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Homemade Macaroni and Cheese: The Topic


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it might help to first warm your milk, and add it slowly. Add a little bit and let that thicken before adding more. Once you've got the sauce to the thickness you like, take the pot off the heat and stir in the cheese until it melts. I tend to use a combination of cheddar and montery jack in my mac and cheese.

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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I can successfully make a white sauce just by cooking a roux and adding milk. However, in my early days of cooking I had the problems you mention, and I learned I fail-proof trick for making white sauce. I now continue to use this method, for the sake of convenience.

I make roux in large batches and freeze in ice cube trays (once hardened, I take the cubes out of the tray and put in ziplock bag). Heat milk. Drop in roux cube (or two depending on quantity of milk). Stir. The milk will absorb the roux as it melts, which will be slow enough that you will never get lumps.

Another tip is that you should make your white sauce pretty thin, make sure that there is a generous sauce to pasta ratio, and undercook your pasta. The pasta will absorb some of the moisture during the baking process, and the sauce will thicken. If you make the sauce too thick to begin with, the sauce will be more likely to get grainy when it bakes.

I don't mix much, if any cheese into the white sauce. I just mix the pasta and white sauce together, and then put the grated cheese in "raw." I mix the mixture very thoroughly, and let it sit for a couple of minutes before distributing it into baking dishes. This process ensures that grated cheese is distributed into the crevices of the pasta. I've found that not melting the cheese directly into the sauce deals with the problem of the cheese causing the sauce to split, and also makes the final dish simultaneously gooey and creamy.

I love mac and cheese too! Good luck.

Edited by Khadija (log)
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Roux cubes! Wow, that's a really interesting idea. I'll need to try that sometime.

...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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Roux cubes!  Wow, that's a really interesting idea.  I'll need to try that sometime.

I love the idea of frozen roux cubes, but I don't think my roux is coming out right in the first place.

Ah well, a great excuse to keep trying!

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

--

food.craft.life.

The Lunch Crunch - Our daily struggle to avoid boring lunches

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Pansophia,

From a flavor perspective, it helps to cook the roux to toast the flour a bit, but as long as the flour is well mixed with the butter, even if you don't toast it much, the texture of the sauce shouldn't be compromised. Grainy cheese sauce is not a result of a poorly made roux, it's almost always a sign of curdling.

Here are some traditional ways to help prevent curdling:

1. Once it's fully thickened simmer your bechamel for 5 to 10 minutes. Too long and the milk starts getting a cooked taste, but too short and the starch particles don't absorb enough liquid/swell.

2. Before adding the cheese, whisk the bechamel aggressively. Whisking helps break down the swollen starch particles, which, in turn, helps to create both a smoother and a more stable sauce.

3. Add the shredded cheese off the heat The residual heat of the bechamel should be sufficient to slowly melt the cheese. If additional heat is necessary, put the sauce back on very low heat, very briefly. Never let your sauce come anywhere near a boil.

4. Additional fat - fat (in the form of whole milk/cream) is a powerful stabilizer. Be careful with the cream, though- too much and it starts to mask the taste of the cheese. 2 parts milk to 1 part cream is about as high as you want to go.

5. Use fresh milk - old milk curdles more easily than fresh milk.

6. Use younger, less sharp less aged cheeses - acid curdles milk. Older cheeses have a higher acid content. Until you've mastered stable cheese sauces, stick to mild cheddar and colby.

7. Use sealed cheese - opened cheese has a tendency to dry out and be harder to melt

8. Watch the salt content of your cheeses - salt can be a destabilizing factor. Blue cheese is especially salty.

9. Add a small amount of American cheese - it contains chemicals that prevent it from curdling. Kraft Deli Deluxe is better than most.

Some less traditional ways of preventing curdling involve:

10. Hydrocolloid gums - xanthan, guar (these are especially useful for providing stability but not masking flavor like starch does). If you use too much the sauce can get slimy, but in small amounts they work beautifully.

11. Mustard - mustard contains emulsifiers which help stabilize sauce, but... I don't think it brings that much stabilization to the table nor is the taste favored by everyone. I'm not a big fan.

