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Monday, March 28, 2011

Chew on This | Mac and Cheese

Spring has sprung. Having more daylight each day has been so energizing and wonderful, don't you think? And amazingly, the sun has been shining brightly here for days and days. But it's still so cold. When the wind whips, it's down right bitter. So, some warm and cheesy Mac and Cheese to the 'I need something warm and cheesy' rescue!

The Husband was especially excited to come home to this meal. Mac and Cheese is one of his all time favorites. And he had been traveling - a lot - these last weeks and this meal hit the spot. The comfort of home on a plate!

Start with some cavatappi pasta - the corkscrew pasta. Cook your pasta until it is somewhat flexible but still very firm. Drain and set aside.

Grate your cheese. Lots of cheese. I used 2 cups of sharp cheddar and 2 cups of gruyere. It's going to get cheesy!

Next, start the base of the cheese sauce. Butter and flour first to make the roux.  Then add milk, buttermilk, Dijon mustard, dry mustard, celery seed powder, garlic, seasoned salt, salt and pepper. Whisk and allow base to thicken.

Beat one egg in a bowl. When the cheese sauce base is warm, slowly stir some of the base into the beaten egg. Whisk while adding the warm base to the egg to keep egg from curdling. Pour the tempered egg mixture into the pan with the base sauce and mix.

Once everything is incorporated, start adding the cheese. Yipee! Whisk, whisk, whisk until smooth. And then keep whisking until the cheese sauce is nice and thick.

These two portions are for the kids. They like their Mac and Cheese simple. Just the mac and just the cheese. I buttered these dishes, place the semi-cooked pasta in the ramekins and poured on some cheese sauce. Yum.

Then I added some more cheese. Double yum. And into the oven.

Here's how my kids prefer their Mac and Cheese. Very nice.

But, we adults prefer our Mac and Cheese with a few additions. First, big pans of Mac and Cheese are a welcomed sight.

More cheese (of course). And a hefty sprinkling of buttered panko crumbs. Panko are Japanese bread crumbs - delicious! Now, into the oven.

The Husband was totally psyched to see this large pan of crispy, crusty, cheesy, melty Mac and Cheese. For sure. Like totally.

When you're looking for some comfort in a dish, give this Mac and Cheese a try. It just might be the cherry on the top of a sweet homecoming for someone you love. 

Here's the recipe:

Mac and Cheese

4 C cavatappi pasta (or any Mac and Cheese pasta your prefer)
2 C grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 C grated gruyere cheese
1/2 stick butter
1/4 C flour
2 C milk
1/2 C buttermilk
2 T Dijon mustard
2 t dry mustard
1 t celery seed powder
2 t minced garlic
1 1/2 t seasoned salt
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1 beaten egg

1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 T melted butter
1/2 C panko or bread crumbs

Cook your cavatappi until slightly flexible but still very firm. Drain pasta and set aside.

In a sauce pan over medium to medium-low heat, melt butter. Add flour and cook the raw flour for 3-5 minutes. Next, pour in your milk and buttermilk. Whisk. Then add your Dijon, dry mustard, celery seed powder, garlic, salt and pepper. Whisk and allow the cheese sauce base to thicken and the flavors to meld together.

In a small bowl beat one egg. Take a 1/4 cup of the warmed cheese sauce base and whisk into the beaten egg - this tempers the egg and keeps it from curdling. Now you can add the egg mixture into the sauce pan with the cheese sauce base. Whisk to incorporate.

Cheese time! Add your grated cheese to the sauce pan and whisk until the cheese is melted and sauce is smooth.

Butter a 9x13" glass casserole dish. Pour your semi-cooked pasta into the dish and then pour on your cheese sauce. Toss your pasta to coat completely with the cheese sauce. 

Now, if you want, before baking - sprinkle the cheesy pasta with 1/2 cup grated cheese. Next, melt 2 T of butter and toss in the 1/2 cup of panko (or bread crumbs). Toss the panko onto the top of the mac and cheese. 

Place the casserole dish into a 350℉ oven and allow to bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned on top. Enjoy!

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