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Homemade Macaroni and Cheese: The Topic


Florida Jim
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if it means to spend a little more on on better ingredients sure why not.

I agree with that 100%. The thing is, there's spending more on ingredients because they make something better and spending more on ingredients just because the cost more. There are probably a few palates out there that can tell you which batch of mac n cheese used cream and which used milk but I'm willing to bet if you put a pan of each on the table at pretty much any party/dinner nobody is going to discern that the one with cream is better. I'd almost promise you they won't know if used a more or less expensive brand of dried pasta and they definitely won't know (in this context) if you used salted or unsalted butter. If you don't compensate for the salt when seasoning (if the recipe calls for unsalted butter and a specific amount of salt and you use salted butter obviously you'd have to use less salt... but we all salt to taste anyway right?) then they may find it too salty but they won't know it's because you used salted butter. They'll just think you oversalted it. As for the cheese, that's the flavor-star in mac n cheese and the place I'd spend my "splurge money" if I was going for fancy. There aren't many (if any) cheeses that won't work, it comes down to what you like and what you want to spend.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Personally, as much as I hate to admit it, I think a blend of cheddar and (blush) processed ("American" or velveeta) cheese makes good mac n cheese and comes closest to what you find in the type of places you mentioned.

And loathe as some people might be to believe or accept it.... some of the independent soul food / 'cu joint mac 'n cheese gets its color and distinct cheese tang by using the cheese powder packets from commercial boxed mac 'n cheese products and mixing it right in with the milk. That powder along with pre-grated sharp cheddar - results in a mac 'n cheese that most people really like - even if they detest Kraft style boxed mac 'n cheese.

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Personally, as much as I hate to admit it, I think a blend of cheddar and (blush) processed ("American" or velveeta) cheese makes good mac n cheese and comes closest to what you find in the type of places you mentioned.

And loathe as some people might be to believe or accept it.... some of the independent soul food / 'cu joint mac 'n cheese gets its color and distinct cheese tang by using the cheese powder packets from commercial boxed mac 'n cheese products and mixing it right in with the milk. That powder along with pre-grated sharp cheddar - results in a mac 'n cheese that most people really like - even if they detest Kraft style boxed mac 'n cheese.

I love Mac and Cheese with a little bit of feta/gorgonzola/blue cheese added in!

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so the alton brown recipe would be safest recipe to follow right?

sundaysous, i like the idea of bacon. when do you add it? bake the bacon first so its crispy and sprinkle on top, or do you just cut up the raw bacon and add it in with the cheese and bake in oven?

Edited by maui420 (log)
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I like to do my mac and cheese the same as I do my grilled cheese sandwiches... a whole whack of mild cheddar to get all the texture and gooeyness that you expect in mac and cheese and some of the oldest, sharpest vintage cheddar you can find to give the wonderful cheesey flavour.

Hmmm, I think I have decided what's for dinner tonight!!!

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so the alton brown recipe would be safest recipe to follow right?

sundaysous, i like the idea of bacon. when do you add it? bake the bacon first so its crispy and sprinkle on top, or do you just cut up the raw bacon and add it in with the cheese and bake in microwave?

Woah.... Hold on there, pardner! There are some things you can make in a microwave, but you cannot bake in a plain old microwave oven. Please say that you wrote that by mistake? Or if not, please rethink how you're cooking your mac and cheese! How else will you get those lovely browned bits on top, if not in a regular oven?

As for the bacon, I've never had it on mac and cheese but it definitely sounds interesting! For myself, I think I'd prefer to cook it crisp first, then crumble it on top, or stir it into my serving. Putting raw bacon in the mac and cheese would not allow the bacon to cook crispy, plus there may be pools of bacon fat in the mac and cheese. That may or may not be a good thing, depending on your preference. Anyway, bacon or not, please bake that m&c in a regular oven! :wink:

"Fat is money." (Per a cracklings maker shown on Dirty Jobs.)
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so the alton brown recipe would be safest recipe to follow right?

sundaysous, i like the idea of bacon. when do you add it? bake the bacon first so its crispy and sprinkle on top, or do you just cut up the raw bacon and add it in with the cheese and bake in microwave?

