Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese

Not great photo - but really good mac and cheese!
Let's face it, mac and cheese is a classic.

And, let's face it, mac and cheese can go horribly wrong. Like when the cheese curdles. Yes, it has happened to me.

So when I found a recipe for Slow-Baked Mac and Cheese in Beth Hensperger's book Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Recipes for Two, I had to give it a try.

I actually made a recipe for mac and cheese in a slow cooker (or Crock Pot or crockpot, or whatever you call it) quite some time ago, at the request of a friend. But that version was designed to feed a small army and the person said, "Spare no expense!" so I developed the recipe with that in mind.

It was a really good mac and cheese, but I generally don't have to feed an army. So I thought I'd give this one a try.

This recipe calls for fontina cheese, but when I checked the cheese collection, I didn't find any fontina. And there were some hunks of cheese that had lost their identities when I had re-wrapped them. Oops. I considered running out to buy fontina, but I changed my mind and decided to use what I had. Bits and pieces and odds and ends. I knew they were all similar to fontina in texture. So, I expected the end result to be okay, even if the flavor - and color - were different.

Because, to be perfectly honest, I tend to prefer a yellow mac and cheese. So some colby went into the pot.

This is a great recipe for a busy day because after it's assembled and the first 1/2 hour of cooking is done, you can curl up on the couch for a nice nap before dinner. Er, I mean get a whole lot of stuff done.

The recipes in this book are designed for smaller slow cookers and small families, but I made this in a 6-quart Hamilton Beach slow cooker without any problems at all.

Slow Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Adapted from Not Your Mothers Slow Cooker Recipes for Two by Beth Hensperger

1 1/2 cups milk
1 12-ounce can evaporated* milk
3 large eggs
1/2 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups (12 ounces) shredded fontina cheese
1/2 pound elbow macaroni, par-cooked and drained
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Spray the inside bottom and sides of the slow cooker with cooking spray (not the baking spray with flour) or grease it with a bit of olive oil or vegetable oil.

Okay, I digress. I just typed, "Spray the bottom and sides ..." and then went back and inserted the word "inside." Do I really think I need to say that? Are there people who would spray the outside of the slow cooker? I really don't know.

Combine the milk, evaporated, milk, eggs, butter, and salt in the slow cooker and whisk to combine.

Add the elbows and cheese and stir to combine. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese on top.

Set the slow cooker for high and let it cook for 30 minutes.

Reduce the temperature to low and cook for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until the pasta is set and the cheesy custard is set in the center.

If you're not ready to serve, this can rest at the "keep warm" setting for another half hour or so.

*Make absolutely sure you're getting evaporated milk and NOT condensed milk. You're making mac and cheese, not flan.

Check out these other slow cooker recipes: