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Homemade Macaroni and Cheese: The Topic


Florida Jim
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But wait a minute, folks ... here is a brand new article in which Sara Dickerman brazenly challenges the Julia Moskin NYT recipes:

Taking on Julia Moskin's recipe in the NYT

But Moskin's recipe has odd proportions: a whopping 24 ounces of cheese to a pound of pasta, with just a drizzling of milk to moisten the casserole. "Crusty" is no exaggeration; the two cups of cheese used to top the casserole shrink-wrapped itself around the uppermost elbows. Eaten piping hot it was a little chewy and a little crispy; after the dish had cooled just a hair, the top layer had firmed to a leathery shield. The noodles below sweated fat, which collected unappealingly at the bottom of my earthenware dish.

The need for a white sauce step is what makes Dickerman's contention most realistic to me ... that is, after all, how I make mine ... :wink:

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Rachel, how much cheese do you think you used?  I agree, probably not cheesey enough.

No, it was cheesey enough* for me, but it wasn't saucey enough for me. In Marlena's new book, she mentions (p. 28) that a bechamel based on 1.5 cups of milk (plus cheese, etc) was enough for 12-16 oz of noodles. Since I started with 2 cups of milk, I figured that would be enough for 16 oz of elbows. Next time, if I need to make a full box of noodles (like for a party), I'll start with a 3 cup bechamel; this time I was just making a treat for Jason and me (because I'm reading Marlena's book and it makes you crave mac & cheese), so making a smaller casserole would have been perfectly acceptable. The 2 cups of milk was a convenience factor since I freeze excess milk in pint containers.**

* I used about 10 oz of cheese. If I were just using straight not extra sharp cheddar, it might not have been enough, but combining some strong flavors (parmesean, horseraddish jack) with the medium and mild (sharp cheddar and swiss, respectively), it was enough for me. Next time I might reserve some to shred & blend in with the sauce, but it's just so damn easy to use the VitaMix to do everything. I'll have to just reserve some to add to the sauce at the last minute and only pulse it a bit to grind rather than blend it in.

** Milk is cheaper by the gallon than by the quart. I rarely use more than a quart before it goes bad. Actually, I use milk sporadically. If I'm in the mood for it, I could go through a 1/2 gallon before it goes bad, and a quart usually seems like not enough. Other times, I would have a quart go bad before I finish it, or I have no milk in the house when I want it. By buying a gallon and freezing about 3/4 of it in pints, I always have milk when I need/want it. It defrosts easily in the microwave, but be sure to pour out the liquid as it defrosts and mix well when it is almost completely defrosted (just a little ice left), since the watery parts seem to defrost first.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Bechemel is my starter. I make mine a bit on the think side, cook it for at least 25 minutes to thirty minutes. I then add my cheeses, usually five. let them melt gooey good, then add it to cooked pasta that I don't shock. Undercook it slightly then just leave it straining without shocking or rinsing. Now add all that yummy cheese mixture, with a dibble of dry mustard if you're in the mood. stir it all up, then finish with heavy cream for some added richness. I keep mine on the stovetop, I think that baking it dries it out and doesn't add to the flavor or the mouthfeel....

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I probably spend altogether too much time thinking about macaroni and cheese, because I have developed pretty serious ambivalence about baking or not baking. Sometimes I think that baking dries and increases the possibility of ruining the sauce too much. Sometimes I think that baking really completes the dish (and there is that crust thing).

I notice that Marlene's M&C looks extra gooey :wub:, and also seems to have a very crispy crust that has stayed intact when served. This looks like a feat to me. I usually only bake for a very short period of time (in fear of dryness), but my crust usually falls apart when I serve, and I wind up with little bits of breadcrumbs dispersed throughout individual servings. I've tried baking in indiviual gratin dishes, which does solve the crumb dispersion problem, but I'd love to know how to know how to get one nice crust on a bigger casserole.

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Iuse a combination of montery jack and sharp cheddar which seems to help with the gooeyness. The crust is usually a mix of breadcrumbs butter and parmesan. I use extra butter to make it moister so it sticks together really well. If you want a really crisp crust, try using panko crumbs. And I usually bake mine for about 30 minutes.

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 know it goes totally against the concept of the dish to even think about the health aspects of mac & cheese. i know, and therefore i apologize in advance for this post.

BUT.

i was in the store a while ago and noticed a box of barilla plus elbows, which i've used to make mac & cheese twice now. and it's good! really! even though it's got, like, actual fiber and whatnot in it.

i don't know if the texture is quite right--i don't know if i'll be using it for more pasta-centric dishes than mac & cheese, but for this it's totally fine, and you can for a moment pretend that you're eating something healthy even though it tastes good...

