mac and cheese

Have we lost our way such that we can’t make macaroni and cheese if it doesn’t come out of a box? God I hope not. After getting inspired by the Top Chef challenge last week on mother sauces, I decided to try mac and cheese again.

Homemade mac and cheese

Bechamel: an ounce of butter, an ounce of flour and some milk. Melt the butter over medium, add the flour and stir until you get the consistency of cake batter. You can adjust more or less, but you really shouldn’t have to put that much flour in. An alternative would be using corn starch, I guess. Sounds like another post.
Mornay: bechamel with cheese. Seriously, just add grated or crumbled cheese to your bechamel and taste along the way to make sure YOURS is the cheesiest. If it gets too thick, add water. Too thin won’t happen unless you started there.

Boil the pasta elbows while your making your sauce, preheat oven to 400. I like to top with bread crumbs and grated parmesan. Put it all in baking dish, and cook until your topping is browned. You don’t really have to bake it, but it’s nice to go the extra step and turn it into a gratin, isn’t it?

Variations:

1. Soy milk vs regular milk. I’ve tried it with soy milk, and it winds up tasting kinda like cake batter, because I think most soy milk comes with vanilla flavoring. It’s doable, if your kids are used to this kind of milk, they won’t mind.
2. Heavy cream vs milk. You can actually make it with heavy cream, and thinning it with water works pretty well too. This works better if you have good quality butter. Yes there are differences.
3. Other thickening agents. Corn starch, arrowroot, xanthan gum, tapioca. The roux was the classic thickening agent until we figured out how to extract starches from other plants. There’s no reason this shouldn’t work, adding butter definitely improves the flavor.
Other fats. Olive oil, probably not so much. Have I mentioned bacon grease? Wow, that would be a little overkill. Or would it? A neutral fat like vegetable oil would probably work, butter flavored Crisco technically should as well, but why?
4. Additives. Lobster mac and cheese just because it goes so well with butter. What about mascarpone-enriched orzo, creamy lobster broth, and butter-poached lobsters? This is the French Laundry version.

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