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Homemade Macaroni and Cheese: The Topic


Florida Jim
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As much as I'm a proponent of modernist cooking techniques, béchamel based mac and cheese has been made for a very long time with perfectly good results so there's no reason to go buy sodium citrate and carrageenan unless you just want to give it a try (it is good). I did the modernist version for a group of people for a Labor Day bbq and did a traditional béchamel style for mostly the same group for Thanksgiving dinner and 100% of them preferred the béchamel based version (I'm not discounting the nostalgia factor though). I've never had a béchamel based mac and cheese break or go greasy from the baking (reheating is a different story, that seems to suck all available grease to the surface) so I'm not sure what's happening. I bake mine at 350 F and probably longer than 30 min (never timed it, I pull it when it looks the way I want it to). For this most recent batch, I did a standard béchamel seasoned with salt, pepper, a bit of dry mustard and a bit of cayenne, melted in cheddar and a little blue and topped it with a mixture of mozzarella and cheddar before baking. I don't use egg in it. There was a bit of grease from the melted cheese on top but nothing overwhelming or off-putting.

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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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I just made Mac and Cheese last night. After I make the bechamel sauce I add a package of MacLaren's Imperial cheese which is a sharp cold pack cheddar and have never had any problems. I bake it at 350.

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Adding Velveeta or Kraft-style cheese slices to cheese sauce makes the sauce much less likely to curdle -- for mac and cheese I try to use about 1/3 of the processed cheese and the rest can be good stuff.  Must be those chemicals in the processed cheese that inhibit the curdling and separating. 

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I incorporate an egg - one per pound of pasta.  Whisk it up, add a bit of warm bechamel to temper, and then incorporate it into the sauce.  I've used all sorts of combinations of cheese, since I usually make mac & cheese with the leftovers from various cheese boards at work. :-D  

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Why not just skip the baking?  If you prefer the texture before it bakes then toast some buttered breadcrumbs separately until nice and brown, put your mac-and-cheese in a baking dish with the toasted crumbs on top and serve.  I dislike baking it anyway since the pasta just keeps soaking up the liquid and it's difficult to keep the pasta al-dente.  

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Adding Velveeta or Kraft-style cheese slices to cheese sauce makes the sauce much less likely to curdle -- for mac and cheese I try to use about 1/3 of the processed cheese and the rest can be good stuff.  Must be those chemicals in the processed cheese that inhibit the curdling and separating. 

Is the Kraft (or Land of Lakes for that matter) white American cheese at the deli counter that you get sliced to order, real cheese or processed cheese?  That's the cheese I use for mac n cheese; I thought that was 'real' cheese as opposed to the processed cheese in the pre-wrapped singles.  But maybe it's not???

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As much as I'm a proponent of modernist cooking techniques, béchamel based mac and cheese has been made for a very long time with perfectly good results ....

 

I wholeheartedly agree.

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~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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I like my mac 'n' cheese creamy and definitely not oily. I've never had a problem if I make a béchamel sauce and add shredded cheese just until melted. I use a good quality sharp cheddar; it's been eons since I used Velveeta or Kraft for anything. One thing I have noticed is that yellow cheddar seem to result in a creamier, smoother sauce than white. Does anyone else think so? White cheddar ends up being slightly granular, at least the ones I've used.

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I suspect that the white cheddar is sharper (ie aged longer) and therefore has less water content than the yellow. I've never seen a truly sharp yellow cheddar, not that added annato coloring determines sharpness.

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I think the most common complaint about any bechamel or flour based thickener is that it kills flavor. 

It mutes the pure flavor of the cheese to a degree. That's why I use a nice sharp cheddar to start with and amp it up with some blue. That gives it enough bite to stand up to the sauce base. As mentioned by others, the addition of some Velveeta or similar seems to help with the creamy factor but where I live a small block of Velveeta costs more than a chunk of decent cheddar. Something in my head won't allow me to grab the Velveeta under those circumstances.

