Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Macaroni Cheese

Icicles and snow scream comfort food.
Betty Keira and I were talking about the frequency of certain foods in the Betty Neels canon. We both agreed that the single dish most often cooked by our heroines (not counting tea and toast) seems to be macaroni cheese.  Aramintas and Olivias are popping macaroni cheese into the oven every time they turn around in their dingy little semi-basement flatlets.

Here in the States it's called macaroni and cheese (or mac and cheese) - and as far as I was concerned, it came in a box and you cooked it on the stove top. My kids grew up on the stuff. 
My Cautionary Tale:
I haven't been able to stomach mac and cheese since June, 1983.  Dr. van der Stevejinck was in a training course for the Air National Guard.  He was stationed at Keesler Air Force Base for his training.  Our oldest son (who was around one year old) and I joined him there.  I was pregnant with our daughter...and we were nearly flat broke the first month. I had $30 to spend on groceries.  I had to make that money go as far as I could - and we were starting from scratch...we didn't have any staples like flour or sugar or salt or... Anyhoo, we pretty much lived on macaroni and cheese, peanut butter sandwiches and oatmeal. Since then, I've been 'off' macaroni and cheese.  Lesson? If you can help it at all, don't live on macaroni and cheese while you're pregnant.  You'll never want to see it again.

 I found a recipe on - this is my version of it:
Macaroni Cheese

My previous ventures in
macaroni cheese were all
of the Kraft-y sort.

7 tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups milk
1  1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 pound elbow macaroni, large
3 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese (about 12 ounces (I used a three cheese blend))
1 1/3 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 cup fresh bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350' and butter a 9 inch square glass baking dish.
In a heavy saucepan melt 6 tablespoons butter over moderately low heat. Add flour and cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add milk in a stream, whisking, and bring to a boil, whisking. Add mustard, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste and simmer sauce, whisking occasionally, until thickened, about 2 minutes.
In a kettle of salted boiling water cook macaroni until just al dente, about 7 minutes, rinse and drain well.  While macaroni is cooking, stir 3 cups Cheddar cheese and 1 cup Parmesan cheese into the milk mixture. Combine drained macaroni and cheesy mixture, pour into buttered baking dish.
Combine bread crumbs and 1/3 cup Parmesan and sprinkle evenly over macaroni. Cut remaining 1 tablespoon butter into bits and scatter over topping.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden and bubbling.
About 6 servings.

Verdict: Dr. van der Stevejinck is a fan of all things cheesy, so it was a hit with him. He especially like the breadcrumb/Parmesan topping. I'm not such a fan (see above)...but found it okay. Nearly sixteen year-old (tomorrow is his birthday!) wasn't overly fond of the crunchy topping.  Will I be making it again? Hmmm. Not soon.  After all, I have enough leftovers to feed Dr. van der Stevejinck for a week.

And now for my favorite song that includes 'Kraft dinner' in the here.


  1. Mac & cheese: Best is Stouffer's -- I don't even want to know what illegal drugs they stick in there (along with trans fats and all manner of unhealthy stuff) because it's divine. And someone else cooked it.

    Best home cooked is this recipe from Tyler Florence of Food Network (only this was on AOL's food site). Very cheesy, and then you add a neat-o topping after the m&c is done baking. The topping is peas, onions, and some salty meat. Prosciutto, bacon and ham have all worked great. Seriously delicious. (P.S. Sub in a smidge of dried thyme if you don't have fresh, but it really does add a nice flavor.)

  2. Hey! Betty Megan turns 15 on Sunday!! We should have a group party!
    Young Prof. Kevin Dom Er Dude, is turning 24 on the 9th, so we be throwing a wing ding in South Bend. All the van der Stevejinck are cautiously invited.

  3. This has nothing to do with macaroni cheese or Betty Neels, but I sure wish I had some Jollys for cleaning up and I want a pat on the back from my fellow Bettys--
    Today is Dr. Seuss's birthday resulting in:
    6 dozen Things 1&2 cupcakes (red velvet complete with sign and blue hair of cotton candy)
    4 dozen 1 Fish/2 Fish/Red Fish/Blue Fish cookies
    Pink Ink Yink Drink
    4 dozen Things 1&2 fuzzy hair pencils with wiggly eyes
    AND 2 dozen Cat in the Hat fleece scarves
    2 Things 1&2 t-shirts
    1 Star-belly Sneetch shirt
    Thank heaven The Littlest Princess wasn't celebrating the day in preschool with food, too!
    Gotta go clean up the mess....

    I wish Araminta/Olivia would make some macaroni cheese for me, but since it is Texas Independence Day I gotta go whip up some chicken-fried steaks and biscuits. I'd just make Prof. van der Hertenzoon take me out for a rib-eye, but there's not a steak fit for eatin' in this (otherwise lovely) state.

