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 epicurious.com - 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 lyrics....click here.