Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mac & Cheese - The Real Good Stuff

Oh, how we love Mac and Cheese. It IS the ultimate comfort food in our world. And ALL children love Mac and Cheese.....don't they? Seriously, who doesn't like Mac and Cheese? Mac and cheese is the ultimate partner for any meat entree' on a chilly, rainy, or snowy day.

The problem is, when you say Mac and Cheese, people think of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese out of the box - or in our families - Annie's Mac and Cheese out of the box. And as guilty as we all can be sometimes of eating this childhood food favorite from a box, we only cheat ourselves out of a stellar eating experience by not making authentic Mac and Cheese with REAL cheese!

We've searched the earth for homemade recipes, but many times, are left stunned and overwhelmed by the amount of cheese they suggest using. We want the warm cheesy flavor, but we also want some flair, and that's what this recipe has - flair.

Using the bay leaf, thyme, nutmeg, and cayenne to compliment the cheesy sauce is brilliant, because it warms the belly in the most interesting way. Oh, and don't try to convince us you don't have time, because the sauce can be made in the same time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta. If you were super short on time, you could skip the phenomenal topping we suggest and bypass the whole bake-it-in-the-oven step, and serve the Mac and Cheese immediately, but we feel you would be selling this recipe short. It is, however, doable.

If you truly love Mac and Cheese, then honor that love by making the real deal tonight.

Honor the love.....

Real Good Mac & Cheese

16 Ounces Macaroni
6 Tablespoons Butter
One Onion, peeled and finely chopped
1/3 Cup Flour
4-1/4 Cups Milk
1-2 Dried Bay Leaves
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
Sprinkles of Salt, Black Pepper, Cayenne Pepper, Nutmeg
One Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
3 Cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated
2 Tablespoons Dried Bread Crumbs
1/4 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, ten minutes before cooking. Bring a large pan of lightly salted water to a rapid boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions, or until cooked, but still firm. Drain. Set aside.

Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large, heavy based saucepan, add the onion, and cook, stirring frequently, for 5-7 minutes, or until softened. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the milk, return to the heat, and cook, stirring until a smooth sauce has formed.

Add the bay leaf and thyme to the sauce and season to taste with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until thickened and smooth.

Remove the sauce from the heat. Add the mustard and cheddar cheese, stir until the cheese has melted. Stir in the pasta. Then pour cheesy pasta into a lightly oiled baking dish.

Sprinkle the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese over the pasta. Dot with the remaining butter, then bake in the preheated oven for one hour, or until golden. Serve immediately.

Note: If your children don't appreciate a little spicy in their macaroni and cheese, then leaving out the cayenne might be a good idea.


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