Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Classic Mac n' Cheese

Who doesn't like Mac N' Cheese?  No one I know!  This recipe from Cook's Illustrated is exactly what I think of, when I think of a "Classic" Macaroni and Cheese.

Classic Macaroni & Cheese
Recipe from Cook's Illustrated, slightly adapted

Bread Crumb Topping:
6 Slices White Sandwich Bread (good-quality, about 6oz) torn into rough pieces
3 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces

Pasta and Cheese Ingredients:
1 pound Elbow Macaroni
1 Tbsp Table Salt (I used Sea Salt)
5 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
6 Tbsp All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 tsp Powdered Mustard
1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper 
5 cups Milk
8oz Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
8oz Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded
1 tsp Table Salt (I used Sea Salt)

1. For the bread crumb topping: Pulse bread pieces and butter in a food processor until crumbs are no larger than 1/8 inch.  (10-15 one second pulses.)  Set aside.  (I used 3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs mixed with 2 Tbsp melted butter since I didn't have bread in the house.)

2.  Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a Dutch Oven and add macaroni along with 1 Tbsp salt; cook until pasta is al dente.  Drain pasta and set aside in colander.

3. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat broiler.

4. Wipe out now empty Dutch Oven, add butter and cook over medium high heat until foaming.  Add the flour, mustard, and cayenne pepper and whisk until mixture becomes fragrant and deepens in color, approx. 1 minute.  Gradually whisk in milk and bring mixture to a boil, whisking constantly.  Make sure mixture reaches full boil to thicken fully.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until consistency is of heavy cream.  (Approx. 5 minutes)  Off heat, whisk in cheeses and 1 tsp salt until cheeses are fully melted and creamy.  Add pasta and continue to cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly,  until heated through.

5. Transfer mixture to a broiler safe 9x13" baking dish and sprinkle bread crumb topping evenly on top.  Broil for 4 minutes until bread crumbs are crisp and golden brown.  Cool 5 minutes, then serve.

We had this with our Easter dinner and everyone raved about it.  The bread crumbs really sealed the deal-making this the hit side dish of the evening.  I would make this dish again for any occasion.  The only thing I would have preferred is to add some fresh cracked pepper onto the mixture before adding the bread crumbs on top and possibly increasing the amount of bread crumb topping.  And I think I will stick with the Panko.  It was perfect.

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