Another Mac & Cheese Idea

Hello new visitors from Ruhlman-land, thanks for checking out my blog. Have a look around, read about my adventures in charcuterie. A search on “Ruhlman” or “Ratio” will turn up a good amount of reading material, including an amusing exchange concerning the Ratio chart.

I never know what He Who Will Not Be Ignored will choose when he is offered the opportunity to decide what I will cook for dinner. This time it was macaroni and cheese, a dish that while simple still requires a bit of fussing. I had settled on a standard recipe two years ago, but decided to treat this request as an opportunity to revisit the method. Between then and now I had read Ideas in Food, and remembered that it included a mac and cheese recipe.

Where this recipe differed from the usual suspects was in its use of evaporated milk in the place of a bechamel, and a pre-soak of the dried pasta in water, a technique similar to that employed in the six-minute risotto. I assembled my ingredients: ten ounces of extra-sharp Cheddar, ten ounces of pepper Jack (which stabilizes the Cheddar and adds a spicy kick), a pound of elbow macaroni (soaked in two quarts of water for an hour), a 12-ounce can of evaporated milk, two-thirds of a cup of fresh breadcrumbs, a half cup of grated Parmigiano cheese, three tablespoons and eight tablespoons of butter, a half teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and three-quarters of a teaspoon of sea salt.

I heated the milk, butter (the larger portion), salt, and cayenne over medium heat until the butter melted, then slowly added the cheese, stirring after each addition, until I had a smooth sauce.

I drained the soaked macaroni (I tasted a piece, it was soft and chewy) and added it to the sauce, cooking and stirring over medium heat for ten  minutes.

While the pasta cooked, I mixed the breadcrumbs and Parmigiano together.

I spread the cooked pasta into a buttered three-quart baking dish, covered it with the crumbs, and then sprinkled the remaining three tablespoons of melted butter over the top.

I placed the dish under a low broiler for about five minutes, until the topping browned.

After a five-minute rest (which He Who had considerable difficulty enduring), I plated the macaroni with a small salad.

I’m a convert. This is the best mac and cheese I’ve ever made. The pasta still had a bit of bite, the cheese sauce was smooth, and the crust was shatteringly crunchy. The only criticism came from He Who, who said “it’s okay that it’s not orange, but it needs bacon.”

This entire recipe came together in less than half an hour of active work, with the most labor-intensive step being grating the cheese, which I did while the pasta soaked. Tasty, simple, and effortless: a winning combination.

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6 Responses to Another Mac & Cheese Idea

  1. Rose Fox says:

    Needs Gruyère.

    (Says the girl with the dairy allergy. *sigh*)

  2. Bryan says:

    I’ve made it with gruyere. Works okay. Though usually I go with stilton or gorgonzola. Using the evaporated milk, though, seems like an interesting idea. May have to try that.

    • David says:

      Gruyere’s too nutty. As for stilton or gorgonzola: too stanky. I want He Who Will Not Be Ignored to eat, not complain about cheese funk.

  3. JO'N says:

    Just taking a look at the recipe, and it looks like the picture has 3 and 8 TABLESPOONS of butter, not 3 and 8 ounces. I think you’ve doubled the butter in the recipe in your description!

    • David says:

      I used the correct amount of butter, in tablespoons, but mis-wrote it as ounces, an error which I have just corrected.

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