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Homemade Macaroni and Cheese: The Topic


Florida Jim
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I made the NY Times Creamy Mac and Cheese today, with the cottage cheese, and it was tasty. Lighter than my standby (Martha Stewart's) but not as good as Martha's. Still very creamy, though, and so fast and easy to make - I love that you don't have to boil the noodles! Next time I do this, I'll probably use 3/4 lb total for the dish - about 1/8 on top and the rest in the mix.

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  • 7 months later...

hello, i was wondering if anyone can provide a link or thread to search on for a basic mac n cheese(i tried mac and cheese, macoroni and cheese). i tried the search but it seems there are to many results. there should be a way to search only titles of threads?

my friend told me a good mac and cheese is just

cheddar, montery jack, mozzerella, and some heavy cream.

any particular brand of cheese? something that is also priced decently?

thanks!

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I'm sure there are a gajillion recipes out there for Mac & Cheese, but the basic method I was always taught was that you need to make a sauce Mornay (basic Bechamel with the addition of grated cheeses) and mix in the cooked macaroni in that.

If you tried to use the cheese by itself, the consistency doesn't come out correctly. I think the other trick is to add the cheese a little at a time to the Bechamel, allowing it to incorporate fully before adding the next handful.

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my friend told me a good mac and cheese is just

cheddar, montery jack, mozzerella, and some heavy cream.

This is a common misconception- that the sauce for mac & cheese is just cheese and some form of liquid (cream, milk, etc.)

Without some form of starch, cheese sauce has a far greater propensity to curdle.

Tino is correct- bechamel is the basis for a basic cheese sauce.

Cheddar

A butter/flour roux

Whole milk

That's about as basic as you can get.

I've never seen mozzerella in mac & cheese, but I guess any meltable cheese could work. When it comes to a 'classic' recipe, I think Stouffer's is a good barometer. Stouffer's is predominantly cheddar based. In the past they added parm, but now I see they've reformulated, omitting the parm and adding MSG instead (to increase profits, I'm sure). But, I digress.

Other than a basic sharp cheddar, I would say these are the most commonly found cheeses in Mac & Cheese recipes (from most common to least):

Colby

Aged cheddar

Swiss/gruyere/emanthaler

American

Parmesan

Monterey jack

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totally agree with scott- mine is a bechemel with sharp white cheddar, gruyere and some parm- although last week I did it with cheddar and fontina cause that is what I had handy.

penne noodles for me

butter breadcrumbs on top

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I've always made the traditional bechamel + cheese + cooked pasta, although lately I've kept the same ingredients but slightly modified how I put them together:

Cook the pasta about 3/4 of the way until done, then drain it and set aside. Cook your bechamel sauce until it's just a little thinner than the ideal consistency. Now combine the grated cheese, almost-cooked pasta, and bechamel together, adding maybe 1/2 cup of extra milk. It'll seem way too thin but that's fine. Put it all into a casserole dish, sprinkle the top with bread crumbs + grated parmesan + salt + pepper, and put the lot in a hot oven.

The pasta finishes cooking by absorbing the extra moisture in the sauce, with the result being a mac&cheese that seems more creamy and "together" rather than simply pasta stirred through a cheesy sauce.

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Small amount of the bechamel for the starch factor, and then add heavy cream and whatever cheeses you like. Monday night I added Fontiago, White Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Maytag blue and Grana Padano, with fresh buttered breadcrumbs on top. I like Campanelle noodles for the billowy effect. Yumm! :wub:

Cheers,

Carolyn

"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."

J.R.R. Tolkien

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There is an extensive mac n' cheese thread on here, although I don't know how to post the link. I am a pretty dedicated mac n' cheese fan, and I am always in search of a new or better way to make it. I think I have tried every method under the sun -- evaporated milk, custard based, etc.

My favourite way is as follows:

1. Grate a lot of cheese. Use whatever you want. I always use some aged white cheddar and some parmesan. I like gruyere. I like blues, but in small quantities. I recently used an organic-milk aged cheddar that has a mild blue flavour (I have no idea why, and the cheese-monger couldn't explain it), which was excellent.

2. Undercook some pasta. I like penne.

3. Make generous quantity of very thin bechamel, using whole milk (at least). Sometimes, I infuse the milk with things like onion, roasted garlic, thyme, etc. I have tried mirepoix, but find the vegetable flavour too strong. In my opinion, the very best way to flavour the milk is with apple or pear (I like pear better).

4. Mix a small quantity of the cheese into the bechamel, so that the sauce becomes flavoured, but the consistency does not change dramatically.

