Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Quest for the Best Mac and Cheese

I love mac and cheese. I don't know many people who don't, but I can't make a blue box without scarfing the whole thing. Even if I put half of it in my bowl, and pack the other half away in the fridge, I can feel the magnetic pull of the processed cheesy goodness. I try not to even keep it in the house, but Phil ends up buying it because he loves it just as much, if not more, than I do. Our house rule: Don't make mac and cheese unless the other person is there to help you eat it.

We also want to implement the "No junk food unless you make it yourself" rule. Which has sent us on a quest to find the best mac and cheese recipes. I tried the first one for Phil's birthday. I was drawn to this recipe because it calls for one of my favorite ingredients: chipotle in adobo. The secret ingredient was also featured in my Holy Chipotle post (I apologize for the cutesy post titles, I am trying to get away from that!!). The other 2 "smokey" flavors are from the paprika and the smoked cheddar cheese.

The verdict? Phil and I both loved the unique smokey flavor and the buttery bread crumbs are awesome! My one minor issue is that I prefer my macaroni and cheese creamier. On the blog where I found the recipe (herbivoracious.com) commenters described it as creamy, so maybe I cooked it too long? I still haven't figured out my fickle oven. Check back for more updates on the great Mac and Cheese Quest!

Triple Smokey Macaroni and Cheese

1lb elbow macaroni
8 tablespoons butter, divided
4 cups cubed bread
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup AP flour
4 cups whole milk
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon rosemary, minced (I used dried)
1 chipotle pepper (canned in adobo sauce) minced
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated if you have it)
8oz smoked cheddar grated
8oz mozzarella grated
salt to taste

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the macaroni according to package directions, but be sure not to cook it too long because it will bake more in the oven. Drain and toss with 2T of butter.
2. Put the bread in a food processor and pulse until you have some coarse bread crumbs. Heat 2T butter in a skillet over medium heat, add the garlic, a pinch of salt, and the breadcrumbs. Cook, tossing frequently, until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
3. Preheat oven to 350 and grease a large baking dish. Unless you have an oven like mine. In this case you probably should have pre-heated a few hours ago.
4. In a medium saucepan, melt the remaining 4T of butter over medium low heat. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk pretty constantly for 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk. Add the onion, smoked paprika, rosemary, chipotle, oregano and nutmeg. Simmer, whisking occasionally until it begins to thicken.
5. Gradually whisk in the grated cheese, stirring each batch until incorporated.
6. Taste the sauce, and adjust the seasoning as needed. Add more spiciness if desired. Remember that the sauce should be strong because it is going to be diluted by a pound of pasta.
7. Stir the macaroni into the sauce. Pour the macaroni into the pan.
8. Top with the breadcrumbs.
9. Bake for about 30 min or until you can see bubbling around the sides and the breadcrumbs are browned.
10. Let stand 5-10 min before serving.

Mozzarella and smoked cheddar. Wonder how it would be with smoked cheddar AND smoked mozzarella? I do live in Wisconsin so there is no shortage of cheese!
Making a rue!
Look at all the yumminess swimming in the milk!

I could not WAIT to try it at this point.
Yes, those bread crumbs are as yummy as they look!