Monday, July 22, 2013

Martha Stewart's Perfect Macaroni and Cheese

...And back to our regularly scheduled program!  What was left of my four foot baguette was now so stale that the only thing it was good for was bread crumbs, and what better way to use bread crumbs (other than with fried eggs) than to top macaroni and cheese!

I haven't always gotten the best results with recipes from Martha Stewart (e.g. the sugar cookie recipe I used for the rainbow cookies), but her recipe for macaroni and cheese is so tried and true that I had to use it.  This is pretty much a no-frills recipe:  straight up macaroni baked in a cheese sauce with only some buttered bread crumbs for garnish.  I was tempted to add caramelized onions, herbs, and at the very least, use some bacon fat in there, but I resisted (mostly because I was bringing this to a potluck and there were going to be some vegetarians there).  The only change I made was that I used the last foot or so of my baguette instead of white bread for the bread crumbs.


Martha Stewart's Perfect Macaroni and Cheese (adapted from Martha Stewart)
makes 12 servings

2 cups bread crumbs, diced into 1/4- to 1/2-inch cubes
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
5 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyere or 1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated pecorino Romano
1 pound elbow macaroni

Heat the oven to 375ºF. Butter a 9"x12" baking dish; set aside.


Place bread pieces in a medium bowl.  Melt 2 tablespoons butter, pour over the bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside.

In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.


Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere or 1 cup pecorino Romano. Set cheese sauce aside.


Fill a large saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 fewer minutes than manufacturer's directions, until outside of pasta is cooked and inside is underdone. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.)


Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.


Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar and 1/2 cup Gruyere or 1/4 cup pecorino Romano; scatter breadcrumbs over the top.


Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes; serve.


Even without any additions, I loved the result.  The cheddar and pecorino were sharp and strong, and the cayenne pepper added just the right amount of kick.  By undercooking the pasta by 2-3 minutes and finishing it up in the oven with the cheese sauce, the macaroni stays nice and firm and not mushy at all.  And the bread crumbs add a good amount of crunch for a change in texture.  Still, I think a little bacon fat in there would have been lovely.  ^_^



If you happen to end up with any leftovers, you can use them to make an oven-fried mac 'n' cheese pizza!

Next:  Oven-Fried Mac 'n' Cheese Pizza
Previously:  Vanilla Sugar Lemonade and Mint Lemonade Slushies

1 comment:

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