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Homemade Macaroni and Cheese: The Topic


Florida Jim
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Or a touch of turmeric or an atom of annatto, which (the second, anyway) are what is used to color cheese "naturally."

Creaton, with all due respect, I disagree. A flour-based roux need not be gritty -- in fact, mine never have been. A bit lumpy, perhaps, but that's why god invented strainers. If one is making a meatless bechamel (Escoffier #25), it's flour and clarified butter for a white roux (Escoffier #15) plus milk, onion sweated in butter, thyme, pepper, nutmeg, and salt. There is no place in bechamel for rice flour, corn starch, or any other starch.

However, I do agree that cheap cheese can work very well here. The main concern is not to cook the cheese; just let it melt in the warm sauce. I grew up on mac and cheese made with Velveeta, and it was indeed a velvety delight. :biggrin: Also, the addition of cream cheese works very, very well -- I always add it if I have it; and I use a combination of cheeses, whatever's on hand (excluding any blue-veined cheese; too strong and salty). Cabot Hunter's cheddar, asiago, kashkaval -- whatever. Anything to make up for the blandness of the macaroni and the bechamel.

BTW: I've heard that some people believe there should be NO white sauce of any kind: literally, just macaroni, and cheese, mixed and baked. Does anyone do it that way? If so, are there cheeses to use that are better than others?

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BTW: I've heard that some people believe there should be NO white sauce of any kind: literally, just macaroni, and cheese, mixed and baked.  Does anyone do it that way?  If so, are there cheeses to use that are better than others?

I think bechamel-based cheese sauce is nowhere as good for mac & cheese as sauce based on egg and evaporated milk -- wonderfully silky-smooth and creamy -- which one has to be careful not to overheat, or risk curdling. See John Thorne's recipe in _Simple Cooking_. I use a thermometer and stop cooking at 145 degrees F -- perfect every time. Once you try it, you may never go back to white sauce again.

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BTW: I've heard that some people believe there should be NO white sauce of any kind: literally, just macaroni, and cheese, mixed and baked.  Does anyone do it that way?  If so, are there cheeses to use that are better than others?

Well, ever since I read John Thorne's recipe and then tried the Cooks Illustrated stovetop version of it, I've never gone back to bechamel for my mac and cheese. Basically, you mix up evaporated milk and eggs, plus your seasonings (mustard, cayenne, etc.) and shred your cheese. When the macaroni is cooked, toss it with some butter. Then over very low heat, add the milk-egg mixture and the cheese (I've come to love a combination of monterey jack for the smooth melting quality and aged gouda for the flavor). Stir until the sauce is thickened. This works great but can't be reheated without turning a bit gritty. Still, it's so much silkier and cheesier than a bechamel based sauce that I don't mind not having leftovers. Plus it's so fast, it only takes about five extra minutes after the macaroni is cooked. The drawback is that you don't get the crispy topping, although I imagine you could pour it into a heated au gratin pan, top it with breadcrumbs and run it under the broiler without it getting grainy.

Oh -- and something I learned from Shirley Corriher is that a bit of acid will keep cooked cheese from getting stringy, so I always add a bit of white wine or vermouth to any cheese sauce I make.

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Well, ever since I read John Thorne's recipe and then tried the Cooks Illustrated stovetop version of it, I've never gone back to bechamel for my mac and cheese. Basically, you mix up evaporated milk and eggs, plus your seasonings (mustard, cayenne, etc.) and shred your cheese. When the macaroni is cooked, toss it with some butter. Then over very low heat, add the milk-egg mixture and the cheese (I've come to love a combination of monterey jack for the smooth melting quality and aged gouda for the flavor). Stir until the sauce is thickened. This works great  but can't be reheated without turning a bit gritty. Still, it's so much silkier and cheesier than a bechamel based sauce that I don't mind not having leftovers. Plus it's so fast, it only takes about five extra minutes after the macaroni is cooked. The drawback is that you don't get the crispy topping, although I imagine you could pour it into a heated au gratin pan, top it with breadcrumbs and run it under the broiler without it getting grainy.

Oh, but you can indeed reheat and enjoy leftovers without grittiness. The recipe I use is essentially the Cook's Illustrated stovetop version. To reheat, microwave on the lowest power (10 percent of full power), stirring periodically to distribute heat. Once the mac and cheese warms up a little, the power can be increased to 20 percent or 30 percent to speed things up. This method of reheating does take a long time, but it avoids curdling the sauce and maintains its silky-creamy consistency. Reheating on the stovetop hardly ever works because the heat is too concentrated at the bottom and sides of the pan while the mac and cheese is still too cold and firm to stir around without tearing the noodles.

And, as JAZ says, you can indeed get a crusty topping by sprinkling grated cheese and/or buttered bread crumbs and broiling for a few minutes. A short broiling period does not curdle the sauce at all. I've pushed the limits to see how much broiling this dish can take, and I can broil it long enough to get the cheese bubbling and golden-brown.

Edited by browniebaker (log)
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And, as JAZ says, you can indeed get a crusty topping by sprinkling grated cheese and/or buttered bread crumbs and broiling for a few minutes. A short broiling period does not curdle the sauce at all. I've pushed the limits to see how much broiling this dish can take, and I can broil it long enough to get the cheese bubbling and golden-brown.

