HIGH POINT, N.C. (WGHP) — Happy National Mac & Cheese Day!
If you’re not in the mood to try Kraft’s new Mac & Cheese Ice Cream, but you still want to celebrate this most auspicious day, you can hit the Chick-Fil-A drive-thru line or fire up DoorDash…or you could make macaroni and cheese at home!
If you’ve never made macaroni and cheese at home, it’s easier than you think it is! Here’s what you need:
- approximately 1 tablespoon butter (maybe more)
- approximately 2 tablespoons of flour (maybe more)
- approximately 1 cup of milk
- 8 oz of cheese, grated.
- seasonings to taste
- 1 lb pasta, your choice
This should make about enough for four. It is important to know with cooking, unlike baking, exact amounts and ratios are far less necessary, and the over or underuse of an ingredient is far more forgiving than it would be if you were making bread or a cake.
These measurements are a loose guideline more than anything else.
What you want to do first is put on a pot of water, salted. Turn the heat up high. The amount of salt in your water is up to you — some chefs say your pasta water should taste like seawater, but you don’t have to go quite so salty if you’d rather not. Once it comes to a rolling boil, add your pasta in. Stir it up and then let it boil for about eight minutes.
The second step is to make your roux while your pasta starts to cook. A roux is a classical sauce thickener made of fat and flour.
Melt your butter in a large high-sided frying pan or medium-sized pot. Once it’s melted, add your flour. Add it a little at a time, using a whisk to combine the flour and butter until the mixture has the texture of wet sand.
This may take more flour than expected, depending on factors like humidity, but it’s usually close to a 1:1 ratio.
Once your roux has come together, very gradually add milk to the roux, whisking small amounts in at a time until they thicken and incorporate.
Once you get to a sauce-like consistency (a little waterier than you like your macaroni to be usually, it will thicken more when cheese is added), stop adding milk. Dip a spoon into it and it should coat the back (this is called napé).
Add a small amount of salt and seasonings to taste — I recommend salt, pepper, paprika, a small amount of cayenne and maybe a touch of cumin. Even though it’s just a plain milk sauce, you do want to taste it to make sure your salt level is right.
A big component of cooking is tasting as you go so that you don’t over or under-season things.
The cheese goes in the same way as the milk — in small batches, whisking the whole time. As for the type of cheese? Anything really goes: a classic sharp cheddar is the go-to for macaroni and cheese, but a blend works as well. Fontina, muenster, gouda (smoked or not, depending on preference), colby or jack are all good soft cheeses that would blend well with cheddar. Mozerella is also a mild flavor that would compliment a sharper cheese, too.
Avoid crumbling cheeses like feta, cotilla or fresco. Stronger flavored cheeses like smoked cheeses or chevre should be used in very small proportions.
Once your cheese is all melted into the sauce, taste it and adjust your seasonings. Then add your cooked pasta. Taste and adjust again. If you’ve gone too heavy on the salt, you can thin it out with a little milk or pasta water and wait over low heat for it to thicken back up.
Now here is where paths will diverge: plenty of people will stop here. That’s a classic way to eat cheese. Creamy bowl full of goodness.
But you can also cut on your broiler, combine about a cup of breadcrumbs with some shredded cheese (a parmesan blend or whatever cheese you used in the sauce), put your macaroni and cheese into a baking dish, top it with the bread crumb mixture, and broil it on high for a minute or two and create a crust.
However you enjoy your macaroni and cheese on this special holiday, know that you’re enjoying an American classic.