12. Milk proteins - dried milk/whey is sometimes used commercially in cheese sauces, but, like mustard, I'm not a big fan of the taste.

For an unbaked mac & cheese, following tips 1-9 will pretty much guarantee you a smooth, uncurdled sauce. Baking exposes cheese sauce to pretty extreme temps and pushes the stabilization envelope. The starch from the unrinsed pasta helps a bit, but not much. For a guaranteed not to curdle, baked mac & cheese, I'd incorporate a gum (or two) into the mix. Whole Foods carries xanthan.

Can you ignore all these recommendations and still make an uncurdled cheese sauce? Of course. Each of these tips, though, improves your odds. Curdled cheese sauces are the worst. Anything you can do to help prevent curdling is well worth the effort, imo.

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Thank you so much for the tips! I can't wait to try again.

I'm trying so hard to move forward in the kitchen but sometimes it's the simple things that hold me back the most. (But hey, it wasn't that many years ago I had to call my mom to ask what a saucepan was!)

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

--

food.craft.life.

The Lunch Crunch - Our daily struggle to avoid boring lunches

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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?

I checked my copy of the book and there is no reference to any dish that remotely resembles Mac and Cheese. Has anyone checked "60 Minute Gourmet"?

Edited by Marya (log)
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  • 6 months later...

I love a good old fashioned mac and cheese. But, I'm looking for new ideas. Just want to see if anyone out there makes a version that uses untraditional ingredients.

I'm thinking something like, a Mexican version (Nacho cheese sauce, ground beef/chorizo, jalapeno) or a Indian version (chicken, curry cheese sauce, okra?). Any item for an Asian version?

Please share your unique/interesting ideas!

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I love a good old fashioned mac and cheese. But, I'm looking for new ideas. Just want to see if anyone out there makes a version that uses untraditional ingredients.

I'm thinking something like, a Mexican version (Nacho cheese sauce, ground beef/chorizo, jalapeno) or a Indian version (chicken, curry cheese sauce, okra?). Any item for an Asian version?

Please share your unique/interesting ideas!

You could put an Italian spin on it with Parm Reg and Asiago added to the cheese sauce. Mix in some rendered pancetta (with some dripping, of course!) and diced San Marzano tomatoes.

Top with Italian bread crumbs, shredded mozzerella and grated parm towards the end of baking, and broil it until browned and bubbly.

Edited by monavano (log)
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I think the challenge with an Asian 'Mac n' Cheese' is the general rarity of cheese in Asian cuisine?

How intent are you on keeping the cheese?

Because if we remove the Cheese part of the equation, I guess we're out of M/C and into casserole territory (not that there's anything wrong with that ;)

Asian macaroni casserole ideas could be interesting to hear...

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I think the challenge with an Asian 'Mac n' Cheese' is the general rarity of cheese in Asian cuisine? 

How intent are you on keeping the cheese?

Because if we remove the Cheese part of the equation, I guess we're out of M/C and into casserole territory (not that there's anything wrong with that ;)

Asian macaroni casserole ideas could be interesting to hear...

Has to keep the cheese....

I'm thinking in terms of both Western influenced Chinese and Japanese cuisines. In both, I have seen items like baked pasta or rice that is topped with cheese. Ming Tsai (sp?) has a mac n cheese version posted on the Food Network with edamame in it. I guess maybe I'm thinking in terms of using Asian meat/seasonings/vegetables that would go well with most likely a mild cheese sauce. Or maybe take a classic Asian dish (BBQ pork fried rice?) and turn that into a Mac N Cheese.

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Also, what would pair well with a smoked Gouda? I love smoked Gouda but the flavor is strong. I wonder if that would be too overwhelming in a mac n cheese. What would stand up to it? Maybe mix it with another cheese?

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I've been tempted to try Mac & Cheese made with Haloumi, since it melts and browns so nicely. :hmmm: Maybe using some tomato or spinach noodles to provide color? :smile:

SB (not that there's anything wrong with good old Velveeta & Shells :laugh: )

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for a chinese version, you could use chinese sausage or char-sui barbeque'd pork, shredded carrots, peas. cheese, could be one with a muted flavor profile or a spicy cheese.

