. Mac and Cheese is really one of the best comfort foods around, and your recipe sounds incredibly tasty. How could it not be, starting with your incredibly tasty bechamel sauce. I had no idea that clarified butter is better in bechamel, I'll have to remember it when I next make the sauce. In Florida, my husband ordered a Lobster Mac and Cheese that was incredibly rich but very delicious.

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  2. Now I am totally craving some mac & cheese! I'm with you - why put it in the oven? I actually bought some macaroni last month for the purpose of making mac & cheese but never got around to it. I'm glad I waited. Thanks for the tip on clarifying the butter and for the video. When he mentioned adding lobster it got me thinking about adding some crab meat I have in the fridge. Oh - I'm definitely going to make this tomorrow!!! Thanks my dear!!!

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  3. Love, love mac and cheese….yours looks so creamy and delicious! Thanks for the tip on clarifying the butter…I will give it a try!

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  4. Eva, I tried making it rich, even with cream cheese, but I never liked mac and cheese until I started to make it on the stovetop and replaced the orange cheddar with white. I grew up with white cheese in Hungary and I still prefer it.

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  5. Well Peach Lady I am sure it will be fabulous; you make everything look so appetizing it has to be delicious.

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  6. Yes Kathy, I knew about clarified butter and roux but I don't always follow my own counsel. After making this, I will try to be good and use less fat. :-)

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  7. I've learned so many things about making a bechamel/mornay sauce for mac and cheese that I never knew before. But the important thing is that the result tastes great. :) I rarely put my mac and cheese in the oven as I usually just add the cooked pasta to the hot cheese sauce, stir to coat and eat. And I reheat my leftover mac and cheese in the microwave.

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I began to post recipes for my family and it turned out to be a work in progress. "zsuzsa is in the kitchen" has over 900 recipes of Hungarian and international recipes. My recipes are organized into a cookbook format. On top of the page click on the cookbook to get access to all my recipes. If I ever figure out how to add a printer friendly gadget I will add it. In the meantime feel free to cut and paste. Happy cooking!

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