January 25, 2010

Cheese Part 2 - First Main Course

Elisabeth (aka "E") made a delicious macaroni and cheese for our dinner party.  It was very creamy and flavorful. Just what mac 'n cheese should be!  I definitely kept leftovers to enjoy for lunch and dinner the next day.

Bread Crumb Topping
6 slices good-quality white sandwich bread, torn into rough pieces
3 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces

For the bread crumbs: Pulse bread and butter in food processor until crumbs are no larger than 1/8 inch (10-15 1-second pulses). Set aside.

Pasta and Sauce

1 lb elbow macaroni
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp salt
5 tbsp unsalted butter
6 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp powdered mustard
1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)
5 c milk
8 oz Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
8 oz cheddar cheese, shredded

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat broiler on high.  Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in Dutch oven over high heat.  Add macaroni and 1 tablespoon salt; cook until pasta is tender.  Drain pasta and set aside in colander.  In now-empty Dutch oven, heat butter over medium-high heat until foaming.  Add flour, mustard, and cayenne and whisk well to combine.  Continue to whisk until mixture becomes fragrant and deepends in color (about 1 minute).  Gradually whisk in milk; bring mixture to a boil, whisking constantly (mixture must reach full boil to fully thicken).  Reduce heat to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened to consitency of heavy cream (about 5 minutes).  Off the heat, whisk in cheeses and 1 teaspoon salt until cheeses are fully melted.  Add pasta and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until mixture is steaming and heated through (about 6 minutes).  When you add the pasta to the cheese sauce, add any mix-ins you like such as peas, ham, bacon, pancetta, or prosciutto.

Transfer to broiler safe 9x13 baking dish and sprinkle evenly with breadcrumbs.  Broil until crumbs are deep golden brown (3-5 minutes, rotating pan if necessary for even browning).   Cool for about 5 minutes.  Enjoy!

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