Sunday macaroni and cheese was an unspoken tradition for my family growing up. We came home from church, hungry for lunch (despite the cookies we probably gobbled down at “coffee hour”) and looking for something quick and tasty. My mom cooked plenty of homemade meals when I was young, but for reasons unknown we always had the blue box Kraft Mac n’ Cheese instead of homemade. Perhaps Mom had grown up on it too. Perhaps she wanted something quick and easy. Perhaps her three daughters had tried homemade mac and cheese and turned their noses up at it. Who knows.
We loved it of course and made it pretty much every Sunday. It counted as the main meal, though now and then we’d mix in some cut-up hot dogs while our parents opted for the more adult mix of canned tuna mac.
At some point, however, I learned how to make the basic roux (flour and butter) that started any good bechamel sauce. Mom probably used it at some point to make nacho sauce or homemade mac and cheese, but in general, I remember the Kraft mac and cheese – the familiar blue box, the bright orange powder packet, the black pepper our neighbor and babysitter, Lee, always put on his.
As an adult I have tried making mac and cheese, but always to my disappointment. It’s hard to compare to that bright cheesy flavor and color that I remember from my childhood. The flavor always seems to miss the mark. I’ve made it at work with butternut squash mixed in (that obviously changes the flavor) and for the growing
toddlers almost 5-year old twins I cook for who request it every time they see me (not because it’s particularly good, but because it’s a kid-approved favorite). Nonetheless I have yet to find a recipe I’m thrilled about. This one gets me much closer. I’m sure the kind of cheese you use makes all the difference.
In my Cookbook Challenge adventures for this week, I turned to a compilation of recipes from Lamar County in Georgia where my aunt and her family live. She has a love for cooking as I do and has given me several cookbooks throughout the years, including this one. Though I was tempted to make many of the student-submitted recipes for “a saled” with “curumbers” and “geshin” (dressing), I chose this mac and cheese recipe instead. I modified the recipe slightly, making more noodles for the amount of cheese sauce called for, and was very happy with the results. It has a slight mustard-y taste, which I don’t mind so much, but I tried to adjust for it in my version here. I also used my favorite brand of Dijon mustard – Maille – which is particularly pungent. Also, her recipe originally calls for extra sharp cheddar and I only used sharp cheddar. You choose which one you prefer.
It certainly doesn’t have that bright orange color that Kraft does, but it made for some lip-licking mac and cheese.
Homemade Macaroni and Cheese
adapted from A++ Recipes from Lamar County
1/2 lb. elbow pasta
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
1/3 cup chicken broth
1 T. butter
2.5 T. all-purpose flour
1/2-1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2.5 T. grated Parmesan
5 oz. shredded sharp cheddar
salt and pepper to taste
Bring a medium sized pot of water to a boil. Add a hefty pinch of salt and the elbow noodles. Stir to break up the noodles and cook according to the package directions (5-7 minutes) until al dente. Drain the noodles and spread out on a cookie sheet or large dish to cool so they don’t stick together. In a microwave-safe measuring cup, heat the evaporated milk and chicken broth until hot and steaming, but not boiling (1-2 minutes in the microwave). Meanwhile in the same pot, melt the butter, add the flour and stir. Gradually whisk in the milk mixture, carefully breaking up any clumps if you can. At this point it may look very curdled and chunky, but as long as most of the lumps are out, it will be fine when the dish is finished.
Continue to whisk until the milk mixtures thickens a bit, 3 minutes or so. Whisk in the mustard and Parmesan. Turn off the heat and stir in the cheddar until melted. Add the cooled pasta, stir to incorporate and reheat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with fresh fresh ground black pepper or garlic powder.
WAIT WAIT WAIT! Don’t go away. This is a two-in-one deal. “What to do with the leftovers?” you say!
Leftover macaroni just doesn’t have the same creamy appeal as the fresh from the stove version, but that doesn’t mean you should let those leftovers go to waste in the fridge. If you’re feeling extra decadent, just waffle it.
That’s right, waffle it. (Waffle is now a verb). What could be better (and healthier -ha!) than breaded and waffle-fied mac and cheese? Daniel Shumski’s book Will it Waffle? fulfills all your waffle fantasies. I bought this book as an impulse buy at Brookline Booksmith. Shumski himself was there giving out waffled samples and promoting his book. Feeling bold I went over to talk with him (I’d seen the blog) and ended up buying the book (with the intention of giving it to someone for Christmas). My mac and cheese solidified magnificently, making it especially easy for breading. This recipe adds a great crunch and pizzazz to an otherwise stiff leftover dish.
Waffled Mac and Cheese
adapted from Will it Waffle?
Leftover Macaroni and Cheese (see above recipe)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated hard cheese such as Parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
non-stick cooking spray
Heat your waffle iron to medium if possible (mine only has on or off and it worked well).
Cut the macaroni into slices about 1/2 thick. If it is much thicker, it may not heat all the way through without burning your breading. Set up three shallow bowls – the first with the flour, the second with the eggs and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and the third with the breadcrumbs and Parmesan. If your breadcrumbs are plain you might consider adding a sprinkle of black pepper or garlic powder (as I did to my Panko crumbs).
Now carefully dredge your macaroni slices, one at a time, in the flour, egg, and breadcrumbs. Put in the middle of a well-sprayed or greased preheated waffle iron. Close the lid and press down gently. Allow to cook for 3 minutes or until nicely browned. Carefully remove with a spatula and/or tongs and enjoy hot! Repeat with remaining macaroni slices.
Bon appetit! Two more cookbooks checked off my list!