Growing up, I freely admit I wasn’t much of a Mac & Cheese fan. Then again, I didn’t seem to have what you’d call a normal kid’s diet. My mom always made great home-cooked meals but Mac & Cheese never seemed to make it to the dinner table for lunch or dinner. I think the only time I can really remember eating it throughout grade school was on the occasions I was given lunch money and ate at school.
To say that this dish was ALWAYS a blank canvas waiting for a culinary artist is an understatement. Mac has grown up. And Mac…has an attitude.
If you’d like to try your hand at an upscale Mac & Cheese, here’s a recipe from one of the very few Food Network celebrities I enjoy. Alton Brown’s recipe is very flavorful and a good one to use as a base for exploring new possibilities. If you’d like, you can add to it different pasta shapes or garnishments like lobster, shrimp, a bit of duck or perhaps chicken. Just keep in mind that your pasta and cheese sauce are really the stars here. Enjoy.
Alton Brown’s Baked Macaroni & Cheese
- Makes one 2-quart casserole dish or about 6 servings.
- 1/2 pound Elbow macaroni (or other shape)
- 3 tablespoons Butter
- 3 tablespoons Flour
- 1 tablespoon Powdered mustard
- 3 cups Milk
- 1/2 cup Yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 Bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon Paprika
- 1 large Egg
- 12 ounces Sharp cheddar, shredded
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- To Taste Fresh black pepper
3 tablespoons Butter
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta to al dente.
3. While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter.
4. Whisk in the flour and mustard, and keep it moving for about 5 minutes. Make sure it’s free of lumps.
5. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika.
6. Simmer for 10 minutes and remove the bay leaf.
7. Temper in the egg.
8. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese.
9. Season with salt and pepper.
10. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish.
11. Top with remaining cheese.
For the topping:
1. Melt the butter in a sauté pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat.
2. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs.
3. Bake for 30 minutes.
4. Remove from oven and rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Recipe courtesy: Alton Brown