5. Mix sauce with pasta, very thoroughly. The pasta should be really "swimming" in the sauce.

6. Mix the remaining cheese into the pasta/sauce mixture.

7. VERY IMPORTANT: divide the pasta/sauce/cheese mixture into individual gratin dishes and top with buttered breadcrumbs (I always mix parmesan into the breadcrumbs, sometimes a bit of another cheese as well), or if you don't like breadcrumb topping, just use cheese. Using the individual gratin dishes ensures that individual diners will get a full "crust experience."

8. Bake in medium-hot oven for about half an hour.

Edited by Khadija (log)
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I made a really good baked mac n cheese the other day. I only do baked btw, not stovetop style.

I also always use a basic bechamel sauce and go heavy on the roux. I mixed in some fontina, asiago, and some ricotta at the end. I love how the bechamel holds the mac n cheese together after it is baked.

monterey jack, longhorn cheddar, swiss, and sharp cheddar are great as well

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  • 4 weeks later...

Megan from the dinner thread asked me to post my mac and cheese recipe here. It's pretty damn good, but I can't take the credit since Martha Stewart is the creator. She does some things right. Enjoy.

dec1920062006-12-21_0005.jpg

This serves 12, but you can easily cut it half and bake in a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish.

8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for the dish

6 slices good white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces

5 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup all purpose flour

2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (jar kind is fine too)

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste

4 1/2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese (about 18 oz)

2 cups grated Gruyere cheese (about 8 oz) or 1 1/4 cups grated pecorino romano cheese (about 5 oz)

1 pound elbow macaroni

Heat oven to 375. Butter a 3 quart casserole dish; set aside. Place bread in a medium bowl. In a small sauce pan (or I just do it in the microwave) melt 2 tbsp butter. Pour butter into the bowl with bread, toss. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk (again, I sometimes use the microwave). Melt 6 remaining tbsp of butter in a high sided skillet over medium heat. When it bubbles, add flour. Cook, whisking, 1 minute.

While whisking, slowly pour in hot milk. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.

Remove pan from heat, stir in salt, black pepper, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar cheese, and 1 1/2 cup gruyere or 1 cup pecorino; set cheese sauce aside.

Fill a large saucepan with water; bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 minutes less than the manufacturer's directions, until the outside of the pasta is cooked and the inside is under done (different brands cook at different rates, be sure to read the box). Transfer to colander, rinse under cold running water and drain well. Stir into the cheese sauce.

Pour mixture into prepared dish. Sprinkle remaining cheeses and breadcrumbs over top. Bake until the top is browned, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Serve hot. I like to serve it with a dollop of sour cream on top, makes it extra special.

edited to say that I apologize for re-posting a recipe that was posted on the first page, at least there is a photo for your viewing pleasure. :raz:

Edited by lucylou95816 (log)
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My favorite mac&cheese comes from an old TV episode by Pierre Franey (of all people) who made it with Smithfield ham, sauteed mushrooms, sauteed onions, three kinds of cheddar, and cream (of course!). I make it once or twice a year, and it is wonderful. I wish I could find the original recipe, but until then I do what I remember from the show.

Ray

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My favorite mac&cheese comes from an old TV episode by Pierre Franey (of all people) who made it with Smithfield ham, sauteed mushrooms, sauteed onions, three kinds of cheddar, and cream (of course!). I make it once or twice a year, and it is wonderful. I wish I could find the original recipe, but until then I do what I remember from the show.

Ray

Well, I can tell you where it's NOT; "Pierre Franey's Cooking In France". I have the book and had to look thru it for you; sorry, but the recipe isn't there. :sad:

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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My favorite mac&cheese comes from an old TV episode by Pierre Franey (of all people) who made it with Smithfield ham, sauteed mushrooms, sauteed onions, three kinds of cheddar, and cream (of course!). I make it once or twice a year, and it is wonderful. I wish I could find the original recipe, but until then I do what I remember from the show.

Ray

Well, I can tell you where it's NOT; "Pierre Franey's Cooking In France". I have the book and had to look thru it for you; sorry, but the recipe isn't there. :sad:

Thanks for looking, judiu. I have that book plus several others by Pierre, all of which don't have the recipe. I'm thinking that it may have originated as a recipe in the NYT when he wrote for them, then toggled over to the TV show. Maybe there's a compilation of those somewhere.

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My favorite mac&cheese comes from an old TV episode by Pierre Franey (of all people) who made it with Smithfield ham, sauteed mushrooms, sauteed onions, three kinds of cheddar, and cream (of course!). I make it once or twice a year, and it is wonderful. I wish I could find the original recipe, but until then I do what I remember from the show.

