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My Cheesy Success Story

I have always had an issue with macaroni and cheese.  There are a lot of different ways to make it, and most of them defy my abilities.  I’ve never found a mac and cheese recipe that I can really own, so I’m sad to say that I’ve pretty much given up on it.  As long as Stouffer’s keeps making it for me, there’s very little need for me to keep trying.  That’s the mac and cheese my family wants; the creamy, cheesy, browned on top baked taste of heaven.

via stouffers.com

via stouffers.com

It bothers me, though.  First, I think we all know by now that I’m cheap.  The frozen stuff does not come cheap.  Also, it takes a lot of room in the freezer and it takes approximately 14 hours to bake it.  I’m a pretty good cook.  Why am I relying on the frozen block of mac and cheese?  It should not be this hard to make cheese and pasta, for God’s sake.

Then, I get this in the mail, like a divine signal.  Never one to ignore such signs, I decide it’s time to try again.

via barnesandnoble.com

via barnesandnoble.com

A basic creamy baked mac and cheese is pretty easy.  You make a bechamel, then add cheese to it.  That’s it.  I can make bechamel.  I do it all the time.  However, every single time I’ve ever done it, I’ve broken the sauce.  Grainy, oily cheese sauce isn’t so delicious, no matter what you do.  I’ve tried to cheat with Velveeta, but Hubs isn’t having it.  Mac and cheese that coats the inside of your mouth with a plastic-like film isn’t so delicious, either, as it turns out.  Besides, I want mac and cheese, not mac and processed cheese food product.

So, I pulled out the little mac and cheese booklet that the Food Network so thoughtfully provided and I got to work.  I made my bechamel and I let it simmer away while I cooked my cute little pasta corkscrews.  I strayed from the Food Network in my cheese choices because I’m just not putting Gruyère in anything.  Sorry, I’m not that fancy.  I found the nearest kid to shred enormous quantities of Colby Jack, then I took the crucial step.  I didn’t just turn off the heat on my bechamel.  I took that bad boy off the stove altogether and let it cool for a minute.  Then I added the cheese.  I added the pasta and a cup of the pasta cooking water against my better judgement.  I was pretty sure it would get too runny, but since my better judgement has resulted in a history of unacceptable mac and cheese, I figured I’d better just follow the recipe.  I dumped the whole thing in a casserole dish and crossed my fingers and said a little prayer to the cheese gods.

About thirty minutes later (the recipe said fifteen minutes, but I maintain that nothing’s done until it’s brown, and anyway, the chicken wasn’t ready yet), I pulled out the prettiest mac and cheese that I have ever produced.  I anxiously served it to the family and heard that it was “good.”  Never satisfied with “good,” I asked if it was as good as the frozen stuff.  You will not even believe what they said.  They said it was better.  Oh my sweet Lord, I have finally done it!

I feel like a whole new whole has opened up to me.  We don’t actually eat mac and cheese all that often, but when we do, I have been freed from the freezer case.  I’ve finally conquered the one stupid dish that I couldn’t make.  I am a mac and cheese master.

To simplify the already simple recipe that from the Food Network magazine:

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup flour

Melt the butter in a pot and whisk in the flour.  Cook over medium for about 2 minutes.

Add 2 cups of warmed milk and whisk until smooth.  Simmer over low heat for about 8 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in 4 cups of shredded cheese of your choice. Food network says cheddar and Gruyère.  I used Colby Jack.  I say, use what you like.  Season that sucker with the tastes you love.  They say nutmeg and salt.  I say garlic, onion, paprika, salt and pepper.  Stir in one cup of the pasta cooking water with 8 oz of cooked pasta.  Bake at 400 until browned and lovely.  Serve, then shamelessly collect your well-earned accolades.

  1. March 21, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Mac and cheese is a staple in our house, I make vats it and freeze for those, “Oh god, I just can’t cook nights.” I also have a super easy foolproof recipe, will post when I get a gap.

    • March 21, 2013 at 8:43 pm

      We don’t eat it often, but it’s definitely one of those things you want to make a ton of & throw it in the freezer!

  2. February 22, 2014 at 4:57 am

    Wow that was strange. I just wrote an incredibly long
    comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up.
    Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Regardless, just wanted to say fantastic blog!

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