Hmmn bacon can be tricky in this situation. I usually bake it crisp. If you are not serving kitchen to table I wouldn't incorporate with pasta and sauce as the bacon will absorb liquid over time.

Come to think of it I have served soggy bacon like this more than once. I think I would sprinkle over top as it comes out of the oven.

"And in the meantime, listen to your appetite and play with your food."

Alton Brown, Good Eats

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Yikes, JanMcBaker makes a good point. I think even reheating this in a microwave would invite disaster. If your going off site and can't grab a 350 degree oven for 1/2 an hour and trust me you probably won't you probably want to add bacon on top after you reheat it, in an oven.

I would think as soon as it comes out of your oven, if it has to travel cover with plastic wrap. Remove plastic wrap before reheating.

About the powdered mustard, you'll find it in the spice department of your grocer. Probably called ground mustard.

As far as the milk I would go with milk. Only because you don't have time to experiment. Knowing Alton he would probably use 1/2 and 1/2 but why risc it first time out. Actually he would probably use butter milk and add heavy cream.

*I'm slowly realizing that I may just be a little obsessed with Alton Brown. Lol little obcessed...*

"And in the meantime, listen to your appetite and play with your food."

Alton Brown, Good Eats

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opps! i meant back in the baking oven. thanks for the catch.

so the alton brown recipe would be safest recipe to follow right?

sundaysous, i like the idea of bacon. when do you add it? bake the bacon first so its crispy and sprinkle on top, or do you just cut up the raw bacon and add it in with the cheese and bake in microwave?

Woah.... Hold on there, pardner! There are some things you can make in a microwave, but you cannot bake in a plain old microwave oven. Please say that you wrote that by mistake? Or if not, please rethink how you're cooking your mac and cheese! How else will you get those lovely browned bits on top, if not in a regular oven?

As for the bacon, I've never had it on mac and cheese but it definitely sounds interesting! For myself, I think I'd prefer to cook it crisp first, then crumble it on top, or stir it into my serving. Putting raw bacon in the mac and cheese would not allow the bacon to cook crispy, plus there may be pools of bacon fat in the mac and cheese. That may or may not be a good thing, depending on your preference. Anyway, bacon or not, please bake that m&c in a regular oven! :wink:

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  • 2 weeks later...

just reporting back....want to give alton browns recipe a big thumbs up. i did not include the onions and bacon since some folks at the party were non meat eaters and a few dont like onions.

to make the recipe better, i should of added a bit more salt but was afraid i might just over do it. other than that, everyone was real happy.

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Dear readers, I mince the onions fine, fine, fine and cook them in the butter for the sauce. They virtually melt, and add nothing but a subtle flavor to the whole. :rolleyes: HTH!

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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  • 1 month later...
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

Ray, in The NY Times archives Pierre Franey’s 60-Minute Gourmet column of January 6, 1988 has a mac & cheese with the ingredients you describe. There is a similar column from May 12, 1993. He recalls his French childhood version in both recipe introductions and they were probably part of the PBS show you remember.

No wonder you’ve tried to recreate the dish for years, it sounds absolutely wonderful.

Here are the links NYT Jan 6 1988

and NYT May 12 1993

I have most of his books and the only one with mac & cheese is Cuisine Rapide with a simpler Parmesan cheese version.

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  • 1 month later...
  • 1 month later...

Ok, it's a long story, but as a Christmas gift, I'm making about a month's worth of food for some family members. Today is the zero hour, where I'm doing final stuff. Included in this gift is a pan of homemade mac & cheese. I'm using the Cook's Illustrated version, which I always have success with. One complaint, is that when I reheat the leftovers it tends to seperate, unless I cover it tight, put in a few drops of milk or cream, and stir it a few times...

My question is this: If I don't do the final bake, think it would reheat without all the fuss, and without seperating? I'm really looking for a nice finished product that will reheat beautifully, even at the expense of browned breadcrumbs.

Any insight or advice would be welcome.