Ray

Well, I can tell you where it's NOT; "Pierre Franey's Cooking In France". I have the book and had to look thru it for you; sorry, but the recipe isn't there. :sad:

Thanks for looking, judiu. I have that book plus several others by Pierre, all of which don't have the recipe. I'm thinking that it may have originated as a recipe in the NYT when he wrote for them, then toggled over to the TV show. Maybe there's a compilation of those somewhere.

Just checked my NYT Cookbook, but it's all Craig Claiborne's recipes. It did, however suggest another possible reference; Cooking With Craig Claiborne & Pierre Franey. Check your local library, maybe?

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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I like to think of Kraft Dinner of a blank slate that you can project your intentions upon. If you dont mind the slightly salty taste of the powdered cheese. Ive used the KD base as a way of showing my younger sister how she can play with her food. You can add scallions, mustard, a whole egg ( carbonera) ground sausages. Ectera. I found that the best combo ever was using some hamburger helper mix with the cheese and adding in some ground beef, then grating some gruyere over top, then au gratin.

As for the best actual home made stuff, I think that the simple bechamel sauce is best. However I like to use Balderson chedder, the orange stuff. some brunoise onions that are only cooked by the heat of the pasta. Their rawness adds a certian sulphur that is a nice counterpart to the impossibly rich cheese sauce. Also for the roux its imperative that you use duck fat instead of butter, its conveys an awesome depth of meatiness.

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[snipping most of the recipe suggestions] Also for the roux its imperative that you use duck fat instead of butter, its conveys an awesome depth of meatiness.

I can see that. FYI unfortunately there's a technical problem making roux with duck fat, and I can testify because it nailed me not long ago. (This is actually an old topic on Internet food fora, there was a long public discussion of roux subtleties including fat differences, in rec.food.cooking, August 1988.*)

The problem is that to cook the starch efficiently (converting to dextrin and slightly browning it too) favors temps around 375 Fahrenheit or higher. Unfortunately duck fat, of all cooking fats, has a very low smoke point, often lower than that -- Your Ducks May Vary of course. Last time I did it, keeping the heat at a point where the duck fat didn't break down resulted in very, very slow rouxmaking -- not your customary 20 minutes or so. (Higher-temperature fats have higher smoke points around 450 F, which is where many hydrocarbons start to burn anyway.)

Of course you can always do what they do industrially: Brown the starch separately (in the oven or a pan, but without water) then add the fat of choice. It's not Guide Culinaire but as I say, it's done all the time.

I still think (repeating from upthread IIRC) the most elegant Cheese-Pasta dishes are made with just pasta and (mixed) cheeses that will melt into it, with other flavorings to taste. And by the way, ironically that is in the Guide Culinaire from 100 or so years ago!

Cheers -- Max

* Not in the Google archive I think, though archived by participants. Main source for Google's "Groups" archives omitted Internet food and wine newsgroups in late 1980s and early 1990s though it had them earlier and later.

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Oh, man, this thread makes me want mac & cheese! My husband gave me Marlene Spieler's Macaroni & Cheese cookbook for Christmas, and it's all a big taunt: our kitchen remodel started today, and I have no kitchen! It will be at least the end of February before I can cook again! :sad:

I have a whole freezer full of tasty homemade food, and all I really want is what I can't have.

"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

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buttercream pastries

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The problem is that to cook the starch efficiently (converting to dextrin and slightly browning it too) favors temps around 375 Fahrenheit or higher. Unfortunately duck fat, of all cooking fats, has a very low smoke point, often lower than that -- Your Ducks May Vary of course.

I staged in a place this summer that did all their deepfrying in duck fat. All the fries and chips came out nice and crisp. I never checked the temp of the fat but I'm pretty sure if you fry lower than 350, you dont get that crispy texture. I should point out that the duck fat had been clarified.

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I agree with jgarner-- especially with all the pictures, I'm seriously craving some creamy, crunchy, cheesy goodness...

For my part, I have two recipes that aren't really traditional mac and cheese (because I still haven't been able to find a great recipe for it, though now...). I make Fiori with sauteed mushrooms and a basic bechamel plus tons of freshly grated parmigiano, which I then bake at 450. And my other is actually inspired by a dish from an Ina Garten cookbook-- parboiled penne, about four or five different chopped or grated cheeses, an irresponsible amount of heavy cream, and crushed tomatoes. Put into individual ramekins and baked at 500 with some butter on top, and I must say it is fantastic, plus great for cooking for a crowd- put the mixture together the night before and then just spoon, cook, and serve!

