Friday, January 05, 2007

macaroni and cheese

This post is dedicated to my daughter S, who loves macaroni and cheese with a passion--I always try to make it for her if she visits (and once made it for her at her house; a small disaster because of the difference in our ovens). I must say it's a pleasure to know of something that will always delight her; if only my older daughter V had a favorite dish so I could do the same for her--if she has, she's not telling.
Kevin at Seriously Good has come up with a Mac-and-Cheese Off, and I had to post on mine, even though it is extremely ungourmet, not in any way tarted up, perhaps boring. We like it that way (although we don't agree that it's boring). I haven't used a recipe for years, although long ago I had it written out on an index card, one of the few dishes of my mother's that I carried into my first marriage. It's her recipe, possibly originally from the Joy of Cooking (although it's not quite the same) and all I've changed is the type of cheese (Mom was a fan of Kraft American).
Here it is--basic, homey, and delicious.
Sue Bee's Macaroni and Cheese
2 tbs butter (you can use oil if you want, although the taste will change)
2 tbs flour
2 cups milk (I've used skim, 2%, and whole--all work fine)
about 2 cups grated cheese
2 cups macaroni
Melt the butter in a sauce pan, add flour and stir into a roux, cooking it gently for a half minute or so. 1 Add milk and stir constantly over low heat until the lumps dissolve (smash at them with your spoon if necessary). Continue cooking over lowish heat, 2 until the sauce thickens enough to coat the spoon a little. 3 Add the grated cheese 4 and stir until melted (you shouldn't need the stove here--the heat of the sauce should melt it).
In the meantime, if you're efficient, you'll have had water boiling for the macaroni. Sling it in and simmer it until it just starts to soften (I take one or two out and eat them to see how they're coming along). When they get there, drain and put in your preferred dish (I use a 9x13 pan), then pour the sauce over, mixing everything around until the cheesiness is nicely distributed.
As a last touch, sprinkle with paprika (this is more for aesthetics than flavor, but we can't do without it). Bake at 350 degrees for a while. I don't really time it any more, but I think it's supposed to go for about 25 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling a little around the edges.
Serve right from the pan, because no one is interested in waiting any longer. It's good with vegetables like broccoli or green beans (also a nice color contrast), but we never put the vegetables into the mac and cheese in the interests of innovation or saving time as I've seen some recipes suggest.
mac and cheese footnotes:
1 When I first made this I had no idea what a roux was, but now I take pleasure in using the right word.
2 You're supposed to cook it over low heat, but I confess that I often turn up the heat after the lumps are gone, which works OK if you stir madly.
3 Knowing when this is partly a matter of experience, but I find that the feel of the spoon (I always use a wooden one) against the pan changes when the sauce starts to thicken--it moves against the pan bottom in a more silky way.
4 This particular mac and cheese had a mixture of two kinds of cheddar (an Irish cheese, I think, and Helluva Good Cheese Extra Sharp Cheddar), plus the end of a piece of Swiss. If I'm making it for S, it has to have a high proportion of yellow cheddar, since she disdains the white version. Confession: I once used a judicious mixture of yellow and red food coloring when I had only white cheese: no one guessed.


sher said...

That's looks so good! I thought I was tired of mac-n-cheese after making my own yesterday--but you've made me hungry all over again! :)

Anonymous said...

Oh, absolutely dreamy. Looks like the real, criterial thing. Yep, I'm ready for more, too.

SBinStarr said...

What??!! Food coloring I am shocked!! How could you have gotten that past me?

lucette said...

S and CC: everyone's m&c made me want to make more. Maybe a m&c tasting menu.
sb: a mother is driven to desperate ends sometimes!

Anonymous said...

Mac-n-cheese. When I crave something, what I almost always crave is mac-n-cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, or grilled cheese sandwiches. Alas, I married Secret Asian man who doesn't really like any of those things. What he always craves is rice. Or potstickers. He looks as if his ancestors were German-Dutch-Hungarian but they obviously aren't, hence the nickname Secret Asian Man.

lucette said...

D is somewhat secretly Asian, in that he always reverts to rice and is a maniac stirfryer. But I attribute this partly anyway to his rock and roll years, when he was often extremely poor, and rice extremely cheap.

Anonymous said...

Yum! A good mac and cheese. In a moment of weakness I could be tempted to sell my soul for a good mac and cheese.