Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Martha Stewart's Perfect Mac 'n Cheese

Now, I'm a bit of a Mac 'n Cheese connesour. It's my "go-to" for almost everything. Before becoming pregnant, I could have eaten it daily (right now, it tastes like I'm eating melted butter- EW!) and kind of did. No wonder I'm so chubby.

A few months back, a friend of mine (Adam) made this for his pregnant wife and I. Yes, you can say he was brave, having 2 really pregnant women in his house at once- and attempting to make a recipe that he'd never made before. However, it turned out splendedly, and we spared his life.

I've been craving this, decidedly because he used buttered challah bread for his topping...After making this recipe, I think the challah really made it. I decided to go shopping for ingredients and people to eat it, seeing as it makes enough for 12 people (not really, I say 6 MAX). Let me tell ya, BE PREPAIRED this is an expensive mac n cheese. Holy moly. Also- if you can't find challah, I suggest using King's Hawaiian bread, which I found at Walmart (yes, I know, but it was the 3rd store I'd been to looking for supplies). Get the bread loaf, it'll be easier than the rolls.

I'm going to try this recipe again...I was reading it, via email on my BlackBerry and missed a step (saving some of the cheese for the top, under the bread) AND used more cheese than I was supposed to, oops! Hopefully, next time, it will turn out a bit more creamy. The main problem I have with baked macaroni and cheese is that it turns out a bit dry and/or more gritty...kind of odd.

6 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
5 1/2 cups milk (I used 2% but might try fat free half and half next time)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (omitted, as we don't like nutmeg)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (omitted as we didn't have any)
4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyere or* 1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated pecorino Romano *yeah, I didn't read the or part and did both. oops!
1 pound elbow macaroni

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place bread pieces in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour butter into the bowl with bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside.

In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk.

Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour.

Cook, stirring, 1 minute.
Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.

Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere or 1 cup pecorino Romano. Set cheese sauce aside.

Fill a large saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 fewer minutes than manufacturer's directions, until outside of pasta is cooked and inside is underdone. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.) Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well.

Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.

Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar and 1/2 cup Gruyere or 1/4 cup pecorino Romano; scatter breadcrumbs over the top.

Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes; serve.


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