Just to be clear, I'm not arguing against the modernist cuisine version of mac and cheese. It is good. I'm just suggesting that it's not always the answer for everybody. A baked mac and cheese for 50 is probably better served by trying to solve the problem with their sauce than having them go buy sodium citrate and carrageenan.

 

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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I thank everyone who took the time to offer me suggestions.  I am going to stick with the bechamel and go with the addition of "some" processed cheese...lower the heat to 350 and watch it carefully. 

Cooking is like love, it should be entered into with abandon, or not at all.

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  • 3 weeks later...

had this problem before. i found out that the cheese can be an issue but for me i added the cheese to the bechamel to make mornay but overheated it, making it split. this can also happen in the oven from too high a temperature and cooking for too long. can also happen in lasagne. as per usual, i found out the hard way :blink:

 

also, who the hell uses processed cheese???? is it common in the states?

Edited by Alex Black (log)
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I'd say it's common.  I use Velveeta for two things:  mac and cheese and rotel-tomato cheese dip.  

Agreed.

 

And CheezWiz for cheesesteaks.

 

But otherwise that's it.

 

Unless its late at night. And one gets home having had too much Chateau Rotuts. And there are ripple potato chips, sriracha and a can of spray cheese in the cabinet.

 

One might succumb

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Agreed.

 

And CheezWiz for cheesesteaks.

 

But otherwise that's it.

 

Unless its late at night. And one gets home having had too much Chateau Rotuts. And there are ripple potato chips, sriracha and a can of spray cheese in the cabinet.

 

One might succumb

Both good points. 

 

I totally forgot about the world of cheese in a can.

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  • 3 years later...

 I can’t believe we don’t have a macaroni and cheese cook-off. But I cannot find one. It’s not a dish that I like or that I make very often but I just got a call from a good friend who is looking for a “from scratch” recipe — kid friendly (I interpret that to mean as much like the blue box as possible!).

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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10 minutes ago, Anna N said:

 I can’t believe we don’t have a macaroni and cheese cook-off. But I cannot find one.

 

Hard to believe, and something we should rectify.

 

Quote

It’s not a dish that I like or that I make very often but I just got a call from a good friend who is looking for a “from scratch” recipe — kid friendly (I interpret that to mean as much like the blue box as possible!).

 

This is dead-simple (none of that bechamel or emulsifying-salts stuff), and kids like it: 3-Ingredient Mac & Cheese.

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Dave Scantland
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Eat more chicken skin.

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Good one Dave. Evaporated milk is an under rated product - seems to have fallen out of fashion. Since it is sorta heat stable it makes things creamy easy.

Edited by heidih (log)
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Here's mine.
 
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
 
Cook 1/2 pound of macaroni, about 2 cups dry
 
Mince 1 small onion and cook in 2 tablespoons butter until softened.
 
Add and cook for about a minute:
 
1 T flour
1/2 t dry mustard
3/4 t salt
Pepper
 
Slowly stir in 2 cups milk, cook until smooth and hot.
 
Add 1 package on McLaren's Imperial cheese, the kind in the red round box, cut up into chunks.  Stir to melt and incorporate.  Mix with the macaroni.
 
Meanwhile, melt some butter in a saucepan, and toast a couple of handfuls of panko.  Put the mac and cheese in a casserole, cover with panko and bake uncovered, 20 minutes or until heated through.
 
 
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I like the above 3 ingredient recipe. However, I am not a fan of cheddar cheese. So, I make it either with swiss or I make it with mozzarella and top it to replicate a lasagna top with: grated mozzarella, a sprinkling of dry oregano, and paper-thin sliced onions. (ok, ok, the kids probably won't like the onions)

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18 minutes ago, Dave the Cook said:

This is dead-simple (none of that bechamel or emulsifying-salts stuff), and kids like it: 3-Ingredient Mac & Cheese.

 Thanks very much. I have forwarded it.  

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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