Sunday, November 4, 2012

Macaroni & Cheese



This recipe appeared in the November 1st edition of The Hinton Voice

[One of the great things about Hinton is the ever-changing seasons.  Though the calendar still tells us it’s fall, the fresh blanket of snow that covered our town last week suggests otherwise.   Needless to say, the chill in the air has got me craving comfort foods – and nothing says comfort food better than a steaming, creamy bowl of homemade macaroni and cheese.  A classic favorite for kids and adults alike (does anyone know anybody who doesn’t love macaroni and cheese?) this simple dish is always a crowd pleaser.

The key is to start with a good old-fashioned cream sauce.  Butter is melted in a saucepan, and then flour is stirred into it to make a paste (which is called a roux).  After the flour has cooked a few minutes, milk is whisked in.  The starch from the cooked flour expands in the milk, creating a creamy, thick sauce.  The starch binds the sauce together, ensuring that when the cheese is stirred in, the sauce remains smooth rather than stringy.

Another important step is to add a nice sharp cheddar.  I find that aged white cheddar gives the smoothest, cheesiest sauce.  Past experiences have taught me that yellow or processed cheddars  (or an accidental splash of water into the sauce) can give the sauce a grainy texture.

If you’re craving something fancier than the basics, throw in your favorite vegetable (we like broccoli) or if you’re craving something extra decadent, crab or lobster makes a wonderful addition.

So there you have it - a great classic dish that can be casual or fancy. Besides, there’s nothing more comforting on a chilly day than a hearty helping of good old macaroni and cheese.]

Ingredients
-        ½ lb (8 oz) dry macaroni (or your favorite pasta)
-        3 tbsp butter
-        4 tbsp all-purpose flour
-        2 ½ cups milk
-        1/2 tsp salt
-        1/8 tsp nutmeg
-        1/8 tsp black pepper
-        dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
-        1.5 cups (6 oz) grated sharp white cheddar (6 ounces)
-        ¾ cup (3 oz) grated gruyere or parmesan cheese

Topping:
-        ½ cup panko bread crumbs
-        1 ½ tbsp butter, melted

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cook pasta as per package directions for al dente (firm) pasta.  Strain and rinse pasta with cold water to stop the cooking process and to remove any extra starch. While extra starch might sound like a good idea to thicken the sauce, in this case it can change the texture of the sauce. Strain noodles well and place them in a casserole dish.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan set to medium heat.  Add flour to form a roux and cook for about a minute or so.  Stir in spices. Whisk in milk and stir until well blended.  Simmer for 2-3 minutes until sauce has thickened.

Stir in cheese, and then pour cheese sauce over noodles.  Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle on top.

Cook in preheated oven for 30 minutes, until sauce is bubbling and the breadcrumbs have lightly browned.

Recipes makes 6 servings.

- Nutritional Info (1/6 recipe) -

Calories - 467   Fat - 20   Carbs – 41     Protein - 21   Fiber – 2


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