Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cheesy Pun

When I was younger, we did not have the boxed macaroni and cheese in the house.  My mother wouldn't allow it, and there were few occasions to which I was "treated" with the neon orange processed noodle dish that so many of my friends knew as macaroni and cheese.
What I knew was wholly different - and made from scratch.
As an adult, I appreciate my mother's ban of the box, although I understand that the homemade stuff isn't quite up to HRH's delicate two-year-old palate the way medium chain triglyceride can.
The sad thing is that I am truly a mac and cheese snob.  Willing to try it at most restaurants who claim to have "homemade" macaroni and cheese, I am generally disappointed (that's putting it mildly) at the gelatinous orange mush that graces my plate.  I've been happy with Cracker Barrel's version; although the pasta is usually a little overcooked (I like mine al dente), the cheese is real cheese and not something synthesized in a lab.
But it's still not as good as mine.
Happily, I have made a few fans of my mac and cheese as I make my way through the world.  One of these is our babysitter, Claire; rarely does she request me to make something else for her when she comes over to watch HRH for the evening, and as she is a starving college student, I am only too happy to oblige.

Macaroni and Cheese with a Crunch

  • Pasta, whatever shape you like (I am partial to shells or rotini, but any shape that holds a thick sauce will do)
  • Butter
  • Flour
  • Milk (maybe - this last time I didn't use any - this is basically only used when you add too much flour and you go from roux to paste in one point three seconds)
  • Sour cream
  • White wine, separated
  • Whole grain mustard (if you don't like mustard, just omit it, you weirdo)
  • Salt and pepper, if you want them
  • Cheese (I prefer extra sharp cheddar, and if you really want to know, I'd prefer to get Cougar Gold® cheese over any other cheese any day of the week... hint hint for those relatives who might wonder what I'd like for birthdays or Christmas...).
  • Potato chips

Cook the pasta to al dente (unless you like it softer; then cook it to whatever you prefer); drain and set aside in a place where the dog can't get it.
Grate the cheese.  I used to do this by hand, but Julia, my Cuisinart®, makes an easy and un-messy process now; I just love her!

OK, who cut the cheese?

Julia's an incredible asset to the team!
In a large pot, melt the butter over low heat.

Paula Deen, eat your heart out!
Once it is all melted increase heat to medium-low/medium, incorporate the flour to create a roux.

If you add too much flour, add a little milk until you get a proper thickness.

Whisk the roux until it's a light brown (we're going for the consistency over the taste here).  Whisk in the sour cream.

If you don't have sour cream, use cream cheese.
Pour yourself a glass of wine, and then add a few glugs to the pot; whisk until combined.

Some for you, some for me.
Stir in a large spoonful or two of the mustard, and add the salt and pepper (if desired).

I like mine mustard-y.
Slowly add the grated cheese, a handful or so at a time, stirring until it is completely melted before adding more.

AHHHHH!!!!  I'm melting!!!!
Stir in the pasta, making sure to get every inch of every noodle covered by gooey, cheesy goodness.

DPStW is not responsible for water damage incurred
by drooling on your keyboard.
Transfer macaroni and cheese to a baking dish (you could use a casserole, but you'll really like it better in a 9 x 13 pan or something to that effect... you'll see why in a second).  At this point, you can stow it in the fridge for later or continue to the next step.
Take the potato chips and place them into a zip-top bag.  Beat the bejeezus out of them until they are crushed up into little teeny tiny potato chip-lets.  Sprinkle them all over the macaroni and cheese.

The larger, lower dish is to get more bites that have a crunch.

Bake in a 350° oven (if refrigerated, bake until warm - if you have just taken it off the stove, you can just  take about ten minutes to let the chips settle in).
Cool slightly before serving.

My only measuring device...
Now... you'll notice that the only measurements I gave were "a few glugs" and "a large spoonful or two."  I honestly do NOT measure a durn thing.  It depends on how much I am making.  If I'm making it for us, I'll usually do less of everything; in this instance, I used two bags of pasta to make sure Claire had enough to take home (even though Zooey apparently helped her clean her bowl while we were out at dinner).  This is honestly a recipe that just requires an ability to eyeball.
A final note - like many casserole dishes, this is generally better the next day.  I made this on Tuesday and refrigerated it before adding the chips Wednesday, so all those flavors had time to get to know one another better.  Claire texted me today to let me know that she was still enjoying it.
I hope you enjoy it, too!

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