Melt My Heart
Classic mac and cheese has to be in the pantheon of ultimate comfort foods. Of the folks that deign to make their own from scratch, they each seem to have their own secret recipe that is tailored to their unique tastes. Mine is a perfect reflection of my love of spice and texture – I give the sauce heat with a slew of different piquant ingredients, and add crunch with a lovely dose of panko (japanese bread crumbs). It’s some majesty.
There are two schools of homemade mac and cheese recipes – one where the sauce is made from a cooked bechamel, and the other which is made from an uncooked custard of eggs and cream that form a sauce upon baking. I’m in the bechamel school – it’s how I learned to make it from my mom, and we all know that mama is always right. If you’ve never made a bechamel before, it’s an incredibly simple and versatile sauce that you’ll be happy to have in your culinary repertoire. I make my bechamel extra savory with a secret ingredient – grated onion. The bits of onion, cut with a box grater on the fine setting, manage to melt into the sauce, imparting flavor without you tasting distinct bits of onion. Secret ingredients should be just that – a secret.
This mac and cheese is interesting as leftovers – the sauce turns into a solid custard, which is deliciously guilty when eaten cold. It’s incredibly easy to cut into squares, which is why I can image Paula Deen (who just so happens to be in the egg custard school of mac and cheese) has fun breading and deep frying chunks of leftover mac and cheese. I personally don’t do this, but I won’t look at you funny if you decide to give it a try. Comfort food should do what you will it to, and if you want to deep fry, there’s no time better than the present.
For my darling vegan friends, I have perfected the most luscious version of this recipe with absolutely no dairy. I’ll post it as soon as I make a batch and snap some pics.
Classic Mac and Cheese
1 lb. of elbow macaroni
4 tbs. of butter
4 tbs. of flour
1/4 c. of grated onion, juices and all
4 c. of milk
2 tsp. of salt
1/8 tsp. of paprika
1/4 tsp. of black pepper
1/8 tsp. of white pepper
2 tsp. of worchestershire sauce
2 tsp. of deli mustard
pinch of cayenne pepper
4 c. of extra sharp cheddar, shredded
2 c. of colby jack, shredded
1/2 c. of panko bread crumbs (or plain bread crumbs)
1/4 tsp. of paprika
1/4 tsp. of black pepper
2 tbs. of grated parmasean
Preheat oven to 400°. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente and drain.
While pasta is boiling, make your sauce. In a large sized pot, melt your butter on medium-low heat. Whisk the flour into the butter to form a smooth paste. Add the grated onion and stir. Slowly add the milk in a steady stream, whisking the whole time to prevent lumps. Add the salt, paprika, black pepper, white pepper, worchestershire sauce, mustard and cayenne. Turn up heat and continue whisking until sauce thickens. Turn off the heat and add the 4 c. of cheese and whisk until melted.
Dump macaroni into the pot with the sauce and stir. Pour out macaroni and sauce into a buttered dish. In a small bowl, mix the 2 cups of colby jack, panko, paprika, black pepper and parmasean. Top the macaroni with the cheese mixture. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes or until the top is bubbly and golden. Let sit for 4-5 minutes and then serve.