Hmmm, interesting. I have the Cook's stove-top version, but really wanted the mix of creamy and crunchy provided by the baked, roux-based version. It didn't occur to me to hedge my bets with the stovetop style & just broil it for a moment or two.

Back to the drawing board.

Chad

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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My niece is a huge fan of macaroni and cheese so I've been trying to find a recipe that she likes. Her favorite, so far, has been Patti LaBelle's Over the Rainbow Macaroni and Cheese. It's a heart attack in a casserole dish. It's made with five different cheeses, including Velveeta, as well as half & half. I recommend doubling the recipe but not the macaroni...just use 1.5 times the required amount of macaroni which will make it saucier.

FoodNetwork has some mac & cheese recipes in their archives. I liked their Smoked salmon, mac & cheese, though it wasn't "saucey" enough for me (and my niece didn't like it at all).

Chad, have you tried the fry-it-the-next-day method yet? Let us know how that turns out.

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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Mac and cheese is my favourite comfort food. I actually made it tonight, what with all the fire activity, it was required. A white sauce, with onion and cheddar and pasta. Done. Spice = salt and pepper. Comfort food is often best simple and comfortable. :smile:

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Mmmm! I usually only make mac & cheese in the winter, but reading this thread has got my mouth watering.

Might have to get some evaporated milk to try it that way ! I've always made a white sauce, melted some cheese in and added thin slices to bake in throughout. Have to say my family always seems to tell the difference if I skimp on the quality of cheese - has to be VT extra sharp cheddar!

This orange thing?? Must be some New York cheese? Oh, wait it's coming to me. Is that the color of the packaged stuff? :huh:

Think having roux too hot and too much flour can add to graininess problem first mentioned here. It has to be nice and smooth, thick and creamy, then baked to perfection with light topping of seasoned bread

crumbs.

Mmmm....

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"I added 1T powdered mustard"

It it me or is that a lot of powdered mustard for 3 c of milk. I use a lot of Colman's mustards and they are pretty strong.

I use 2 teaspoons mustard powder to 3 cups of sauce, but I have always wondered whether an extra teaspooon, making it a whole tablespoon, might be an improvement.

Could be that different mustard powders have different levels of pungency and heat. I use Penzey's Canadian, and Penzey's spices generally are pretty strong owing to freshness. I imagine Colman's must be right up there in strength.

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A flour-based roux need not be gritty -- in fact, mine never have been.  A bit lumpy, perhaps, but that's why god invented strainers.  If one is making a meatless bechamel (Escoffier #25), it's flour and clarified butter for a white roux (Escoffier #15) plus milk, onion sweated in butter, thyme, pepper, nutmeg, and salt.  There is no place in bechamel for rice flour, corn starch, or any other starch.

My point was that there is a wide spectrum of mac n cheese sauces out there. One need not necessarily stick to the traditional bechamel based sauce. Relative to some sauces out there, such as the ones mentioned above which use the egg/liason method from Cook's Illustrated, a bechamel is grainy. Whether you consider it grainy depends on your preference.

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I will say again that a bechamel should never be grainy. And while I agree that one is not limited to bechamel sauce as a base for macaroni and cheese, the original point of Chad's post was that he used a bechamel base; that means something very specific in terms of ingredients and method. We were trying to figure out why a bechamel-based macaroni and cheese might feel grainy; AFTER THAT the idea of other types of saucing came up.

Please let me know where you cook, because if you think it's acceptable for bechamel to feel grainy, I do NOT want to eat there.

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I will say again that a bechamel should never be grainy.  And while I agree that one is not limited to bechamel sauce as a base for macaroni and cheese, the original point of Chad's post was that he used a bechamel base; that means something very specific in terms of ingredients and method.  We were trying to figure out why a bechamel-based macaroni and cheese might feel grainy; AFTER THAT the idea of other types of saucing came up.

Please let me know where you cook, because if you think it's acceptable for bechamel to feel grainy, I do NOT want to eat there.

I think even the best-made bechamel-based cheese sauce cannot be as smooth as a cheese sauce made with rice flour or cornstarch. Nor can it be as smooth as a cheese sauce made with eggs and evaporated milk as in Cook's Illustrated's and John Thorne's recipes for mac and cheese. I have indeed tried all of the above sauces for mac and cheese, and the bechamel-based sauce is less smooth, more pasty or gluey, even, yes, more "grainy" than all the other sauces. It's just the nature of wheat flour. Graininess is relative.

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  • 1 year later...

I'm going to make one of my favorite Mac and Cheese recipes tonight, Greek Pastitio or Pastitsio and was wondering what other's favorite recipes were?

Edit: unsure on spelling

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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I used the one from the William Sonoma "American" book last week. Even my husband liked it and he hates mac and cheese. :smile:

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 use extra-sharp cheddar in mine, swirled into a bechamel sauce, and baked extra-long to get a golden crust on top. (I'll have no truck with breadcrumb or crushed-potato chip toppings!)

I'm a canning clean freak because there's no sorry large enough to cover the, "Oops! I gave you botulism" regrets.

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There was a previous topic on this subject in which I confessed my use of rather mundale ingredients.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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