Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Making Macaroni and Cheese

Or...as I call it, Clean-out-the-refrigerator Macaroni and Cheese. I've been craving this creamy delicious treat lately. It happens every fall. But this is the year I conquer homemade macaroni and cheese! Last winter, I tried to learn to make it, doing all kinds of research and comparing techniques and recipes. I ended up trying -- and re-trying -- the custard-style recipe from Pam Anderson's The Best Recipe. After testing the roux method and the custard method, the chefs at America's Test Kitchen (or as I call it, America's Preachy Kitchen) determined the custard method was the best. Which is all well and good, but every time I make mac and cheese their way, I end up with a broken, grainy mess.

So, determined to stop torturing myself and try something else, I used (ironically, also from the Cook's Illustrated people -- I have such a love/hate relationship with them) a good recipe based on a roux. Plus, it's the same method used in the recipe on the back of the macaroni box which I take to be a good sign.

Somewhere along the way, I seemed to have accumulated several half bags of shredded cheddar cheese (don't ask) along with some slightly past their prime green onions. I melted butter, added the onions, garlic, and some cayenne, dry mustard and s/p. And then flour. After browning my roux, I added broth and milk. The sauce thickened up right away and in went the cheese, then the cooked macaroni. It's all in a pan in the oven as I type. If it comes out as creamy as it went in, I think I may have discovered the secret! No worries about custards, no adding the custard (watch the egg!), then opening the oven again and again to add cheese and stir. No broken custard when it travels (very embarrassing -- taking mac/cheese to a party only to find it solidified and grainy when I get there.) So, if this works out, it's roux method for me. Plus, it's a lot easier, faster, and fool proof. Honestly, if it's good enough for the back of the box, I think it's good enough for me.

Update: Still creamy. Still good. Only problem was some glumpiness from the oily cheddar which can easily be fixed by adjusting the mix of cheeses. Thumbs up for roux.


M. Zane Grey said...

I had mac and cheese based on this recipe recently, and it was very satisfying. I do like the roux idea, though — after the weather gets a little crisper, I'll experiment with a batch.

braingirl said...

Actually, that's a great recipe and looks like a roux method. Essentially, you're melting the butter, adding flour, getting that all put together, then adding the milk, etc.

I like the nutmeg and spices in this one. (Cook's seems overly enamoured with dry mustard and cayenne in all of theirs.)

You can try mine and I'll try yours!

Anonymous said...

I HATE the cheese sauce type of macaroni and cheese. My mom always made it in a casserole form and that is my favorite. She would layer slices of colby jack with cooked macaroni and sprinkle a bit of flour over each layers, as well as s&p. Then, she poured a bit of milk over the top and bake... YUM!! I just can't deal with the cheese sauce and no matter what caliber of cheese I use in any recipe I try that way, it just never is as good as my mom's. I like to throw some chopped chipotles in to give it a bit of spiciness and that makes it even better.