That’s right. Better than your mac’n’cheese, better than your mother’s mac’n’cheese, better than your grandma’s, too. I’m sorry, it just can’t be helped. This is the best macaroni and cheese that anyone has ever concocted. It is piping hot, gratinlike, crispy-topped, and in all ways unsurpassable. Oh, but play around with the cheese by all means. The best macaroni in the world can take a little variation in ingredients, just not method.
Ingredients (serves 4)
1/2 pound dry
macaroni rotini (cheese clings better to the rotini, and the little fins poking out of the top develop a delightful crunch when baked)
2 T butter
2 T flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 pound cheddar cheese, grated. (preferably a good sharp one. You may remember Cahill’s whiskey cheddar. This is its first chance to shine in this particular form.)
1/2 t mustard powder
salt and white pepper to taste
1/2 to 1 t worcestershire sauce
Jiffy corn muffins, as the only acceptable side dish (can you tell I have serious emotional ties to this meal?)
Oh, this recipe is easily doubled, at which point it fills a 9×13 brownie pan.
So, let’s get started. First, make the pasta very al dente (about 1-2 minutes less time than recommended on the box). Leave it in a colander and make a roux.
Don’t panic if this is new to you. It’s just fancy for “melt butter over medium-high and mix in flour,” so do that. It’ll be nice and thick. Now pour in the milk, and whisk it up for a few minutes until the sauce (a béchamel, by the way) just starts to simmer. Now add the cheese.
And whisk and melt and whisk and–huge globs of cheese have turned your whisk into a solid blunt instrument! Don’t panic. Shake it off, and keep whisking. It should get very thick as it starts to bubble. Now add the mustard powder, salt, pepper, and worcestershire. When I say to taste, by the way, I mean it. Stir stuff in. Taste the sauce. Use a cracker if you want. Can’t taste the worcestershire at all? Crave more pepper? Think some paprika or cayenne would do well here? Toss a tiny bit in, and taste it to see if it needs more. This is what “to taste” means. Okay, soap box over. When the cheese is thick and beginning to boil, dump the drained pasta in and stir to coat each little bite. Pour everything into an 8×8 baking pan or an oval gratin dish, and garnish with extra cheese if desired (about 1/4 cup grated, and I always do this.)
Now you just want to bake it at 375° or 400° (What? Gratins aren’t exactly picky) for 20-25 minutes, until it looks like this and your entire apartment smells of molten cheese.
Absolutely glorious. But I believe I mentioned before, there’s a requisite side dish. A sweet to go with the savory. I’m talking about to-Hell-with-from-scratch-it’s-comfort-food-night Jiffy brand corn muffins. Just make according to the package and add 2 T of honey per box. It makes them ten times better and sweeter. Mix ’em up while your sauce is cooking, cook together with the mac’n’cheese, and enjoy with blackberry jam if you’re a heathen like me, or crumbled into a glass of milk as Mr. Blackbird (and apparently all sensible Texans) are wont to do.
If you’re in Dallas this week, stay home. Superbowl or not, it’s icy as can be out there, and we Southerners can’t drive to save our lives in it. Literally. Stay home, make comfort food, enjoy the lovely blackouts with leftovers and a board game and some wine.
Okay, thinking about that made me cold. Let’s see the food again.
That’s better. Go now, eat cheese