  4. Speaking of steak fit to eat...

    My great-nephew got into a spot of trouble in Pittsburgh in December while visiting a girlfriend at Pitt. He's a student at Drexel (in Philadelphia) and of course, we're in the middle.

    He neglected to mention it to his parents, but a letter arrived for him a few weeks ago at his home and his mother saw the return address, "District Magistrate," with a Pittsburgh address. So she opened it, and hit the roof.

    My sister (the grandmother) ended up being the one to take him to Pittsburgh to appear before the magistrate. He got only a caution as well as a lot of flowery comments about what a fine school Drexel is. (My great-nephew is leaving to go to a local technical school at the end of this trimester in a couple of weeks but fortunately, he was smart enough (for once!) to keep his mouth shut on that one.)

    All that is to explain why Haz and Ethan were in Pittsburgh Sunday night. When she realized that hotels were running upwards of $200 a night, she told E to forget about their talked-about steak dinner. After judicious use of the GPS, though, they found one for $100 a night and steak was back on the menu.

    Hazel went to the front desk and asked for a recommendation for a nice steak. The nicely dressed woman there told them about a place that was nearby. Off they went.

    Getting to the door, Hazel said, "OH, Ethan, I don't think we're wearing the right kinda clothes!" But they went in.

    A steak cost $34. A baked potato was another $6 and the salad was $8. Ethan, his eyes huge, said, "Gram, what are we going to do?"

    Hazel replied, "We're here so we're going to eat, but you're drinking a glass of tap water tonight, bud!"

    When she told me this story I asked how the steak was, and she said it was luscious. Then I laughed and said, "You've always said Ethan and his sister are your million dollar babies!"

    She takes each of her kids and grandkids and now great-grandbabies out for their birthday dinners. Most of the other kids as to go to Burger King or McDonald's. Ethan & Rachel want the local seafood place with all you can eat crab. :) (Ethan, at 6'8, and his cousin, my other great-nephew, Stefan at 6'5", went to this place one Wednesday evening for that special and after they'd each had 10 refills, they were told the place was closing. At 8:20.)


    We all love macaroni and cheese but we like it my mama's way, with New York Extra Sharp cheese. And baked until it makes it's own crunchy brown topping. YUM!


  5. I love Mac and Cheese. When I was growing up, my mom would make if for lunch after church. Tight budget, one box for six of us. Till my brothers hit their teens, that is. Now, being gluten free, I don't get it often. We have discovered that Shells and Cheese has gluten free sauce, we just use our own macaroni when we just have to have it.

  6. For Betty Jo Dee:
    All Together Now: Pooooor Baby
    Sometimes ya just need some stokes from the sista-dudes. We are here for you JoDee!
    Way to bake those treats!
    But really doll, you're in Texas! Go out and get some BBQ Briskit. Most towns have great BBQ places. I'd have you for dinner and serve you some of Uncle Bobby's recipe, but alas, we now live up north. I used to live in San Antonio and my SIL in S.A. still makes a killer Briskit.
    Happy Lone Star Independence Day!!!

  7. We call it KD here and my kids LOVE the box version and won't eat my carefully made homemade version with the crunchy top. Ungrateful wretches. I also associate the box version with long periods of poverty during my university days when we lived on KD and "hot dog water".

  8. But Betty Mary, I'm in Pennsylvania....No decent steaks, Tex-Mex (especially enchiladas), barbeque, or chicken-fried steak. BooHoo....

  9. My condolences. We've got a good briskit place in Jackson and my son in S. Bend favorite BBQ is Famous Dave's. You could go slummin' at a Lone Star if they've got that chain near you. Not the prof's favorite, but in a pinch..., and the decor would be nostalgic! ;-)

    Prof Vue der Plane was born in Austin and raised all over Texas. He couldn't stand the heat, so when he got out of the Air Force, we came north near my birth place - The Motor City.
    This special date had slipped his mind, but he's a Texan through and through. Thanks for the reminder. We will now pause to sing Yellow Rose of Texas, followed by Deep in the Heart of same place. hey howdy y'all!

  10. Betty Cindy, I missed the moral of the story?
    Was it:
    A. Nephews who mess around in Pittsburg should not get steak.
    B. Never ask the concierge for Hotel recommendations if you got the room for a steal.
    C. Allow a grandkid to pick expensive restaurants when he's young and you'll end up with pockets to let in Pittburgs when he's grown.
    Since I always have thought that Enquiring Minds should mind their own business, I won't even ask about the messy spot of trouble.
    Having had a nephew that messed around at ND causing Prof Dom-Er Dude 30 hours of community service, I can make an extrememely educated guess. ROTFLMHO!