Edited by mrbigjas (log)
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Thanks for the tips, Marlene! I have been using Panko, but without much cheese (except a bit of parm-regg sometimes). Although the topping gets crispy, it doesn't hold together. I think I might try adding some other cheeses.

I have a new idea for a M&C experiment. I'm going to make M&C with fresh pasta. I've never heard of anyone doing this, although it doesn't seem that crazy. If anyone here has done this, let me know what you think! I'm fairly new to fresh pasta making (just received my Imperia pasta roller this Christmas), but I love the process. I'll either make penne by rolling squares of pasta around pens or farfalle by pinching squares of pasta in the middle. I have no idea whether doing this will be worth the effort (maybe there's a reason why I don't see a lot of recipes for M&C with fresh pasta), but I will try anything in the name of M&C! I probably won't have time until the weekend.

For now, I'll have to consider whether to bake or not. Maybe both, for the sake of knowledge :raz:.

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FYI for all macaroni and cheese lovers - the Cook's Illustrated version has changed. In the New Best Recipe, they use a bechemel sauce, rather than the evaporated milk and egg custard that they recommend in the original Best Recipe. I'm assuming that most of these posts refer to the old way, but for the sake of clarity, I think that we should try to keep them straight in this thread.

My personal vote is for the old recipe - it's incrediby rich, which I love. True comfort food (and I ate the blue box once a week (Fridays) growing up, generally with tuna and peas). My oldest brothers' trick to making it was to add two ice cubes to the boiling water with the noodles :huh: . My third oldest brother's trick was to add double the amount of butter, and half the milk :smile: . I liked his way better, which may explain my preference for a rich tasting mac-n-cheese.

Edited by SMW (log)
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Thanks for the tips, Marlene!  I have been using Panko, but without much cheese (except a bit of parm-regg sometimes).  Although the topping gets crispy, it doesn't hold together.  I think I might try adding some other cheeses.

I have a new idea for a M&C experiment.  I'm going to make M&C with fresh pasta.  I've never heard of anyone doing this, although it doesn't seem that crazy.  If anyone here has done this, let me know what you think!  I'm fairly new to fresh pasta making (just received my Imperia pasta roller this Christmas), but I love the process.  I'll either make penne by rolling squares of pasta around pens or farfalle by pinching squares of pasta in the middle.  I have no idea whether doing this will be worth the effort (maybe there's a reason why I don't see a lot of recipes for M&C with fresh pasta), but I will try anything in the name of M&C!  I probably won't have time until the weekend.

For now, I'll have to consider whether to bake or not.  Maybe both, for the sake of knowledge :raz:.

M&C with fresh pasta is a terrific idea! I'd leave a bit of pasta overhang (sort of like lasagna) because the crusty bits after baking are sooo good.

Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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macaroni1.jpg

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My husband uses 16 oz of Dreamfields Elbows, 1 lb of sharp white cheddar, whole lb of bacon. He makes his own bechamel and adds 3/4 of the cheese to it. The cheese sauce gets combined with the macaroni, then he mixes in crispy bacon. Tops the casserole with slices of tomato, and reserved cheddar, then seasoned breadcrumbs. He toasts the whole thing under the broiler until the crumbs brown and the cheese topping melts.

Heavenly.

Peter: You're a spy

Harry: I'm not a spy, I'm a shepherd

Peter: Ah! You're a shepherd's pie!

- The Goons

live well, laugh often, love much

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Probably 15 years ago I saw a rerun of a Pierre Franey TV show which showed his "mac&cheese", which included two kinds of cheddar, a wonderful roux, and sauteed onions, sauteed mushrooms, and leftover baked ham. I made that recipe as best as I could remember, and I believe there are no better recipes. However, I wish I had the original printed recipe. I don't know which Franey book it appeared in; certainly not any I have ever seen. I would buy the book just for that one. I make the dish often, and it is always wonderful.

Best of all, it can be frozen, and warmed up after a long drive home from Vermont.

Ray

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some eG friends got together last weekend and had a mac and cheese party to compare some recipes!

the best oven ever :wub:

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green chile mac and cheese

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chili mac

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blue cheese mac and cheese from a local chef's recipe

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my version of Martha Stewart's white mac and cheese

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Guy Savoy's 24 hour mac and gruyere cheese

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Patti Labelle's recipe for mac and cheese

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Patti LaBelle and Martha Stewart were voted the favorite's at this party but these all were sooooo good and it was a really fun event!

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yep, everyone just reheated them at the host house. Others brought side salads and of course desserts. It was a great way to try a bunch of different styles!

Great idea. I'd be interested in hearing comments and finding out which one was most popular.

Baker of "impaired" cakes...
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I made the Creamy Macaroni and Cheese from the NY Times article that appeared early in January once again. I will admit that the first go-round was not successful -- I had doubled the recipe (which may not have been the problem) and because of kid stuff, had to leave it set for a long time post cooking.