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I can see that. FYI unfortunately there's a technical problem making roux with duck fat, and I can testify because it nailed me not long ago. (This is actually an old topic on Internet food fora, there was a long public discussion of roux subtleties including fat differences, in rec.food.cooking, August 1988.*)

The problem is that to cook the starch efficiently (converting to dextrin and slightly browning it too) favors temps around 375 Fahrenheit or higher.  Unfortunately duck fat, of all cooking fats, has a very low smoke point, often lower than that -- Your Ducks May Vary of course.  Last time I did it, keeping the heat at a point where the duck fat didn't break down resulted in very, very slow rouxmaking -- not your customary 20 minutes or so.  (Higher-temperature fats have higher smoke points around 450 F, which is where many hydrocarbons start to burn anyway.)

The diet of the duck affects the make-up of it's fat, so there's some variation between fats from different ducks, but... even the lowest smoke point for duck fat is still higher than butter. If you can make a roux with a fat with a smoke point as low as butter, you can definitely make a roux with unclarified duck fat.

Are you certain the rec.food.cooking discussion was centered on white/blond roux and not darker Cajun roux? In a very dark Cajun roux, the solids in butter will burn before the flour has taken on enough color. I probably wouldn't use duck fat for Cajun roux either.

If it truly took you 20 minutes to make a white/blond duck fat roux for bechamel... either you weren't turning the heat up enough or I'm guessing your duckfat contained a great deal of moisture. Water will keep the starch at 212f. until it is cooked off.

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even the lowest smoke point for duck fat is still higher than butter.  If you can make a roux with a fat with a smoke point as low as butter, you can definitely make a roux with unclarified duck fat.

Have to be careful of course what you mean by "butter," since caseinate and carbohydrate solids in unclarified butter lower its temp. range (or turn it into "brown" or "black" butter sauce). Please also teach the first quoted comment to ducks, because the duck fat I used in the earlier anecdote didn't seem to've gotten the word, and was smoking low enough to greatly slow the browning of the starch, compared with clarified butter (which I've used more often, the past 40 years). Both smoke nominally around 375 but this particular batch of duck fat was very obviously low. YDMV.

Also I referred above not to light roux for white sauce, but 20-minute "roux" roux (the classic, Escoffier's "brown," from literal "russet" coloring; the 20 minutes is a typical number, also mentioned by Escoffier among others) for another purpose, less relevant for white sauces for M&C, but still a cautionary lesson in duckfat temp range. But to repeat, the whole issue is less relevant anyway, because of a principle I think is more important: you can always "decouple" the fat's cooking properties from the starch's by cooking them separately. (This also decouples the roux-making from tradition, but again, it's SOP in industrial food processing.)

Are you certain the rec.food.cooking discussion was centered on white/blond roux and not darker Cajun roux?
I'd reviewed it before posting here. Actually the thread began with exactly that distinction on roux colors, and ranged very wide, spinning off a larger thread by email (including diverting but secondary exchanges on language and anglophone language reference dictionaries -- AHD, "NED," OCD, ...). A contributor immediately cited Prudhomme's popularization of the so-called "Cajun napalm" from extremely hot oil, and described (the contributor) keeping rendered goose, duck, and chicken fats on hand as well as lard, but doubted their utility in Cajun roux because "the smoking point is too low."

My comments on roux were not, by the way, meant to hijack the thread onto one on roux science, a potential separate topic. Part of my own interest comes from experience with commercial vegetable dextrins starting around 1967. They are common simple vegetable gums and if you do what I do periodically and roast corn or potato starch in the oven, gently, until it is beginning to brown uniformly, then keep it in a sealed jar, you will have instant "roux. " The powder has a faintly sweet taste and aroma that may seem familiar but hard to place, until someone recalls a sheet of traditional postage stamps -- same aroma because same stuff, it's used as a water-soluble gum for paper products.

Edited by MaxH (log)
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Okay you guys, I need some help.

I love. LOVE. LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE mac and cheese. I grew up on my mother's velveeta recipe and while sometimes I crave that simplicity, I also dream of cheddar, gruyere, stilton, etc etc. Unfortunately, I've yet to make a single successful batch of any variety not involving a box.

My cheese sauces continue to come out grainy and gross. Occasionally edible but never good. I assume I'm failing the basics....the roux.

I've checked out books, websites, posts, and the eGCI cream sauces course but still I fail.

My process has generally been as follows:

-melt butter

-stir in equal part flour

-stir for a while

-add milk

-slowly add cheese

Until I can make a successful cheese sauce, I will consider myself a domestic failure!

"Vegetables aren't food. Vegetables are what food eats."

--

food.craft.life.

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