Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mac and Cheese, the perfect comfort food

When I got a review copy of the cookbook Hot & Cheesy by Clifford A Wright, I paged through all the options, gave some serious thought to pizza, calzones, frittatas, and a whole lot of delightful sandwiches, but in the end it was the mac and cheese recipe that I decided needed to be made.

Yes, I was in the mood for comfort food.

There are probably tens of thousands of recipes for mac and cheese, starting with a box with powdered cheese and ending with something superbly complicated.

This one is on the simple end of the spectrum, but it dirties a few dishes. But once it's in the oven, you've got time to tidy up a little and make a salad, and then you've got ten minutes of resting time to get the table set and gather everyone around.

This makes a LOT of mac and cheese, but I don't mind leftovers. I usually add a little milk or water to thin the sauce a bit while it heats up.

Macaroni and Cheese
Adapted from Hot & Cheesy by Clifford A. Wright

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoon finely chopped onion
1/2 garlic clove, finely chopped
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
3 1/2 cups whole milk
1 pound elbow macaroni
1 pound mild white or orange cheddar, shredded
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for pasta cooking water
2 tablespoons dried bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Let it cook until it's about half-done - tougher than al dente. When it's done, drain it and keep it standing by.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, until translucent. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for about a minute.

Turn the heat off and add the milk, whisking as you go, until it is all smoothly combined.

Turn the heat on again and simmer the milk, stirring as needed, until the mixture is smooth and a little bit thicker, but still very liquid - about 15 minutes.

Add the cheese by the hand full, stirring until all the cheese is added and it is melted into a smooth sauce. Add the mustard and salt and stir until well blended.

Pour the cheese sauce over the waiting pasta and stir until combined. Transfer it to a buttered 10-inch oven-safe casserole that's at least 3 inches deep. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top.

Bake at 350 degrees until the crumbs are golden and the sauce is bubbly - about 25 minutes.

Remove it from the oven and let it rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.