But, I made it again last night, per the recipe, and using their times (my oven is accurage). It was wonderful. It is the preference of my family, according to them last night. They are not bechamel mac and cheese fans, nor are they fans of the evaporated milk/egg method.

Cheesy goodness:

gallery_6263_35_5097.jpg

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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My hubby used to make his mac n cheese from scratch using a mix of sharp and mild cheddar, heavy cream and other "secret ingredients" like mustard powder etc... I liked the fact that he cut in either sliced ham or grilled chicken. It was always a hit with me!

Stacey C-Anonymouze@aol.com

*Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody reads!-G. B. SHAW

JUST say NO... to CENSORSHIP*!

Also member of LinkedIn, Erexchange and DonRockwell.

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Wendy, your mac & cheese party looks like the best party I've ever imagined :wub: ! Everyone is making such great mac and cheese around here, I'm truly inspired. I have been putting off making mac and cheese with fresh pasta for about two weeks now, and must do so this weekend! (I've been a little bit intimidated, as I not all my fresh pasta efforts have been successful, and I have even been known to make a mac and cheese dud now and then.

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I have been putting off making mac and cheese with fresh pasta for about two weeks now, and must do so this weekend!  (I've been a little bit intimidated, as I not all my fresh pasta efforts have been successful, and I have even been known to make a mac and cheese dud now and then.

Khadija, I would think that it would be tricky to make mac and cheese with fresh pasta as it is so tender and cooks far more quickly than dried pasta. How will you adjust for this? Are you planning to roll the pasta sheets out thicker than you normally would? Will you boil them until barely al dente?

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Shaya, I'm not sure how well the fresh pasta will work either. It's more of a nerdy experiment than anything. (Sometimes I think I'm more drawn to the process of cooking than I am to the results.)

I'm definitely going to make it thicker than usual. Depending on my patience, I'm going to make either farfalle (butterflies) or penne. For the farfalle, I'll cut squares and pinch in the centre, and for the penne, I'll roll around pens or something similar. I think the farfalle will be easier. I won't boil for very long, but I think I should try boil a little bit. I guess I'm thinking that, based on my experience with making lasagna with fresh pasta, the fresh pasta must be able to stand up to some kind of baking.

I'll report back with results (probably Sunday).

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  • 2 months later...

Hello all. Well I think I've finally reached my personal mac and cheese nirvana. This was absolutely the best mac and cheese I've ever made. However, warning: mac and cheese purists look away! The reason why will become apparent shortly.

I did a combination recipe using this one from Paula Deen:

The Lady's Cheesy Mac

That's not me being especially polite to Ms. Deen, that's the actual name of the recipe. I also used (this is where the purists should avert their eyes) andiesenji's tip to use a can of Campbells Cheddar Cheese soup. I must admit that I was skeptical about using this product. I normally make a roux, then a bechamel, then add a ton of grated cheese. As I have a problem with standing for long periods of time this process has always been, both literally and figuratively, a real pain. I used a one pound box of Barilla mixed shapes pasta: penne, shells, and the corkscrew shape (rotini?). Definite keeper. I followed Paula Deen's recipe using medium, sharp, and extra sharp cheddar cheeses. I also upped the cheese to about 4 cups or so. I then added the said can of cheddar cheese soup plus extra whole milk. This was hands down the most delicious mac and cheese ever and the easiest approach to this recipe--creamy, super cheesey (in a good way), this stuff even tastes good cold.

Thanks a bunch to Paula Deen (I knew that when I comes to packing as much dairy as humanly possible into one dish, Paula was definitely my gal :rolleyes: ) and to andiesenji for the tip. :smile:

Inside me there is a thin woman screaming to get out, but I can usually keep the Bitch quiet: with CHOCOLATE!!!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I made my best-ever mac 'n cheese this week.

Bechamel, Colemans dry prepared mustard, chopped extra sharp white cheddar (bought at Costco, 'black wax', need to double check brand), elbow macaroni, black pepper and steamed peas stirred in at the end.

The bright green peas nestled cozily in the white curvy creamy elbows. The sharpness and strength of this particular cheese and the bite of the pasta was perfectly accented by the sweet pop of the peas. It went well with translucent red slices of dry salami.

When I was a kid, I'd make this from the Kraft blue box for my sister (who loved peas. I hated em), and serve it with fried spam. The meal grew up nicely.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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I've not made mac and cheese before, but I do like my pasta with tons of cheese.

I've cheddar, parmesan, milk and cream in the house. And I'd like a stovetop recipe, one that does not involve or doesn't require baking.

Suggestions please?

Thanks in advance.

May

Totally More-ish: The New and Improved Foodblog

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