Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Famous Mac and Cheese

I thought I'd begin with my old reliable: my beloved Baked Mac and Cheese. Adapted from equal parts my mother's recipe, Alton Brown's crazy show, and my own additions, this is the dish that is requested of me most often. I could be a chef at a five star gourmet restaurant and my family and boyfriend would still beg for my mac and cheese when it's my turn to cook.

My secret arsenal of dijon mustard, cayenne pepper, and loads of garlic topped with crushed Ritz crackers is what gives it that little extra, I think. Forget lowly breadcrumbs or even fancy-pants panko, Ritz is where it's at.

I don't agree with Alton's suggestion of deep-frying the leftovers though. A bit too gourmet for me!

Bee's Famous Baked Mac and Cheese

1 package macaroni elbows
7 tbs butter
3 tbs flour
3 cups milk (percentage of your choice!)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
large dash of cayenne pepper
1 egg
2 tbs dijon mustard
2 blocks cheese, cut into blocks -- this is up to you, but I like sharp cheddars
1.5 sleeves Ritz crackers, crushed

-Prepare a box of macaroni according to the package.
-Melt 4 tbs butter in a sauce pan and slowly add the flour, whisking constantly.
-Slowly add the milk, again whisking constantly.
-Add the garlic, cayenne, and mustard and stir to combine.
-Whisk the egg in a small bowl and temper into the sauce. For those who don't know what "tempering" is--I'll admit, I had to google it the first time--it's when you slowly add a warm liquid to a cold egg, tiny spoonfuls at a time, so that the egg will gradually reach the temperature of the sauce without scrambling, making it safe to add to the hot sauce. If you were to pour it into the sauce all willy-nilly and cold, it'd cook immediately and you'd have egg bits floating around. No good!
-Let the mixture simmer until thick, it should coat the back of a spoon.
-Once the sauce is thick, add most of the cheese, reserving a small amount for topping later. Stir until melted.
-Combine the cheese sauce with the prepared macaroni and pour into a greased baking dish.
-To make the topping: melt the remaining butter and toss with the crushed ritz. Pour crumbs over the top of the mac and cheese and top with the remaining cheese.
-Cook for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Spoon out, eat immediately, fall in love.

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