Hi Jojo, this post is for you. I’m sorry it took me months to make it, but here it is! You see, I got word from my sister that my dearest nephew, Jojo, would like to see a post about Mac and Cheese. Well, after that conversation, we did eat some Mac and Cheese; however, it was boxed Mac and Cheese. I doubt that Jojo would like to see that; I think he wanted to see me cook Mac and Cheese from scratch.
So, when we made the Smoked Meatloaf, I got a request from Hubby to make a good Mac and Cheese. Which, would be my second time to make Mac and Cheese from scratch. The first time was sometime last year and it was PW’s Mac and Cheese. But I remember that I didn’t like it so much because mine came out grainy. I also remember that I did not bake it since I was running out of time. So I decided that I would try PW’s recipe again, but, in the meantime, I researched online to see if anybody else had the same problem with their mac and cheese.
I went to Chowhound forum and got a couple of hints. Some said to use the freshest cheese, don’t use the store brand and use Kraft Deli’s (I tried to find that certain comments again and I couldn’t find it). Some said that when it is time to melt the cheese, to use a very low heat or even off heat. Then, certain types of cheese contain ingredients that doesn’t promote stability. Melt your cheese a little bit at a time (I think last time I dumped in the whole bowl of cheese, see what a skillful chef I was!). Sharp cheddar doesn’t melt really well and is less stable and will separate if you don’t use a roux base. Simmer your cheese sauce from 10 minutes to 30 minutes. You shouldn’t bake your mac and cheese because the cheese will boil and separate. Who knew that making Mac and Cheese can be so complicated? No wonder we just tend to grab a box of Mac and Cheese that only costs less than a dollar and doesn’t give you the headache of the cheese being separated.
So anyway, I just wanted to throw it out there and see what other wisdom I could get from some of the readers out there. :)
So back to M&C making. I read PW’s M&C recipe, and I also know that she has another recipe that uses Panko. I have Panko leftover in my pantry, so this was a good time to utilize that Panko. The recipe is a little bit different than the one with Panko: she did not use the egg base. I’m not sure what was the difference other than the egg can act as an emulsifier. And this was a fancy M&C, since PW uses a combination of Cheddar and Fontina. I decided to go with three different flavors of Cheddar, the mild, medium, and a little bit of sharp Cheddar. I didn’t want to jump in and spend the money on the Fontina just in case I failed this recipe. I had originally also put Mozzarella on the counter, but at the last moment I decided not to use it. The other ingredients were typical: milk, flour, salt, pepper, mustard, and butter. For the elbow macaroni, I chose the fat, big elbow macaroni, because we are all adults. (Are we really?) And to take it over the top, roma tomatoes to put on top of the M&C and Panko for toppings.
So of course, before I started anything else, I worked on grating the cheese. The recipe asked for a pound of cheese… At the time, I didn’t think about scaling down the recipe, but then I got lots of leftover for lunches as well. So no loss there. In fact, I’m gaining pounds and I don’t think you want to know that…. So I just weighed a pound worth of the combination of the three cheeses.
I started heating up a pot of water… I am sharing this picture because of the shadow ring created by the drops of olive oil in water were really neat and cute!
Then I started making my roux by melting butter in a large skillet.
Then I added the equivalent amount of flour into the skillet.
Whisked them slowly on medium heat…
Until the roux starting turning golden brown, in addition to smelling like a baked crust…
Then I added the cold milk to the roux…
Added the mustard, salt and pepper..
Whisked them well and I continued cooking them until the sauce started to thicken..
At this time, I turned down the heat to lowest and then I added the cheese a little bit by a little bit…
Whisked them until they melted before adding more cheese to the skillet.
In the meanwhile, my elbow macaroni starting to get al dente.
I drained the macaroni – and this where some people rinse the pasta and some don’t. Not rinsing the pasta will help with thickening the sauce because of the starchy residue attached to the pasta.
Then, after all of the cheese was melted, I got this golden and creamy cheese sauce.
Then I dumped the drained elbow macaroni into the skillet…
Stirred them around so that every piece of macaroni was coated with the cheese sauce.
Transferred them into a casserole dish…
Sprinkled it with Panko…
Generously, so that the whole surface was covered with Panko.
Then I arranged the sliced roma tomatoes on top.
Sprinkled some more Panko on top of the sliced tomatoes…
Salted and peppered the tomatoes and the M&C was ready to be baked.
You can see that the tomatoes were somewhat roasted…
I served it with the Smoked Meatloaf…..
And it was a very good M&C. The cheese sauce was very creamy, without the grainy taste to it. It was definitely a very delicious Mac and Cheese and worth the time spent in grating all those cheeses. In fact, I thought that this Mac & Cheese should have been served with a not so exquisite main dish so that it will stand out. I felt like both the Smoked Meatloaf and Mac and Cheese were competing with each other… But, overall, it was definitely a successful dinner! So if you are having company, this recipe is definitely worth to try. But, if you are crunched for time, I’m sure your company wouldn’t complain if you throw in the boxed Mac and Cheese too… If they do… well… take them off your guest list… :)
Print recipe here.
Mac and Cheese…and Panko!
Recipe courtesy of Ree Drummond
Prep Time 20 Minutes
Cook Time 20 Minutes
1 pound Cooked Pasta (slightly Undercooked)
4 Tablespoons Butter
¼ cups Flour
2-½ cups Milk
2 teaspoons Mustard Powder
1 teaspoon (more To Taste!) Salt
8 ounces, weight Cheddar Cheese, Grated
8 ounces, weight Fontina Cheese, Grated
4 whole Roma Tomatoes, Sliced Thick
1 cup Panko Breadcrumbs (more To Taste)
Salt And Pepper For Sprinkling
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cook pasta until al dente.
Melt butter in a large skillet. Sprinkle in flour, whisk to combine, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until it deepens in color. Pour in milk, whisking constantly. Add mustard, salt, and pepper. Continue cooking until it thickens, 4 minutes or so. Add cheese and stir until melted. Pour in cooked pasta and stir to coat. Check seasonings and add more salt if needed.
Pour into a buttered casserole dish. Top with 3/4 of the panko crumbs. Arrange tomato slices neatly on the top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with the rest of the panko crumbs.
Bake for 20 minutes. Broil for 3 to 4 minutes at the end to make the top golden brown.