Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ultimate Mac and Cheese

I know I have posted other mac and cheese recipes, or at least one, but don't make that one.  Seriously, don't make any other mac and cheese because this one is the only one you will ever want from now on.  I made it over the summer for a cast bonding party for a show I was directing and it was a huge hit.  It was a recipe that I got from a friend who made it for a party 3 years ago.  That should tell you something, that this dish stuck with me for years, prompting me to solicit her for the recipe.  I made it as it read the first time, but today I made a few changes and I think it's even better.  Thanks go out to Martha Stewart for the first recipe, and for Christine for sharing it!

You could definitely double this for a crowd, and in that case use a 9x13 dish, but I'm listing it as I made it tonight.  I'm guessing it would feed 6.

You will need:

4 slices of white bread, crusts cut off and cubed small-.5" pieces
4 Tbsp. butter, plus a little to grease the baking dish
2 c. 1% milk
3/4 c. light cream
1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
pepper, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper to taste (about 1/8 tsp)
1/2 lb elbow macaroni 
1 1/2 c. white cheddar cheese, shredded
1 c. gruyere, shredded
A little extra cheese for the top, about 1/2 cup (I had some shredded pecarino romano in the fridge so I added that also.)

Start by pre-heating your over to 375 degrees and start your milk and cream heating over med. heat, then melt 1 tbsp butter.  Toss your bread cubes in a bowl with the melted butter and set that aside.  In a larger sauce pan melt the rest of the butter and when it bubbles, slowly whisk in the flour until it is a nice thick, bubbly rue.  Then you can start adding the warm milk, a little at a time - keep whisking!  
Take a break from whisking to start a big pot of salted water over high heat and when it comes to a boil, add the pasta.  Cook the pasta for 2 minutes under the recommended cook time from the box, drain it, and rinse it in cold water.  While the pasta is cooking, keep whisking the milk, flour, and butter mixture over med/low heat until it is nice and thick.  Once it is thick, remove it from the heat, stir in the salt, pepper, cayenne, and nutmeg, and then add the two cups of cheese and stir until it is melted and incorporated.  Put the pasta and cheese sauce back in the big pasta pot and stir it all together. 

Pour the mixture into your greased baking dish (1.5 qts), top with some extra cheese and the bread crumbs.  Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

This is honestly one of the best things I've ever made.  I sprinkled it with a little more cayenne before I dug in, and trust me, it was hard to wait long enough to take a picture.  I can't wait for leftovers.  Please try it and let me know what you think!