Last week the Diner featured one of the once-a-year holiday favorites, Lord knows my hips can only afford to indulge once a year! It was the Mac & Cheese Fest. I make this dish once a year during the holidays, my usual partner-in-cheese (Gary) was not around to partake this year, but Uncle Larry was. (Remember Uncle Larry from his famous Frito pork roast from a few years ago?)
Anyway, I had been talking about the Mac & Cheese Fest for a few months and Uncle Larry couldn’t wait, who could blame him! Although Uncle Larry really thought it was going to be Mac & Cheese only so when he sat down at the Diner to find spicy pork chops, sweet potato soufflé and green beans with walnuts and pomegranate seeds he was overwhelmed – I just couldn’t serve ONLY Mac & Cheese, there needed to be some other protein and veggies to offset the gooey goodness.
Well, Uncle Larry, HH and Aunt Val enjoyed everything (one last big indulgence before the New Year). And Uncle Larry rallied; he had three helpings of Mac & Cheese.
By the way, I only made half the recipe and you can see what a generous dish that makes! So if you are going to try this one, just think about how many you are serving and how much you really want to make.
Macaroni and Cheese 101, Martha Stewart style
8 tablespoons (l stick) unsalted butter, plus more for casserole
6 slices good white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces
5 1/2, cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt, plus more for water
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar cheese
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyere or 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 pound elbow macaroni
1. Preheat oven to 375˚. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place bread in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour melted butter into the bowl with the bread; toss. Set the bread crumbs aside.
2. Warm milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Melt remaining butter in a high-sided
skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.
3. While whisking, add hot milk a little at a time to keep mixture smooth. Continue
cooking, whisking constantly, until mixture bubbles and thickens, 8 to 12 minutes.
4. Remove pan from heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, peppers, 3 cups cheddar cheese,
and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere (or I cup Pecorino Romano); set the cheese sauce aside.
5. Cover a large pot of salted water, and bring to a boil. Cook the macaroni until
the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir the macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.
6. Pour mixture into prepared dish. Sprinkle remaining cheddar and Gruyere (or
Pecorino) and bread crumbs over top. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack for 5 minutes; serve.