My New Favorite Mac & Cheese

>> Monday, August 31, 2009

My first brush with homemade (as opposed to Kraft blue box) macaroni and cheese was in college.  My house's kitchen staff made the most delicious macaroni and cheese - so good, in fact, that I would especially request it when my favorite chef was working (the perks of going to a small, private school, I guess).  Later, when I transferred to a different school, I brought my love of macaroni and cheese with me, and eventually developed my own recipe.  My recipe sufficed, but the cheese sauce was always a bit off.  It wasn't until I started watching Food Network obsessively until I realized what was missing from my recipe: flour (in the form of a roux).

Ever since I discovered that the roux is the base of first the bechamel, then the Mornay sauce, I've been obsessed with perfecting my macaroni and cheese recipe.  Well, with last night's version, I think I've come pretty close to my favorite macaroni and cheese recipe!

For the Mornay Sauce
2 Tbsps unsalted butter
2 Tbsps all-purpose flour
About 1.5 cups of light cream, half and half, or milk
About 3-4 oz. of sharp white cheddar cheese, grated

For the Crumb Topping
1 Tbsp, melted
About 3/4 cup of panko bread crumbs
About 1 Tbsp chopped chives
About 1/2 to 1 tsp of kosher salt

Additional Ingredients
About 8 - 10 oz of small shell pasta
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 sweet yellow onion, diced
1/2 vine-ripe tomato, sliced thinly
1/8 - 1/4 tsp chili powder

Oven at 400 F degrees.

1.  Bring large pot of water to boil over high heat.  Salt water.  Add shells, and cook for about 5 minutes (even if package calls for more time).  Drain pasta and return to pot.

2.  Saute diced onion in 1 Tbsp of butter over medium high heat.  Cook until edges begin to brown.  Transfer cooked onions to pot with pasta in it.

3.  In same saute pan, melt 2 Tbsps butter.  Whisk in flour to make a roux.  Whisk in cream or milk, and whisk lightly until slightly thickened.  Mixture should be thick and creamy.  If it is too thick, add more cream or milk.  Whisk in cheese, and whisk until cheese sauce becomes thick and creamy.

4.  Pour cheese sauce over pasta and onions.  Stir to coat.  Sprinkle 1/8 - 1/4 tsp of chili powder over the mixture, and stir again to combine.  Set aside.

5.  To make the crumb topping, melt butter in small bowl, and add panko bread crumbs, chives, and salt.  Stir mixture, and make sure it is thoroughly combined.

6.  Butter a 9" pie dish, and pour in the pasta mixture.  Place thinly sliced tomatoes on top, in a single layer.  Sprinkle crumb topping over the tomatoes.

7.  Bake at 400 F degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes.


dinagideon September 2, 2009 at 12:18 PM  

Oh, my goodness. I think I have to send my hubby out to get those ingredients, because I must have this mac and cheese, stat. :) YUM!

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