Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Easy Cheesy Goodness! George's FAVORITE baked Mac and Cheese!

I never really intended this to be a dedicated blog.  I mean, I have done a few very "dedicated to" blogs but one to my husband seemed so...needless. :)  I mean I adore the man but a whole cooking blog dedicated to one of his 2 favorite sides in the whole world?  It is a favorite of my son as well, so maybe it will be my family dedicated blog!

This was our first holiday weekend together!  We were all so young!  We were ice skating at Flyers Zone in Atlantic City, NJ!

It started when we spent our first holiday together.  Most people have traditional dishes they prepare for family holidays. Perhaps they are handed down, or just a tradition.  In my house it's this hideous grated cabbage and carrots in jello dish with some heinous dressing including Miracle Whip on top.  I HATE that dish, for the record.  Or it might be stuffing with oysters, UGH, I hate that dish to, thanks Mom.  I have ONE sister who loves it, and my mother loves it, nobody else loves it, so she makes it anyway.  Almost as if Peg is her favorite child.  Hmmmm....

News Flash: 
Peg, I am the favorite.  I always have been.  You got it?  I am watching you sister.   

Moving on, when I asked my husband what dishes were traditional for his family, he says all the regular stuff and then states, "but the ONE thing we have for EVERY holiday is baked macaroni and cheese".  You have to remember at this point, I was not so into cooking yet.  I remembered my mom making it a handful of times but being a product of the mid 70's, I was raised a processed food girl.  If it didn't come in a box, can or package, I was NOT eating it!  HAIL CHEFBOYARDEE!  Anyway, it became one of those "AH HA" moments when I knew I needed to learn to make it because I would be darned if I was breaking any family traditions!

It took me a handful of times to get the perfect balance and learn a few tricks.  Let me give you some hints before you go get your groceries.
     1. You want to make enough cheese sauce to give the end result a very "soupy" look.  When you bake     your mac and cheese will thicken, and if not enough sauce, it becomes dry, GROSS!
     2. This is not a health conscience recipe, live a little, it won't cause your death, I promise.
     3. Under cook your pasta by 2-3 minutes or you will end up with MUSH.
     4. Top with breadcrumbs you have tossed in melted butter and browned.  IF you know you will be reheating, only do it to half, otherwise if you reheat in a pot with a little milk, the breadcrumbs give it a odd consistency and I personally don't like it.  Eat the breadcrumbed side with your dinner, leave the "unbreadcrumbed" side for leftovers.  If you just reheat in pieces, go ahead and crumb it all.  We just always reheat with milk.
     5. You can use ANY combination of cheese you like, I prefer plain cheddar, not sharp, not aged, just plain cheddar.  I do occasionally throw in some parm or fresh mozz for the gooey factor, but each time my family says, "You didn't make it the REAL way"  So your 2 cups of cheese can be any cheese YOU prefer or any combination of cheeses.
     6. Milk can be skim or whole or 2% or whatever you want.  You can use cream or half and half as well.  For a little calorie saving you can use mostly chicken stock, and add only 1 cup of cream or half and half .
    7. Don't freak out at the "mustard" in the dish.  Mustard acts for cheese, like coffee does for chocolate.  It just intensifies the cheese flavor, I promise you won't taste it at all!  Same with the hot sauce!
See how it looks a little soup?  I should have probably use an extra 1/2 cup of milk so you could really see it. Was so good though!
Ok here is what you need:

2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper *use white if you prefer*
1/4 tsp yellow mustard
Dash of hot sauce
3 1/2-4 cups milk, cream or  half and half or any combination of them!
2 cups grated cheese of your choice
12 ounces short cut pasta
1/2 cup bread crumbs plus 1 extra tbsp of butter.

Boil your pasta according to package directions, remembering to salt your water liberally and subtract 2-3 minutes from your cooking time.  In a skillet melt 1 tbsp of butter and add breadcrumbs, let toast on low and remove from heat and set aside. 

In a separate saucepan, start your roux.  Add your butter and flour, allowing the flour to cook a couple of minutes.  It will cook the raw flavor out so it doesn't taste like paste!  Slowly add in 3 cups of milk.  Whisk to dissolve all butter and flour, and then add in salt, pepper, mustard, and hot sauce.  Stir and add in cheese.  Let heat slowly so cheese melts without burning.  Hold your remaining 1/2 - 1 cup milk aside.  When pasta is done, combine with cheese sauce.  Even if all the cheese isn't melted its ok.  When combined it should seem almost like macaroni soup.  If it does, put into greased 8x8 casserole and top with breadcrumbs.  Otherwise, add enough extra milk to make it soupier, then follow the directions.

Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes.  

This dish is easy to make a little or alot in about the same amount of time.  This will be on our Thanksgiving table this year, and Christmas and Easter too.  I hope whatever your favorite, traditional holiday is, you enjoy it as much as we enjoy ours!!

Your, "mac and cheese please, anything for her boys" chefwannabe,
And here we much older!  Proud Army parents!  HOOAAH!

1 comment:

  1. I love homemade mac and cheese, but my kids are Kraft Dinner snobs (I blame my husband, LOL). I also like to add mustard in ours, but hotsauce would be awesome.