It’s National Customer Service Week this week and to celebrate, we had a floor-wide potluck at my office today. As I searched my pantry and fridge yesterday trying to decide what to make, I saw that I had all the ingredients needed to make some good old Mac ‘n Cheese. I remembered seeing a recipe for it in my new Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook and as someone who loves nothing more than trying out new recipes, I couldn’t resist trying this one. The recipe was very good. It wasn’t what I would call a “grown-up” Mac ‘n Cheese, probably because it had American cheese in it, but it definitely was one that would appeal to kids of all ages. It certainly appealed to my kids. And it was wiped out pretty quick at the potluck.
Though Macaroni and Cheese is considered a classic American dish, it actually has its roots in Italy where some version of it was probably being made for as long as they’ve been making pasta. From its early days where noodles were tossed with butter and cheese to the version that we all know and love today, the dish went through many variations. In 1937, Kraft introduced the little blue box of dried pasta and powdered cheese that is beloved by virtually every American kid today. However and wherever its origins, Mac ‘n Cheese epitomizes the quintessential comfort food. Once you’ve mastered the basic recipe, you can jazz it up in myriad ways. You can vary the cheeses, from purely cheddar to a blend of gruyère, fontina or parmesan; you can add bacon, ham, even lobster! The possibilities are endless!
BEST POTLUCK MACARONI AND CHEESE
- 4 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into quarters
- 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, plus 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 lb. elbow macaroni
- 5 tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 3 (12-oz.) cans evaporated milk
- 2 tsp. hot sauce
- 1 tsp. dry mustard
- 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 8 ozs. extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
- 5 ozs. American cheese, shredded (1-1/4 cups)
- 3 ozs. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (3/4 cup)
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse bread, melted butter, and Parmesan in food processor until ground to coarse crumbs, about 8 pulses. Transfer to bowl.
- Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add macaroni and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until just al dente, about 6 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup macaroni cooking water, then drain and rinse macaroni in colander under cold running water. Set aside.
- Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in now empty pot over medium-high heat. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture turns light brown, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in evaporated milk, hot sauce, mustard, nutmeg, and 2 teaspoons salt and cook until mixture begins to simmer and is slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Off heat, whisk in cheeses and reserved cooking water until cheese melts. Stir in macaroni until completely coated.
- Transfer mixture to 13 by 9-inch baking dish and top evenly with bread-crumb mixture. Bake until cheese is bubbling around edges and top is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.