Thursday, January 17, 2013

Macaroni and Cheese

Needing to use up the Gruyere left over from Christmas Eve, I finally made an adult macaroni and cheese. The perfect recipe seemed to be Martha Stewart's, according to several sources online. I liked that it incorporated Gruyere and included bread crumbs. Rather than make the bread crumbs, I used what we had on hand, which was panko (Japanese bread crumbs). It turned out really well, by adding a light and crispy topping. As for the macaroni and cheese, it was everything I could ask for—creamy and flavorful. The cayenne pepper gave it a nice kick and the nutmeg didn't seem out of place.

The original recipe yields enough to feed an army, so I halved it and included the edits here. I substituted the milk with heavy cream, only because we needed to use that up as well. I'm sure it only made it richer.

Perfect Macaroni and Cheese 
Yield: Serves 12 6

6 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces
8 4 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
5 1/2 2-3/4 cups milk or heavy cream
1/2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 1/2 2-1/4 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar
2 1 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyere or 1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated pecorino Romano
1 1/2 pound elbow macaroni panko (Japanese bread crumbs)

1) Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

2) Butter a 3-quart 1-1/2-quart casserole dish; set aside.

Place bread pieces in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour butter into the bowl with bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside.

3) In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk or cream.

4) Melt remaining 6 4 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat.

5) When butter bubbles, add flour.

6) Cook, stirring, 1 minute.

7) Slowly pour hot milk or cream into flour-butter mixture while whisking.

8) Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.

9) Remove the pan from the heat.

10) Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 1-1/2 cups cheddar, and 1 1/2 cups 3/4 Gruyere or 1 cup pecorino Romano.

11) Set cheese sauce aside.

12) Fill a large saucepan with water.

13) Bring to a boil.

14) Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 fewer minutes than manufacturer's directions, until outside of pasta is cooked and inside is underdone. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.)

15) Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well.

16) Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.

17) Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish.

18) Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups 3/4 cups cheddar and 1/2 1/4 cup Gruyere or 1/4 cup pecorino Romano; scatter breadcrumbs over the top.

19) Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes.

20) Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes; serve.

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