Chinese sausage....I can render the fat and use that to make a roux! Great idea! Thanks!

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Asian macaroni casserole ideas could be interesting to hear...

As Annachan alluded to, macaroni gratin topped with parmesan cheese (and it's cousin, doria, which is made with rice instead of pasta) is a very common and everyday dish in Japan, and is particularly well-liked by kids.

http://images.google.ca/images?q=%E3%83%9E...m=1&sa=N&tab=wi

Baker of "impaired" cakes...
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Not Asian, but a restaurant in Boston called Mistral makes a Truffled Mac & Cheese that is TO DIE FOR.

They use veal stock to cook the pasta.

Truffle Oil and black truffle for the truffle flavor.

A combination of I'm guessing at least 3 cheeses.

Oh wow!!!

-Mark-

---------------------------------------------------------

"If you don't want to use butter, add cream."

Julia Child

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Tillomook.com has a recipe for lobster macaroni and cheese that includes cheddar, monterrey jack, gruyere, and Parmigiano-Reggiano, along with chunks of lobster. It is to die for, also can be done with crab.

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Any item for an Asian version?

Recently I made a weird Thai-flavored potato gratin (without cheese) using coconut milk in the place of dairy, with layers of spinach, and a sauce for drizzling on top made with olive oil, anchovy paste, and green curry paste; maybe this can be adapted to be done with pasta, like...

You cook the potato slices (or pasta) at a simmer in the coconut milk with a minced garlic clove; by the time they are done, they have released enough starch into the liquid to make a sort of white sauce. Season with salt and a lot of white pepper, then put it all in a casserole with some parcooked green vegetable, top with buttered breadcrumbs and bake until it comes together.

Meanwhile you make the green sauce with equal parts anchovy and green curry paste and enough olive oil to give it a drizzling consistency; heat it up a little to warm it through and mix everything together. It'll separate like a bagna cauda. It's kind of an ugly colour though; next time I will try red or yellow curry. You spoon it over the finished gratin to serve; it's got a rich salty umami flavor and a great aromatic punch.

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Käsespätzle! It is the German version of Mac & Cheese. Boil the Spätzle and drain. Saute the Spätzle in butter in a non stick pan until you get some nice crispy brown pieces. Mix in some good shredded Ementaler cheese. Transfer this to a casserole. Top with more cheese and brown under the broiler.

I like to add sauteed mushrooms, blanched broccoli, smoked ham, and carmalized onion to mine before transfering it to the casserole.

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A friend of mine used to make some to DIE for MC...her secret was to cook the pasta in milk that had been infused with crushed garlic overnight.

As for Asian/ chinese versions--well in my mind those are regions that do not have a very strong tie to a dairy in their foods. In my mind I just see this as an area where fusion cuisine could go horribly wrong, some sort of frankenmac.

That being said, as a person who sells cheese for a living I have had the opportunity to run some interesting mac & cheese experiments. If I can afford it I start with the milk/garlic cooking method.

NOTE: These are best recommended for adults. Watching kids stuff down M&C made with $24 lb cheese when they would have been just as happy with Kraft or a basic home made version seems like a waste.

Mac & Cheese Made with:

Red Leicheister--tangy with a hint of sharpness, gorgeous color!

Cotswald---yummy, creamy and chive-y

Regular Gruyere -- gets lost flavor wise

Cave aged Gruyere---now you're talkin!

Papillion Blue---interesting but strange

Parm Reg--wonderful but watch salting this....easy for the salt to get out of hand

Great mix ins: Drained Italian plum tomtoes, sliced tomatoes on top with extra cheese and home made bread crumbs, duck sausage, ham, black olives

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Also, what would pair well with a smoked Gouda? I love smoked Gouda but the flavor is strong. I wonder if that would be too overwhelming in a mac n cheese. What would stand up to it? Maybe mix it with another cheese?

I've used smoked cheddar in macaroni and cheese, so I imagine the smoked Gouda would work as well. The trick is to mix it with another milder cheese (preferably with good melting qualities) -- maybe Monterey jack, or a regular mild Gouda.

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