Everybody has a recipe for mac and cheese...the first time I had to prepare dinner for my dad I made mom's mac and cheese. (Mom had to work the 4:00 to midnight shift which left me, a high schooler, making dinner! Poor Dad...looking back, he was such a good sport.) Mom's recipe didn't include making a roux...I just layered the mac, the cheese, poured on a beaten egg and some evaporated milk....that was it.
Ree's recipe is pretty basic, no fancy cheeses, just down-home good! The Kitchen Gnome told me it was the best I had made...so much for those times when I tried to fancy up a basic dish that we all have a memory lock on! I did step just a bit out of the basic box...I looked at the variations....bacon was listed. I figured everything tastes great with bacon added so that is what I did. I also cut the amount of pasta in half. It just seemed like a lot as written.
Pioneer Woman's Mac and Cheese
4 cups dried macaroni (I cut this in half for the two of us...)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick, 4 tablespoons) butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups whole milk (I cut this down to 2 cups.)
2 heaping teaspoons dry mustard (more if desired)
1 egg, beaten
1 pound cheese, grated (I used about 2/3 pound)
1/2 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt (more to taste)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Optional spices: cayenne pepper, paprika, thyme
Optional Additions: caramelized onions, bacon, ham, tomatoes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
If you plan to bake it, cook macaroni until very firm. Macaroni should be too firm to eat right out of the pot. Drain. (If you do NOT plan to bake, cook a bit longer.)
In a small bowl, beat egg.
In a large pot, melt butter and sprinkle in flour. Whisk together over medium-low heat. Cook mixture for five minutes, whisking constantly. Don’t let it burn.
Pour in milk, add mustard, and whisk until smooth. Cook for five minutes until very thick. Reduce heat to low.
Take 1/4 cup of the sauce and slowly pour it into beaten egg, whisking constantly to avoid cooking eggs. Whisk together till smooth.
Pour egg mixture into sauce, whisking constantly. Stir until smooth.
Add in cheese and stir to melt.
Add salts and pepper. Taste sauce and add more salt and seasoned salt as needed! DO NOT UNDERSALT.
Pour in drained, cooked macaroni and stir to combine.
Serve immediately (very creamy) or pour into a buttered baking dish, top with extra cheese, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly and golden on top.