Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Welcome Lent ~ Homemade Macaroni and Cheese ~ 2.17.10

Another family favorite!

Today being Ash Wednesday, we are abstaining from meat. I think most of us who remember the lents of our childhood will recall that there was certainly a lot of Macaroni and Cheese, Pizza and Fish Sticks consumed. We try to mix it up a bit over at the Costain house with our Sweet Potato Burritos, pasta dishes and few other faves but macaroni and cheese will always find its way on our lenten menu.

While I do like the convenience of a boxed mac 'n cheese for those emergency situations (by the way, we prefer Annie's), there's just nothing like homemade.

Tonight I did a hybrid of Pioneer Woman's mac 'n cheese (from her new cookbook) and my old faithful America's Test Kitchen recipe (which follows). I think I'll stick to old faithful though. While her sauce sure was cheesy deliciousness, I like the fact that I don't need to whisk too much and I can just throw it all in the pot and voila... mac 'n cheese. I still used evaporated milk even though her recipe calles for whole milk and I added a little onion powder to the pot as well.

This recipe is quick and convenient and worth the few extra minutes it takes to make. I serve mine up with peas- gosh I love the little burst of green sweetness with each cheesy pasta bite. I hope you enjoy this, too.

Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

A heavy-bottomed pot that distributes heat evenly is essential here. If you're in a hurry or prefer to sprinkle the dish with crumbled common crackers (saltines aren't bad either), you can skip the bread crumbs.

Serves four as a main course or six to eight as a side dish

Toasted Bread Crumbs

1 cup fresh bread crumbs from French or Italian bread
Pinch of salt
1-1/2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

2 large eggs
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard, dissolved in 1 teaspoon water
1/2 pound elbow macaroni (I always use a pound- way too cheesy for me)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 ounces sharp Wisconsin cheddar, American, or Monterey
Jack cheese, grated (about 3 cups) ( I like a combo- depends on what I have on hands, too)

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix bread crumb ingredients (crumbs, salt, and melted butter) well in small baking pan. Bake until golden brown and crisp, 15 to 20 minutes; set aside.

2. Meanwhile, mix eggs, 1 cup evaporated milk, pepper sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, pepper, and mustard mixture in small bowl; set aside.

3. Meanwhile, heat 2 quarts water to boil in large heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven. Add remaining 1-1/2 teaspoons salt and macaroni; cook until almost tender but still a little firm to the bite. Drain and return to pan over low heat. Add butter; toss to melt.

4. Pour egg mixture over buttered macaroni along with three-quarters of the cheese; stir until thoroughly combined and cheese starts to melt. Gradually add remaining evaporated milk and cheese, stirring constantly, until mixture is hot and creamy,

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