How To Make The Best Macaroni and Cheese, A Mac & Cheese Recipe Overview
Macaroni and cheese is a classic comfort food, and an excellent winter side dish. If you have grown up with “blue box” macaroni and cheese, then you owe it to yourself to try making homemade macaroni and cheese. The real thing is delicious, and surprisingly simple.
Macaroni and cheese is at heart a baked casserole. Just as with any other casserole, every cook has their own favorite way to prepare it. One thing that all recipes agree upon is that it requires elbow macaroni, which ideally will be slightly under-cooked. Leaving it under-cooked means that it will suck up all of that saucy goodness when it cooks the second time.
The basic schism in baked macaroni and cheese theory is whether to prepare the sauce separately, or to just dump everything into the dish.
Making the sauce separately allows you to add more and more interesting agreements, and gives you greater control over the depth of flavor. Pioneer Woman’s macaroni and cheese recipe is an excellent example of “sauce separate” macaroni and cheese.
The sauce is a simple roux cream sauce – brown flour and butter in a pan, whisking constantly, until it bubbles and turns color a bit. Then add your cream (or milk – I use 2% just for my arteries’ sake), and finally your cheese. Pioneer Woman’s recipe is unique, so far as I know, for including a tempered raw egg in the sauce.
“One pot” versions tend to be simpler, with less depth of flavor, but much simpler to make. Nigella Lawson’s macaroni and cheese relies on evaporated milk for its creaminess, which is an interesting technique. Although I’ll be honest with you and admit that when I made this recipe, it still tasted “can-y” even after being cooked.
Perhaps the simplest “one pot” recipe, both in number of steps and in number of ingredients, is Fundamentalist Macaroni and Cheese from the Awl blog. To make Fundamentalist Macaroni and Cheese, you add cheese and a splash of milk to a dish of cooked macaroni, and bake it in the oven. The end. It doesn’t get much easier than that!
One of the best things about making homemade mac and cheese is adding in extras for flavor. Some common additions are:
· Nutmeg, which gives a wonderful flavor.
· Mustard, either powdered or deli mustard. Adds tanginess.
· Bacon, ham, or prosciutto. Cook well ahead of time, then cut into tiny bits.
· Caramelized minced onion.
· Minced garlic, either browned or raw.
· Minced jalapenos, either fresh or from a can. Spicy!
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