Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Seriously Good Mac and Cheese

After making Mac and Cheese for the senior lunch a couple of weeks ago I received a lot of  comments on how good the dish was, and I posted the recipe that I used for that.  But that one made a whole lotta Mac and Cheese and would probably be more than you really need to make for a gathering.   So when I was asked to bring Mac and Cheese for Easter I decided to make a smaller amount.  And still ended up with more than we needed, but that's OK, I like leftovers.

Mac and CheeseTo start with, get a big old pot of water boiling.   You need to add a little salt and I like to add some olive oil to the water as well.    Cook the macaroni to your preferred level of done-ness.   Personally, I like mine cooked all the way, about 11 or 12 minutes.

While the macaroni is cooking, grate the cheese.   I used a pound of Colby Jack cheese, but you can use a mixture of Monterey Jack Cheese and Cheddar Cheese.   If you have some sharp cheddar handy, throw some of that in there.     Sprinkle the grated cheese with about a tablespoon of cornstarch and toss.   Set this aside while you make a white sauce.

Heat up 4 cups of half and half or whole milk, until almost boiling.  Then in a separate pot, melt 2 tablespoons butter and stir in 2 tablespoons flour, then add the hot milk and whisk together and cook until thickened.   Your sauce won't be real thick, don't worry about that.   As soon as it's cooked a little to get rid of the raw flour taste, dump in the grated cheese and stir together.   The cheese will melt at this point and that little bit of cornstarch on the cheese will help to keep the cheese from separating.   (Did you know you just made a Bechamel Sauce?  You did.) Add about 1/4 teaspoon of onion powder, 1/8th teaspoon hot mustard powder or two tablespoons prepared yellow mustard and 1/8th teaspoon cayenne pepper to the sauce at this point.   Taste, and adjust the seasonings, you can always add more, but taking out that cayenne pepper, well, let me just say this, it ain't possible.  (I know this from experience).  The mustard actually makes it taste more cheesy. 
Cubed Velveeta on cooked macaroni

Let it stand a couple of minutes while you cube up some Velveeta cheese.   I used the new Queso Blanco.   Just about a cup or so, again to your taste.   Mix the cubed velveeta into the hot macaroni and stir, then pour the cheese sauce over top, mix it all together gently.
Bechamel Sauce poured over cooked macaroni and Velveeta
Macaroni with Bechamel Sauce

Top with some panko bread crumbs that you've mixed with a little butter, and sprinkle over the top.   I melt some butter in a little pan and then add the Panko to it and stir it around, and brown it just a little teensy bit.
Panko with butter and cheese

  This time round I also added about a half cup of shredded cheese to it as well.    Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.
Mac and Cheese

  Take out of oven and let stand for 10 minutes, then serve.    And at this point, stand well back from the pan, you're going to have people elbowing into the line.     This is some seriously good Mac and Cheese. 

Sauce Recipe for Mac and Cheese

4 cups half and half, heated almost to boiling.
2 tablespoons flour mixed with 2 tablespoons butter to form a roux
1 pound grated Colby Jack cheese, or,
1/2 pound Monterey Jack cheese grated and
1/2 pound Cheddar Cheese, grated
1 cup Sharp Cheddar cheese grated (optional)
1 tablespoon cornstarch, sprinkled over the cheese
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon hot mustard powder or
2 tablespoons yellow mustard,
1/4 teaspoon onion powder

Cook Macaroni according to directions, butter a large casserole dish, 9x13 inches works well,  and put the cooked macaroni in that.
Heat half and half almost to boiling and set aside.   Melt butter in a saucepan, add flour and stir together to make a roux.    Add the hot half and half and whisk together until it has thickened.   Add the spices, whisk together and then add the cheese.   Stir together until melted and the sauce has thickened a little.   Pour over the cooked macaroni and Velveeta Cheese cubes.   Mix together gently and sprinkle some buttered Panko bread crumbs on top.   Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes or until nice and bubbly and hot.  Take out and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.   This stuff is HOT when it comes out of the oven, and needs to rest, besides which, you'll just burn your tongue if you try to eat it fresh out of the oven.   I know this because, well, let me just say my tongue is just fine now.  



Sid Munkholm
Sid Munkholm

Sid loves to cook, feed people and have fun in the kitchen. She shares her successes and the involuntary offerings she sometimes gives the kitchen goddess as well. And she's still looking for the mythical fairy to help her clean the kitchen after a marathon cooking session. Currently working on a cookbook showcasing the recipes from her Danish heritage.

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