Sunday, June 5, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese

Food crawl with Mac and Cheese!
Everyone has a favorite Macaroni and Cheese recipe. I know that one of the latest twists on this classic American favorite has been to add Lobster and or Shrimp.  It is delicious, especially when the seafood is loaded into the creamy mixture of the elbow macaroni and cheese sauce.
The other day, my daughter Zoe ordered a grilled cheese sandwich with sliced tomato.  What a great combination! It got the wheels turning!
For days, I couldn't get that combo out of my mind!  So while totally bored out of my mind, one night after 10 pm I started making Mac and Cheese! from scratch!
All you need is a few simple ingredients to make this dish. (not ingrediences Teresa!,  God help us, she has a cook book )  If you have the few basic ingredients needed to make this, you can add anything that you want. Want lobster? Add it! Want broccoli? Add it! Want TOMATOES? Add them! Use your imagination, think about combinations that you like, and the possibilities are endless. Play...have some fun! Make this one of your signature dishes. Your family and friends will ask you to make this again! Some of my son's friends actually beg me to make this for them. Now, that's what I'm talking about!
This is all you need, butter, milk, ( yes, I have a milk man!)  flour,  macaroni, cheese and breadcrumbs. That's it!
The recipe that follows will make 2 trays of Macaroni and Cheese. I think I used 3 pounds of Elbows.

1/2 Gallon Milk ( I used 1%)
3 pounds Elbow Macaroni
1/2 cup flour
1/2 stick butter or 1/4 cup
1/2 - 1 cup bread crumbs
2 pounds Sharp or Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese
salt and *pepper to taste
* I like to use white ground pepper in this recipe
In a large sauce pan start off by making a roux.  Usually a roux is made by using equal parts of flour to equal parts of butter. The more flour and butter used, the longer it will take to make it. My measurements are a little off the Roux Rules, but it works for me!
Gently melt the butter and then add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon or with a wire whisk. This should take approximately 6 - 8 minutes to make. If you increase the amounts of flour and butter it will take longer.  The longer you cook it, or yikes, burn it, the less thickening power it will have later on. Make sure the heat is on medium! Don't over cook the Roux!
While you are making the Roux, get the water boiling, remembering to salt the water. While making the sauce you'll be cooking the macs!
Slowly add one cup of milk, and stir in, you'll start to get a thick mixture, keep stirring, getting out any lumps. We don't want lumps!
Slowly incorporate the rest of the milk.  This is the beginning of a beautiful Bechamel Sauce, which can and is used in many Italian recipes!
Add the cheese, a handful at a time. I used 1 1/2 pounds of the cheese in the sauce and reserved the rest of it to grate for the topping. With the addition of cheese the sauce becomes a Mornay Sauce! Mornay is usually made with half amounts of Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses. I've added cheddar so I'm calling this a Cheddar Mornay.  My mother just called it cheese sauce! lol
 The sauce will start to thicken up and become velvety and creamy.
I like to cook the elbow macaroni for only 8 minutes. As soon as it's in the boiling water I start the timer for 8 minutes! Do not wait for the water to come to another boil before setting the timer! Take the elbows off the heat and drain in a colander, and immediately rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.

While the macaroni is cooling, toast the bread crumbs in a frying pan with a little pat of butter. It's an extra step, but it imparts delicious flavor into the bread crumbs.
It's time to put it all together.
You'll need a huge lasagna pan for this one, or divide it up to make two trays. I'm making two trays. One with tomato and one without.

If using tomatoes, I used about a quart size jar of tomatoes that I had jarred last season.  They were whole and I broke them apart with my fingers. If using canned tomatoes I like to use RedPack, whole tomatoes in thick puree.  Mix the tomatoes into the elbows.
Add the cheese sauce...It will be soupy, don't worry. It'll absorb!

Top with the reserved cheese that you've grated and then sprinkle with the toasted bread crumbs.
  The picture below is the tray made with tomatoes.
And without!
Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 - 40 minutes. I like the top layer to get nice and crispy!

Buon Appetito

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