Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mac N Cheese- Grown Up!

It's raining out. The temperature is dropping and in Florida when the temperature goes below 67 degrees it finally feels like Winter. So that means comfort food. There is no more quintessential comfort food on the planet than Macaroni & Cheese. It's rich, buttery, cheesy (duh!) and leaves that wonderful fullness in your mouth and tummy. I have lots of "sneaky" recipes for Mac N Cheese..cauliflower puree, butternut squash puree... Sure, they would all be fine, but I wanted the real deal tonight. In all its true fat gram goodness.

So, I decided to go with Gourmet Magazine's Mac N Cheese recipe from a few years back. I cut it out a long time ago and never got around to trying it. What really appealed to me about this one was the crust. So many Mac N Cheese recipes use the cheese to create a dark, browned crust but this recipe took it one step further- it used breadcrumbs, Panko breadcrumbs to be exact, combined with cheese (and more butter) to make a super crisp topping.

I LOVE Panko.We use it exclusively at home. Ian's makes a whole wheat variety that is excellent on fish and chicken, but again, as I said before I was looking to minimize health benefits so I went with the "original style" white. I figured after 1 1/2 sticks of butter and who knows how much cheese in total, using WW bread crumbs was sorta pointless.

Everyone really enjoyed this dish (shocker, I know!) but what I think really made it cute and fun was that I portioned some of it into little ramekins for the kids and they had their own little personal mac n cheeses. I made a few changes to the original recipe as I think it needed a tiny bit more punch then what the recipe called for. I would add some dry mustard and a pinch of cayenne pepper to it before baking (as you will see below)

So..bundle up under the covers, snuggle with your family and pull out your own little ramekin of Mac N Cheese. Tomorrow you can hit the treadmill.

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
20 servings

Mac N Cheese with Panko Topping

for topping
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 2 cups panko (coarse Japanese bread crumbs)
  • 1/4 pound coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
For macaroni and sauce
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups whole milk ( I used half 1% and half Whole Milk)
  • 1 pound coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar (6 cups)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • salt and pepper

Make topping:
Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle.

Melt butter, then stir together with panko and topping cheeses in a bowl until combined well.

Make sauce:
Melt butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat and stir in flour. Cook roux, stirring, 3 minutes, then whisk in milk. Bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly, then simmer, whisking occasionally, 3 minutes. Stir in cheeses, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, cayenne and dry mustard until smooth. Remove from heat.

Make Macaroni:
Cook macaroni in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (2 tablespoons salt for 4 quarts water) until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water and drain macaroni in a colander. Stir together macaroni, reserved cooking water, and sauce in a large bowl. Transfer to 2 buttered 2-quart shallow baking dishes.

Sprinkle topping evenly over macaroni and bake until golden and bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes.

*You can also do 8 small ramekins and 1-2QT dish for the adults with this recipe*

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