It’s been a while, but today I bring back my favorite guest blogger, my husband, to talk about his version of macaroni and cheese. It was one of the first meals he cooked for me when we were dating, and we’ve made it together countless times in the past 12 years… So, without further ado, here he is:
This is not a dish for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of guts to face the excesses of this delicacy. But, macaroni and cheese is a uniquely American concoction, that, unfortunately, is seldom prepared in a way that justifies it. It has a long, glorious history. OK, the Italians mixed pasta and cheese years beforehand, but Thomas Jefferson introduced America to macaroni and cheese at a White House dinner in 1802, and the rest IS history. When the flavors of this dish saturate your taste buds, any concerns about caloric excess will fade away, lost in your enjoyment of the pasta! Probably a significant amount of American obesity derives from the decadence of macaroni noodles baked into that matrix of cheese, eggs and milk. Besides cakes, pies and cookies, it was one of the only things that elicited an enthusiastic “Oh boy!” when my mom announced its presence on the menu. We recently made it for some visiting European friends who “oooohed and aaaaahed “ their way through several servings each.
However, too often macaroni and cheese appears in a lunch buffet in some almost unrecognizable, bland and bloated form. And let’s not talk about the boxed varieties. But this recipe is different. I admit it, I took some liberties with my version, that I invented as a starving college student. It’s different from Mr. Jefferson’s, and even my mother’s original recipe: I added celery and mushrooms. I suspect, though, that you’ll agree the new ingredients bring it to a higher level. Scoff if you must (I’m sure that Mr. Jefferson would not), or even skip (don’t do it!) an additional crucial ingredient, Velveeta “cheese,” another appropriately American original that imparts inexplicably unforgettable flavor to the mix.
WHITE HOUSE MACARONI AND CHEESE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)
1 box of macaroni noodles (elbows, or another short shape)
4-5 large celery stalks
8-12 oz of white or cremini mushrooms
½ pound or more of high-end cheeses [emmental, mozzarella, manchego, roquefort, camembert – choose two of your favorite(s)]
½ pound or more of Velveeta “cheese”
1 + 1/2 cups of milk
½ tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Preheat the oven to 450 F. Cook and drain the macaroni. Rinse the vegetables and dice them and the cheeses into macaroni-sized pieces. Rub a large casserole dish with butter and fill it with layers of the ingredients. Put pasta, celery and mushrooms in each layer, and an amount of cheese to your taste. Don’t skimp on the cheese! Cover the top with breadcrumbs.
Beat the eggs with a fork, then add the milk and spices and beat a bit more. Pour the liquid mixture over the casserole and put it in the oven; reduce the heat to 400 F and bake until you observe the sauce bubbling up to the top, 45 min to an hour.
ENJOY! (and don’t feel guilty!)
to print the recipe, click here
Comments: Make sure to cook enough macaroni. I always prepare a full bag or box, and save any extra for lunch another time. The amount of milk and eggs somewhat depends on the size of your baking dish, and it might take a little trial and error to perfect your own amounts. I’ve given amounts that work for about a 10″ deep casserole, like the one in the picture. I want to see the liquids bubbling up to the top of the pasta just at the end of the cooking time.
ONE YEAR AGO: For the love of bread