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megimoo
09-17-2011, 10:19 PM
Macaroni and Cheese Bake

I love a good Macaroni and Cheese. The problem is, like potato salad,
I am very particular about my Mac & Cheese. I like it creamy, but not soupy or goopy.

It should be thick enough to stand up a fork in it, but not gritty or grainy.
It's not easy to find a recipe that lives up to my expectations,
but here's one that I finally found that is just amazing.

The best recipe for Macaroni and Cheese that I've made so
far is the one recently published in Cook's Country Magazine
The texture is simply amazing - smooth but not runny,

cheesy but without clumping or separating.

The recipe is more complicated than most, but in order to achieve
the ultimate mac & cheese, that's what it takes. The recipe utilizes
three different cheeses: American cheese (for stability -
American cheese has stabilizing ingredients),
Monterey Jack cheese (for creaminess), and
sharp cheddar (for flavor).
(A fourth cheese is actually used - Parmesan - to flavor the bread crumb topping!)
To keep the cheeses from breaking, evaporated milk (which contains carrageen or
other stabilizing ingredients) is used instead of milk or cream.
For the bread crumb topping, use 4 slices of white sandwich bread,
4 tablespoons (55 g) melted butter, 1/4 cup (35 g) grated Parmesan cheese.

ingredients
5 Tbs. (45 g) all-purpose flour,
1 lb. (450 g) elbow macaroni,
3 12-oz. cans (1 L) evaporated milk,
5 oz. (140 g) American cheese,
8 oz. (225 g) extra sharp cheddar cheese,
3 oz. (85 g) Monterey Jack cheese,
1/8 tsp. (0.3 g) ground nutmeg,
1 tsp. (3.3 g) ground mustard seed,
2 tsp. (12 g) table salt,
4 Tbs. (55 g) melted butter, and
1 teaspoon (5 mL) of hot sauce.

Preheat the oven to 350F
Bring four quarts of water to a hard boil.
Dissolve at least 1 Tbs. (18 g) table salt into the water and
add the macaroni. Cook until al dente (when the macaroni
no longer shows white in center of the pasta when you bite
into it but still has chew). Check the instructions on the package
of your macaroni product and use the time listed as a guide.
I generally start checking the macaroni a minute or two early to make sure I don't over cook it.
Once it's ready, ladle out 1/2 cup water to be reserved for the cheese sauce later.
Immediately drain the macaroni and rinse it thoroughly in cold water to stop the cooking.
This is one of the few times I advocate using a colander and rinsing pasta with cold water
(in most cases, pasta used in casseroles benefits from this procedure).

Break the sandwich bread into chunks and pulse in a food processor with 4 Tbs.
of melted butter and the Parmesan cheese until bread crumbs are formed.
Set aside in a bowl for topping the casserole later.

Shred the American, Monterey Jack, and cheddar cheeses.
I found this was done fastest by using the grating disc on my food processor.

Prepare a roux by heating (over medium heat) 4 Tbs. butter until it foams.
Then stir in the flour and cook while stirring until light brown (about 1 minute).

Slowly add evaporated milk while stirring until all the evaporated
milk has been added to the pot and no clumps of roux remain.
Stir in the hot sauce, nutmeg, mustard, and salt.
Cook the mixture for about 4 more minutes on medium heat.
The mixture (a béchamel sauce) should have thickened up.

Move the pot off the heat source and stir in the grated cheeses
and 1/2 cup reserve water. Keep stirring until the cheese completely
melts into the bechamel.
Stir in the cooked macaroni so that the sauce completely coats all the pasta.
Pour the macaroni and cheese into a 9x13-in. baking pan.
Cover the top of the macaroni and cheese with the bread crumb mixture.
Bake for 25 minutes (when the edges begin to bubble).
Remove from the oven and let the casserole sit for 5 to 10 minutes
before cutting into it to serve.
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