Thursday, November 4, 2010

Home Made Mac & Cheese

Home Made Mac & Cheese would make a great Thanksgiving side dish.

This is a very simple recipe that I actually taught myself to make after watching my friend Sheena make it a few times.  There really isn't a recipe, more of instructions on how to make it.  The measurements are entirely up to you depending upon you and your families taste and appetite.  I will put some guesstimates to give you a starting point.

Home Made Mac & Cheese

Like gravy, and most cooking for that matter, this is more of a trial and error experiment dish.  You may have to make it a few times and play around with it before you figure out exactly how much you like of each ingredient.

What You Will Need:
2 cups elbow pasta
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1 cup shredded cheese
Seasoning to taste

Step 1: Cook the Pasta-
Cook 2 cups of elbow pasta according to package directions.  You can make more if desired.  Once done strain and place pan back onto the hot burner (medium-high heat)

Step 2: Make the Sauce-
The way I make the sauce for Mac & Cheese is very similar to the Gravy Technique.
Place about 1/4 cup of butter-I just eyeball all of these measurements but they are probably close to this-in the bottom of the hot pan you boiled the noodles in.
Once butter has melted and is nice and hot add flour.  I usually just use a handful, its probably about 1/4 of a cup.
Using your Whisk, Whisk flour and butter together in rapid circular motions. 
Once flour and butter are combined and have cooked for about 30 seconds add in milk.  Start with 1 cup, you can add more later if needed.
Continue to whisk in rapid circular motions.  Sauce will start to thicken.
As sauce thickens exam your pasta to see if you think you have enough sauce to cover it well.  If you think you need more add a tiny bit more flour and milk (maybe a tblsp at a time of flour and 1/4-1/2 cup at a time of milk).  Sauce will become thin again at first but as you whisk and continue to cook it will thicken.  I almost always have to add some more flour and milk in order to have enough sauce.
Once you have enough sauce remove from heat.
Sprinkle in pepper (maybe like 1/8 teasp) and 1 cup of shredded cheese, any type that you like.  I usually use Colby, Colby/Jack or Cheddar depending on what we have in the fridge-almost always Colby/Jack

Ok, so maybe this is not a secret to some but I had never heard of this before until Teds mom told me about it.  When you add the pepper to your sauce add some sugar as well.  This really does make the Mac & Cheese taste so much better!  I just do a few pinches, maybe 1 teasp-1/2 Tblsp.  Taste the sauce to see if its enough or if you need more.  I do this before I add the cheese in.
**If you add sugar and decide to add a bread crumb topping too make sure its PLAIN breadcrumbs.  I added a bread crumb topping once that had onion and garlic powder in it.....UMMMMM YEAH, NOT GOOD!  Onion and Garlic do not mix well with sugar!

Step 3: Combine Sauce and Pasta-
Once Cheese has melted nicely into sauce add pasta to sauce and stir until well combined.  Taste it at this point to see if you want to add anymore cheese, sometimes with milder cheeses you may need to shred a little more to add.
Now you can do 1 of 3 things.
1. You can serve as is
2. You can place the Mac & Cheese into a casserole dish, add some more shredded cheese on top (as pictured above) and place in the oven at 300 for a few minutes, just to melt the cheese, then serve.  I also sprinkle a tiny bit more sugar on top when I do this.
3. You can place the Mac & Cheese in a casserole dish.   Take a few pieces of bread, add them to a food processor to create bread crumbs.  Place this on top of the Mac & Cheese.  Top with some shredded cheese and a pinch more sugar, if desired.  Place in oven at 350 and bake for about 15 minutes, or until crumbs are nice and toasty brown.

I serve mine all 3 ways, it just depends on my mood and how hungry we all are.  If we are starving and dinner is running late it goes straight from the stove top to our plates.  If the evening is running smoothly then we might do a cheese or bread crumb topping

I love this recipe because its so simple and easy.  After you make it once or twice you will never go back to the boxed kind again.  I have not bought boxed Mac & Cheese since Sariah was born this summer!  If you think about it, the stove top version only has 1 more step than the boxed kind and that's adding the flour.  I always melted my butter over the stove, then added the milk and the powdered cheese before adding the pasta back with the boxed kind.  So really it take no more work and is much tastier and healthier for your family.
BONUS: Its cheaper to make vs the boxed stuff too, even the off brands!



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