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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Homemade Mac and Cheese

With garlic Naan bread

This is such good comfort food.  What makes homemade mac and cheese so good is that you can use any cheese that you like or a combination of cheeses to suit your tastes.  I am a big fan of jalapeno havarti and next time I will use it to make this recipe and give it some extra heat.

The basis for this recipe is a good béchamel. Classic béchamel is milk thickened with a roux (flour and butter).  Once you know how to do this, you can change it around a bit to make it your own.  I usually combine liquids (milk and vegetable or chicken stock) to give it more flavour. 

A really good mac and cheese is easy to make with ingredients that are usually readily on hand.  Here's how:

You will need:  for a 8'' (20cm) round deep dish casserole:   4 generous portions

  • 2.5 cups (350g) of dry macaroni noodles
  • 3 cups (700ml) of milk
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) of chicken or vegetable stock
  • 3.5 tbsp (50g) of butter
  • 1/3 cup (40g) of flour
  • 2 cups (150g) of grated cheese (your choice - a combination of different cheeses will give lots of flavour)
  • Extra grated cheese for topping
  • Salt & pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F - 180°C. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to boil.  Add the macaroni (2.5 cups - 350g) and cook until al dente, drain and reserve;
  2. While the macaroni is cooking, in another large saucepan, melt the butter (3.5tbsp - 50g) over medium heat, add the flour (1/3 cup - 40 g) and stir with a whisk for about one minute (reduce heat if the paste starts to colour);
  3. Add the milk (3 cups - 700ml) and chicken stock (3/4 cup - 180ml) and whisk until the béchamel begins to simmer and thicken.  Cook for about 2 minutes on medium low heat (it should continue to cook at a low simmer);
  4. Add the cheese and stir until melted.  Taste and adjust seasoning;
  5. Add cooked macaroni and allow to simmer on low heat for  about one minute;
  6. Transfer to a buttered deep casserole dish (8'' - 20 cm)  and sprinkle with extra grated cheese;
  7. Bake in 350°F -180°C until bubbling and golden.

Note:  To give pasta extra flavour, the trick is to allow it to finish cooking it in the sauce it will be paired with.  Cook the pasta until it is about 2 or 3 minutes from being done and finish it off in the sauce.  This makes all the difference.  In this recipe, it cooks in the sauce for about one minute and finishes cooking in the oven.  

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