Times have changed and macaroni and cheese has a new life...one with an infinite number of variations. In this month's issue of Fine cooking, mac and cheese is a featured article. I loved the article....a base recipe to serve as my canvas and "the pantry and freezer" were my palette!
It was dinner time and I had not made much effort to be prepared. So, having just perused the Fine Cooking article I decided that I would make the macaroni and cheese. Of course that was when I thought I had just the right cheese combination in the refrigerator. Nope....somebody got there before me. I had cheddar, gruyere and parmesan. I had leftover ham which Mr. T was kind enough to cut into little pieces. I had half a bag of broccoli and half a bag of peas in the freezer. It looked as though I was going to be fairly creative.
Six Steps to Your Delicious Mac and Cheese
Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Grease the casserole dish (9 X 13) with butter.
Make your own coarse breadcrumbs or use Panko breadcrumbs.
Make the cheese sauce.
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
3 1/2 cups milk (Sadly, all I had was half and half. LOL)
Base Cheese (3-5 cups)
Select one or two cheeses such as cheddar, gruyere, Monterey Jack, Havarti, gouda, etc.
Accent Cheese (I four cups basic and 1/2 cup of the accent cheese.)
Parmigiano-Reggiano, Feta, Mascarpone, etc.
Herbs and Spices (use two or three)
2 tsp Thyme, rosemary, or sage;
1/4 cup chopped parsley;
1 tsp dry mustard, 1/2 tsp cayenne, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, etc.
Melt the butter in a 3-4 quart saucepan. Whisk in the flour and continue to whisk over low heat for 3 minutes. The butter and flour should gently bubble and froth without coloring. Slowly add the milk, while whisking constantly. Be sure to whisk around the edges of the pan. Whisk until the sauce until smooth and has the consistency of heavy cream.
Raise the heat to medium and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly. Lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, for ten minutes. Turn off the heat and gently whisk in your choices of a base cheese(s) and accent cheese, herbs and spices. Season to taste with salt. Keep warm.
Cook 1 lb of your favorite pasta
Add the cheese sauce to the drained pasta and gently stir.
Add in any additional ingredient(s) up to three cups.
Select from: peas, broccoli, ham, mushrooms, scallions, bacon, caramelized shallots, etc.
Transfer the mixture to the baking dish. Evenly scatter the breadcrumbs on top. Bake at 350° F. until the top is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.
I selected cheddar, gruyere, parmesan, ham, peas, broccoli, dried mustard, and cayenne.
Having a base recipe and being able to make it "your own" is fun....an easy way to use up odd pieces of cheese and a few leftover items!