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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mac 'n' Cheese A Million Ways

This is a macaroni and cheese recipe with a million variations and very few dishes.  What's not to love?

This recipe is a little unique in that you used uncooked macaroni.

Here are the ingredients.  A pretty standard of make your own mac and cheese ingredients.

Three cups of uncooked pasta.  Here we have a combo look.

See how pretty?  I would try and convince you I added the bow tie pasta for texture and interest, but the honest truth is that I didn't have enough elbows in the house.  I can almost see the macaroni mafia coming for me now.

Combine equal parts butter and flour in a sauce pan.  About 2 teaspoons of each.

Be sure to thoroughly cook the mixture (the rue, for you sophisticated types).  Otherwise, you end up with floury tasting gloop.  Not at all appetizing.

Add a pinch of salt and pepper, along with at least a teaspoon of both dry mustard powder and Worcestershire sauce.  I actually add considerably more mustard and Worcestershire.  Surprise, surprise.

 Mix it all up.  You'll end it up with an interesting looking paste-like substance.  Don't worry - it's supposed to do that.

Then plop in two cups of milk and let it simmer away.  Don't crank the heat up too high, or the milk may scald.  And having the milk too hot when you add in the cheese will result in a groady mess.

Simmer the concoction away until it has thickened.  How much?  When you swoosh it around the pan, it should slowly slide down the side of the pot.  Think something like prepared cream of mushroom soup.

And now - for the cheese!  About two cups.  Feel free to cheat on the quantities on this point.

Give it a good stir over low heat, until everything is nice and melty.  Is that really a word?  Not sure.  Don't care.

Then pour it over the macaroni, that has conveniently found its way into an ovenproof dish.

Bake in a 350 F oven, uncovered, for about 45 minutes.

You'll end up with something like this.  Except this was cooked for more like an hour.  A little crispy, but still oh so delicious.

Now, for the personalization part.

I used whole wheat pasta.  I should have either skimped on the pasta or upped the milk and cheese quantities.  This would have definitely given more sauce.  I find whole wheat pasta sucks up more juice than white pasta.

Onions are delicious in this particular recipe.  I like to grate them super fine using a microplane.  This distributes the flavour throughout without any chunks anywhere.  Any type of dried onion can also be substituted, but remember to add more liquid or decrease the pasta a bit to compensate.

Crumbled bacon is also exceptional in here.  Come to think of it, crumbled bacon is exceptional just about anywhere.

Small shrimp or chopped shrimp bits would definitely give this a more adult flare.

Crushed crackers on top would add some crunch.  I'd put them on during the last 5-10 minutes of baking.

For a saucier finish, keep the entire thing covered until the last few minutes.

This can also be made in the microwave, in just about one bowl.  Make the entire sauce in an ovenproof/microwave safe dish and then dump the pasta in and presto!  You've saved yourself a lot of clean up.

And there you have it.  Mac and cheese a million ways. 1. 2.
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