    And Betty Cindy of the great memory for trivia, since you seem to have forgotten entering my quiz, you'll get one reminder.
    Your Invitations Have Arrived.

  11. I love homemade Mac and cheese. I use half cheddar, half jack, and layer the cheese in with the noodles before pouring on the white sauce rather than melting the cheese into the sauce. In a pinch I'll pop in mozzarella.
    On top, I sprinkle straight parmesan on top and back at 425 so it forms the brownest crunchiest crust. YUM! I was glad your recipe called for the white sauce to be made first. That's the way to go!

  12. Question 1: Is macaroni cheese the same thing as toasted cheese?

    Question 2: What's up with Betty and buttered toast (easily a close second on frequency)? They seem to be obsessed and prefer to toast it on a stick or fork or something at a fireplace. We call this camping in the States.

    Discuss (especially Brits and Anglo-philes).

    (Betty Mary, remind me to send along a tale of chicken-fried steak at an eatery with the Friendly State's actual name in its own moniker. A tale of woe and indignation.)

  13. Buttered toast has got to trump macaroni cheese as far as frequency...but unless you make the bread yourself, it's not really a 'recipe'. Toast bread, spread butter. Not that hard. What I don't get is the 'paper thin' slices. I like a little heft to my toast.

  14. Betty Mary, my original point was the cost of good steak in Pennsylvania. They do exist - but you'll pay! :)

    As for Ethan's indiscretion - well, let's just say that this boy has been working very hard to yank his parents' chains for a few years. This was just the latest episode. He was picked up for disturbing the peace and had a joint in his pocket. Why the magistrate let him off so easily is beyond me. I'm glad - I don't want him to have heavy fines to pay, or whatever, but he needs to straighten up and fly right!

    My sister told him, "Ethan, I don't want to lecture you but I have to say one thing. I don't have anything to say about you when my friends are bragging about their grandchildren. What can I say? Ethan's wasted his time at Drexel and is transferring to Penn College? Ethan's got a summons to appear before a magistrate in Pittsburgh? Ethan has been bouncing back and forth between two girlfriends like a ping pong ball, treating them both badly and letting the whole world know all of it on Facebook? All I can say is that you're tall and have huge feet. I used to be able to say what a great kid you were. I miss that."

    So we are praying hard for our boy. Ethan is Rachel's older brother so he's had the same very difficult father, and all that entails. He was the coolest 13 year old. After I had a hysterectomy that year, in late June, he came and stayed with me to fetch and carry for me. Stayed almost the entire summer. We had a ball.

    I'm sorry that I was more rambly and less clear than usual. ;-) In my defense I've been ill this week with cellulitis and my temperature has rocketed up and slammed down constantly.

    Betty Debbie, here's my take on the paper thin bread thing. They always liked their cucumber sandwiches on paper thin bread, too. If you've ever sliced home baked bread by hand, you know how difficult it is to get even slices, not to mention thin ones. To have a quantity of paper thin slices of bread to share with your guests showed off the skills of your kitchen staff.

    Also, paper thin slices of toast were crunchier, all the way through.

    Me, I like to chew my bread, toasted or not. A little thicker than the half-inch of store-bought bread is my preference.



  15. Toasted cheese is this: toast onto which you piled grated Cheddar and then slide it under the grill. English stoves have a "grill" above the cooktop -- it's an open broiler, in effect, and it's a wonderful addition as you can see the food while it's cooking and you know just when it's done. Toasted cheese is done when you get brown spots on the cheese -- black is overdone.

    The food I keep noticing is cheese soufflé. Heroines whip them up for lunch (!) or get one that's light as air from the RDD's attentive staff. They're bloody hard to cook, frankly, and one doesn't just whip one up in a moment's notice. I've made them, but there's a good reason why I don't anymore.

  16. They do all kinds of souffles at a moment's notice, eggs being cheap (free, if there are hens on the premises) and always available. And, was an electric mixer part of the average country cottage kitchen appliances? I have a hunch we're "whipping" souffles by hand!

    I didn't own a mixer for a few years and while I did make a (one!) lemon meringue pie in that period, it was not an event I'd care to repeat. My arms were mush.

    I used to collect cookbooks as I traveled and one I picked up was a reprint of a cookery book from colonial and antebellum Virginia. The authoress mentions a wonderful new invention she'd recently acquired - the rotary egg beater. She says she made meringues for the whole family with "no tremulousness of nerve or tendon." (I loved that phrase and as I got the book not long after aforementioned lemon meringue, I could relate!)

    Eggs, bread and cheese feature large in Neels' characters' diets, one way and another.

    Just like our house!