Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Best Mac and Cheese

That's how people describe this dish when they taste it. My personal touch is a topping of homemade breadcrumbs for extra flavor and some crunch. If you must use storebought breadcrumbs, at least buy Panko so you get large-textured crumbs.

I sometimes substitute the cheddar for Monterey Jack, which tastes similar but doesn't exude as much oil as cheddar. And feel free to cut the amount of cheese by a cup -- it'll still be incredibly cheesy.

White Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese from Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen
1 pound elbow macaroni (I use shells, which hold the cheese nicely)
3 tbs unsalted butter
3 tbs all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
4 cups shredded sharp white Cheddar cheese, plus 1 cup for the top
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the macaroni in lightly salted boiling water for about 10 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain well and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a deep skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour to make a roux and cook, stirring constantly, to remove any lumps. Pour in the milk and cook until the mixture is thick and smooth, still stirring all the while. Stir in 4 cups of the Cheddar and continue to cook and stir until the cheese melts. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cooked macaroni and fold to incorporate. Transfer the mixture to a 3-quart baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining cup of shredded cheese. (Here I sprinkle the homemade breadcrumbs on top.) Bake for 30 minutes, until hot and bubbly.

Homemade Breadcrumbs
I tear up two slices of white bread and put the chunks in the food processor. Pulse until you have large crumbs. Empty them into a bowl and drizzle with a teaspoon of olive oil, then toss immediately. The oil will help the crumbs brown nicely.

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