Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mac and Cheese

Normally, I'm a bit of a skeptic when it comes to home-made or fancy mac and cheese. The truth is, that there is just something about this dish that really requires it to be fluorescent orange and come from a blue box in order to give the right experience. However, after  a visit to S'mac in NYC, where the menu is comprised of endless variations of mac and cheese, and everything can be made gluten free too, we decided to give the home-made thing another try.
The result is neither florescent orange nor redolent of the satisfying-yet-artificial-flavors of the boxed version, but it is incredibly rich, delicious and wonderful.
The recipe here is from Comfort Food, by Williams Sonoma.

Mac and Cheese

Ingredients (for 4-6 servings, depending if it's a main course or a side): 
 - 7 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1.5 cup bread crumbs (gluten free will do. Fresh crumbs are ideal).
-  Salt and pepper
- 1 lb/500 grams small short pasta (elbow macaroni is preferred, but other shapes will do)
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour (gf options will do, either all purpose or even corn starch)
- 3 cups milk, warmed
- 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (or other sharp cheese)
- 2 cups shredded fontina cheese (or other milder hard cheese)
- 1/2 tsp dry mustard (optional)

1. n a large frying pan, melt 3 tbsp of the butter over medium low heat. Add the garlic and cook, until tender but not browned. Add the bread crumbs, stir to coat and set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C. Oil a large and shallow baking dish, or individual baking dishes (or, if you want to go the S'mac route, cast iron skillets).

3. Bring water to a boil and cook macaroni according to instructions, until just al-dente (you don't want it too soft because it'll keep cooking in the oven). Drain and set aside, washing a bit to prevent sticking.

4. Add the remaining 4 tbsp of butter to the pasta pot, melt over medium heat. Stir in the flour. Reduce heat to medium-low and bring to a bubble, stirring so that the mixture doesn't brown. Gradually stir in the milk, raise the heat to medium and bring to a boil while stirring. Remove from heat and stir in the cheeses and mustard (if using). Season well with salt and pepper. Stir in the pasta.

5. Pour the pasta mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle evenly with the bread crumbs. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the crumbs are browned and the sauce is bubbly. If you have a broiler and your dish is broiler safe, you can broil it for a bit at the end to get that golden-brown crust.  Cool for abut 5 minutes, then serve hot.

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