macaroni and cheese

Grandma Mac and Cheese

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All of my grandchildren think that I make the absolute most wonderful, bestest, most delicious mac and cheese. And they expect at least one mac and cheese dinner when they come for a visit.

No worries. I always have one in my freezer, just in case there is ever a surprise knock on my door from one of them.

Of course I thought my grandma made the best mac and cheese too. Hers came out of a box and the cheese part were some granules that came in a separate foil package. She was supposed to mix the granules with milk and butter I think, but she never did. She just opened the package and sprinkled it on top of the cooked elbows. 

That's the way all of us grandchildren thought mac and cheese was supposed to taste. And of course, grandma made it best.

It's the way I made it for my kids. Because that was the best.

Somewhere along the way I tasted actual homemade macaroni and cheese. It was a revelation. It was wonderful. Which is NOT to say that grandma's wasn't good. It was just a whole different dish. I still think of it with fond memories. My daughters think of it with fond memories. And, btw, they also made the packaged kind and sprinkled the dry cheesy granules on top for their children. And their children love that too and probably will have fond memories of that dish.

But when they come to visit me, it's the other kind they expect and love. The from-scratch kind.

They're also pretty clear about how they like it too: moist but not overly sauced, with a combo of American and cheddar cheeses and a crispy top. No added things like tomato or cooked vegetables. No crust -- just maybe some extra grated cheese.

This is the one:

 

Grandma Macaroni and Cheese

  • 1 pound small pasta such as elbows

  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 3 cups milk (preferably whole milk)

  • 14-16 ounces mixed American and cheddar cheeses plus extra for garnish, shredded

  • salt to taste

Cook the pasta according to package directions, rinse under cold water, drain and set aside. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, turn the heat to low-medium, add the flour and cook, stirring with a whisk, for 2-3 minutes, but do not let the mixture become brown. Gradually add the milk, stirring with a whisk to keep the sauce smooth. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened slightly. Add most of the cheeses, leaving some to top the dish as garnish. Add some salt and continue to whisk the sauce until all the cheese has melted. Add the pasta and mix to coat all the pieces. Eat as is, sprinkled with extra cheese, OR place in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes to crisp the top. 

Makes 6-8 servings

 

Rice Krispy Crusted Macaroni and Cheese

"What are you going to be for Hallowe’en?"

It’s the question my granddaughter Nina asked recently as we were walking down the street.

So I said “I’m going as a grandma. And Grandpa is going as a grandpa.”

She thought that answer was so funny she stopped to laugh out loud for a long time. And said “but you are already grandma!”

So I told her that I was going to buy a gray-haired wig and a cane and go trick-or-treating looking like an old, bent-over woman. And I showed her how I would do it and what I would sound like when I said “trick or treat” with my best old-person voice.

But of course I am not going trick or treating because I am in Egypt. Yes, that’s right. Egypt. Cairo. Tahrir Square, the Pyramids, Sphinx and the whole bit. That’s why I haven’t been blogging as much as usual.

But I also just learned that our group, which has 9 women, will be having an early Halloween and we will be wearing gulabyas (Egyptian dresses) so I guess I will be in costume after all.

When my neighbors at home come to my door on the real Halloween and they realize I am not home I hope they don’t vandalize the place too much. One year our doors got sprayed with that stuff that comes flying out of a can like neon colored string and we had to have everything painted because the string didn’t come off.

It’s been years since I went trick-or-treating with my children. They are grown and go trick-or-treating with their own kids now. But I remember that Halloween night was always the turning point for the weather. It was always cold and frequently rainy on that night (why couldn’t nature wait one more day???)

So there was always something warm and delicious when we got home. Like soup or Mac and Cheese and certainly hot chocolate with marshmallows.

If you go trick-or-treating and need some warm nourishment afterwards, before the candy gobbling, try Macaroni and Cheese. I would give a nourishing and warm Egyptian recipe but —- more on that some other day. Here’s a good recipe for Macaroni and Cheese.

Macaroni and Cheese

  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • few grindings of nutmeg
  • 4 ounces American cheese, cut into small pieces
  • 4 ounces cheddar cheese, grated or chopped
  • 1 cup Rice Krispies cereal (or similar), optional
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook the macaroni until it is al dente. Drain and set aside. In a saucepan, melt the two tablespoons of butter over medium heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, add the flour and stir it into the melted butter using a whisk. Cook for about a minute. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly to form a smooth sauce. Add the salt, nutmeg, American cheese and cheddar cheese and stir until the sauce is smooth and thick. Stir in the macaroni and coat all the pieces. Spoon the macaroni into a baking dish. If you like a top crust, mix the cereal and melted butter and sprinkle on top of the macaroni. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the cereal is browned and crispy.

Makes 4 servings

Cheese sauce that breaks

I use a variety of cheeses when I make macaroni and cheese and, although  it tastes good, every time it comes out of the oven, the cheese sauce has broken.  I once read that using condensed milk would address this problem.  Do you know if that works?  Also, why does my sauce break?

submitted by Grandma Bubby

Hello Grandma Bubby! Sorry about your Mac and Cheese. If your grandchildren are like mine, they love this dish and they can be very particular about it.

Here are some tips for you, to help keep your Mac and Cheese sauce from separating:

1: evaporated milk and UNSWEETENED condensed milk (most of the condensed milk we see in the supermarket is sweetened) have stabilizers added, so it helps keep the sauce ingredients together.

2: same goes for American cheese; adding a bit of American cheese to the mix can stabilize the sauce too.

3: or use whole milk (rather than skim) because fat serves as a stabilizer.

4: use young cheeses such as asiago, non-aged cheddar, havarti, muenster, non-aged gouda, and so on. These have more water content than aged, older, drier cheeses and melt more easily, keeping the mixture stable.

5: shred or grate the cheese so that it melts more easily when you add it to the hot white sauce. Only add a little at a time and mix it in thoroughly before adding more. If you add cheese all at once there’s more of a tendency for the sauce to separate.

6: it’s good to use more than cheddar, as you do, because cheddar alone can be grainy.

I hope this helps. Let me know!