Mac and cheese again today. I like pasta. I like carbs. I like cheese. So it makes sense that macaroni and cheese is one of my favorite comfort foods. I’ll always be down to have some mac and cheese. Once I became a college student, I thought I wouldn’t mind having mac and cheese all the time: it’s fast and cheap, and I could never get sick of it. I quickly realized that having mac and cheese every day is a surefire way to get sick of it.
I once tried to make mac and cheese by taking some pasta and putting american cheese on top. Then I put it in the microwave: not that great. The cheese blistered and the pasta didn’t cook. It seems like common sense that this wouldn’t be a great idea but I guess I was too young to realize that cooking isn’t that easy. Easy Mac makes my life so convenient, but it’s not the best thing to eat. Every day. There’s less than one gram of dietary fiber and 470 grams of sodium! You are what you eat, right?
I would prefer making my own pasta in bulk and then eating the leftover for a couple days rather than eating a new package of Easy Mac every day, definitely. So, I went out today and tried to buy the ingredients for home-made easy mac… I gave up and went to Au Bon Pain instead. What even goes into macaroni and cheese, I wondered. Vaguely, I understand that it’s some combination of butter, cheese, milk, and pasta.
I pulled up my favorite recipe website: smitten kitchen
But let’s face it, if I can only afford Easy Mac, how am I gonna make Martha Stewart style mac and cheese?
(image from smittenkitchen.com; credit to smitten kitchen creator Deb)
The recipe calls for:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for casserole
6 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to l/2-inch pieces
5 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more for water
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar cheese
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyère or 1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 pound elbow macaroni
Good Lord. To put all of this together to make mac and cheese, you must:
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place the bread in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour the melted butter into the bowl with the bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside.
2. Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Melt the remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add the flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.
3. While whisking, slowly pour in the hot milk a little at a time to keep mixture smooth. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick, 8 to 12 minutes.
4. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar cheese, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyère (or 1 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 the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir the macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.
6. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup Gruyère (or 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano), and the breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes (though we needed a bit more time to get it brown, but your oven may vary). Transfer the dish to a wire rack for 5 minutes; serve.
I have neither the time nor the patience for this. Not to mention $$$$.
Au Bon Pain leftovers for dinner, haha.