Everyone has a ‘go to’ comfort food, and mac-n-cheese is definitely one that we both love. When accompanied by a chunk of Malcolm’s jalapeno cornbread, it will provide more than enough comfort for a trampled spirit. But, trust me, you will not want to wait until you have a bad day to try this one.
We are huge fans of cheese and will eat almost any kind short of the stuff that comes from a can. We used cheddar and Parmesan for this recipe. Combine your favorite cheese along with a few of our suggested ingredients to create your own grownup version of this standard kid dish.
The key to making a good cheese sauce is to first choose cheeses that melt reasonably well. If you are not sure which ones to choose, a quick internet search will provide all the information you need about cheese. Of course, you can safeguard the end result by using a processed cheese like Velveeta which melts well, but why not go for flavor instead. Cheeses like Gouda, Gruyere and Havarti left at room temperature, grated and then melted into a roux will work well for a cheese sauce. I am sure some of your favorites will also.
Cook 8 ounces of macaroni (we used shells) al dente – set aside
In a saucepan, melt 1/4 cup butter and add 2 1/2 Tablespoons all purpose flour. Stir with a fork until smooth. Add 3 cups milk to the roux and heat over medium high temperature for about 3 minutes (stirring constantly), add the cheeses. Stir until just melted. We added 2 cups of grated cheddar and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan. As a rule, you will want to use 3 cups milk to every 2 1/2 cups cheese.
Add the macaroni to a large bowl and pour the cheese sauce over. Mix well.
Next comes the fun part: Add 1/2 to 1 1/2 cups of ingredients of your choice to the mixture. The recipe above includes 1 cup of bacon that I made crisp in the microwave and crumbled. We also like chicken chunks (usually left over from another meal), lobster bits, and ham. The lobster combines well with Gouda or Gruyere and the ham works well with almost any type of cheese.
Add some veggies: Dice carrots, celery, green peppers, red peppers and red onion into small pieces and saute in a splash of oil before adding to the mac-n-cheese. Veggies should be slightly tender, not cooked through. Add uncooked veggies such as a seeded jalapeno finely diced or a handful of grape tomatoes cut in half.
Before you bake: Melt a Tablespoon of butter in a small skillet and add 1/2 cup bread crumbs or Panko. Stir over medium/high heat until slightly brown. Add the mac-n-cheese to a baking dish or oven proof skillet and sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes.
Makes 4 generous servings.