~ Totally Undeserving of the James Beard Award

~ Completely Undeserving of the James Beard Award ~

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A simple procedure but easy to screw up...

Mac 'n cheese...not the blue box kind, no sir-eee.  I'm talking about homemade, yummy, gooey, cheesy, bad for you, baked stuff (just don't eat it all the time).  Basically its a cheese sauce over noodles.  Big deal, right?...wrong!  It how you do it, a little TLC, maybe throw in some goodies to spark it it up and you have  quintessential comfort food. Baking it adds a whole other level of bliss.

The sauce is of course a cheese sauce, which is a classic "mother "sauce called a bechamel sauce made by whisking a flour/butter roux with milk or cream or half & half or some combination.  You then add cheese which now makes the bechamel a "mornay" sauce...another classic sauce.  It would be goood to know these and perfect them.

One very important note when adding the cheese:  Grate the cheese fine and have it at room temperature before you add it to the bechamel, otherwise you will get grainy sauce which will looks like crap.  If this happens, nothing you do can fix it...you screwed up, remember what you did wrong for next time.  This I found is a key step.  Another is add the cheese a bit at a time over a low flame...not some rolling boil for crying out loud.  Add some, whisk, add more, whisk.  Make sure the cheese is fully melted before you add more.  You get this right and the rest is...well, easy-cheesy!

I used white pepper and threw in some bacon.  As we all know, everything is better with bacon.  And stop thinking.."oh, I need to cut down, watch what I eat".  You are going to eat mac and cheese for gods sake.  If you were that serious you wouldn't be making the stuff in the first place.  Those who eat the most bacon when they die, wins.

Choose a pasta...you know, it's ok NOT to use elbow macaroni...try penne, orecchiette or "small ear" pasta, some type that grabs and pockets the sauce.

So heres mine:

12 oz. noodles (about 3 cups dry)
Cook and remove them before they are done, they will finish in the baking process.

Cook bacon pieces or whatever.

Melt 3 tbl butter...add 1/4 cup flour.  Whisk until smooth.  Add 3-1/2 cups milk and whisk until it coats the back of a spoon, ~10 min.  Add in 3 cups grated cheese a bit at a time.  I use a mix of sharp and "nacho".  Stir this mess until is nice and smooth, don't rush it.  Add in the cooked pasta, season it, add in bacon and pour into a buttered 8x8 casserole dish. Top with some more cheese mixed with bread crumbs, bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.  Let it cool a bit and put your feed bag on.

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