Well friends, you should know that this is a post two years in the making. Um, not because anything you're gonna see here today is that amazing or earth shattering, it's just because sometimes it just takes me that long to get around to stuff.
I was talking about mac n' cheese to my mom-in-law the other day, telling her about this amazing mac 'n cheese I had recently in Seattle. It was super creamy and the noodles were really soft. I've decided that I like my noodles to be pretty soft when I eat mac 'n cheese ~ basically with a comfort food of this magnitude, I want there to be NO RESISTANCE, you know?
With mac n' cheese, I feel like al dente needs to be thrown out the window.
And then she was telling me about this amazing mac n' cheese she ate in Boston a few years back. It seems like everyone has a mac 'n cheese story to tell, if prompted. And you know how I'm all big on my Pantry Meals? Mac 'n cheese is the ultimate pantry meal.
I'm not even going to say 'amiright???' because I already know I'm 100% correct about this.
'Beard on Pasta', by James Beard, is a total treasure. I've had a copy for over 20 years and I think so highly of it, I bought another copy so my mom and I wouldn't have to keep fighting over it. Do you guys know James Beard? He was a national icon to the world of American cooking. He's the male equivalent to Julia Child. My mother has been making his Chocolate Cream Pie for a whole lotta years and it's one of the best things you will ever eat in your life.
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
dash of freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco, or more to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream or creme fraiche
1/2 pound macaroni elbows or double elbows
3/4 pound grated Cheddar cheese (i like to use extra sharp)
Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, and stir it with a wooden spoon or spatula for around 3 minutes, until the roux is frothy and the taste of raw flour is gone. Meanwhile, heat the milk in another pan. Add the warm milk gradually to the roux, stirring hard all the while. Turn up the heat and cook, stirring, until the sauce is just at the boiling point. Turn down the heat and let it simmer for a few minutes. Now add the pepper and Tabasco. Don't be afraid of the Tabasco: it will help to bring out the taste of the cheese. Stir in the heavy cream or creme fraiche and simmer a little longer, until the flavors are blended.
Cook and drain the macaroni.
Mix three quarters of the grated cheese into the simmering sauce. As soon as it melts, combine it with the drained macaroni, and pour it into a baking pan. Sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese, and bake it for 20 to 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
NOTE: you could, if you like, just thrown in ALL the cheese and omit the oven part, if you just like your mac a creamy pile of mac-ness. I prefer chewy bits from the oven, so I always put mine in the oven, but not too much, because I don't like it to dry out.