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I wish I could help but I have to confess that one of my culinary guilts is not doing the bechamel mac 'n' cheese. It's the one and only place where I use one of those loafs of not-cheese (velveeta) combined with cheddar, a little cream, a spec of nutmeg and plenty o' black pepper. I know I should be ashamed... but it be tasty.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Since you mentioned it, I haven't added Velveeta to my mac & cheese in awhile...but I kinda miss it, and I think, in this case it will be just the thing to keep the whole works emulsified...

Thanks for reminding me, I'm heading out to the store now. I'll just add a goodly amount to my basic recipe in place of some of the cheddar. Honestly, this is a really good idea, so I thank you and your culinary guilty concience :)

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If you know it's going to be recooked, then undercook the pasta, keep a tight lid, and stir when recooking to emulsify.

The cheese will make a difference, as the fat content will matter. If you're using just cheddar, it may separate more.

Try with a mix of mozza, cheddar, and blue, to balance things out.

(all of which is quoted from Yoonhi, as I'm useless in these things).

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  • 4 months later...
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

Ray, in The NY Times archives Pierre Franey’s 60-Minute Gourmet column of January 6, 1988 has a mac & cheese with the ingredients you describe. There is a similar column from May 12, 1993. He recalls his French childhood version in both recipe introductions and they were probably part of the PBS show you remember.

No wonder you’ve tried to recreate the dish for years, it sounds absolutely wonderful.

Here are the links NYT Jan 6 1988

and NYT May 12 1993

I have most of his books and the only one with mac & cheese is Cuisine Rapide with a simpler Parmesan cheese version.

Bumping this topic so that Ray can see this old response, in case he checks in again. So cool that you were able to find this recipe for him. :cool:

I'm making mac & cheese this Saturday for a little get-together with some friends. I'm smoking some pork ribs on my WSM (first time using it), frying some Popeye's style chicken, and making mac & cheese. They're theme foods for the day's sporting events -- the Kentucky Derby and the night race (NASCAR) in Richmond. (Because I like alliteration, I like to make ribs for the Richmond race. :rolleyes: ) I'm also making KFC style coleslaw, cider donuts and ice cream sandwiches. Can't wait!

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  • 1 month later...

I had to dig this one up after reading racheld's reference to it in the great "Worst meal at someone's home" thread.

While I am curious as to the authenticity or not of buttered crumbs on top of mac & cheese, I am more interested in what tastes best. After years of trying to recreate what I once thought was the gold standard in baked macaroni -- my mother's (who always winged it with a little of this and a little of that) -- and suffering through overwrought messes of too cheesy, curdled trays of the fattening substance, I settled on Martha Stewart's great recipe, tweaked a bit to include more of this cheese and less of that, a combination of six cheeses in total. Consistent with all previous attempts has been a light topping of buttered panko breadcrumbs. Martha uses fresh breadcrumbs, but panko work just fine for me. I now love my mac & cheese and so do my guests. My husband, however -- who is not Southern, but a Jewish man from the Bronx -- just tolerates it, eating around the crunchy crumb topping each time. He prefers his mac & cheese creamy throughout. In fact, he wouldn't mind if I served him the stuff in the blue box instead, were I willing. :hmmm:

I'm toying with the idea of an alternate mac & cheese recipe for him, and for weeknights, but I usually make so much at one time, we always have some in the freezer. He might also insist that I always make this creamy alternative. I hate the idea. I love the crunchy parts as do most people who have eaten my mac & cheese. There's plenty of gooey underneath that crunchy goodness, so he can feast on that. Why should I go out of my way to make something that, IMHO, is second rate when this compromise already exists?

I'm secretly hoping to convert him over the course of time, but I know this is madness. The creamy vs crunchy mac & cheese preference is an instinct, deeply ingrained in childhood. Crap. :sad:

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I have seen it with bread crumbs on top only rarely and I could tell by the look I was getting that I was not to say a thing. I did see it when I lived up north and it did often have other items in it that were not served at my grandmother's and mother's tables. Bread crumbs denotes casserole to me.

But you said you mixed them in? I have never had that.

To me, southern style is almost a macaroni crustless quiche with a good baked cheese top on it. Very smooth and creamy in the center.

But alas, I married an Ohioan and the poor thing grew up with a non cooking mother. She likes the box better! :shock:

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