Who doesn't love mac-n-cheese? Over the past 2 years I have experimented with different ideas, ingredients, types of cheese, cooking methods and times, and toppings (Oh how I wish Jon's mom-mom would come to me in a dream and tell me her secrets...). Tonight's mac-n-cheese is probably one of the best I have made, although I'd still love his mom-mom's secrets!
I've started doing a few things differently with my mac. First, I remove the bechamel (white sauce) from the heat before adding the cheese - keeps the cheese from becoming chalky (once you add the cheese it becomes a mornay sauce, not a bechamel..I think Alton Brown taught me that somewhere along the way). Second, I use a mix of both sweet and strong cheeses. A few weeks ago I was reading my friend's blog, Taste of Home Cooking, and came up the idea for my last change - toasting the bread crumbs in butter before pouring them on top. Butter makes everything better, doesn't it? Although this blogger doesn't toast her bread crumbs in butter, she does make a really nice mixture of homemade bread crumbs and herbs for the top of her mac, which inspired my new topping.
So here it is, my latest mac-n-cheese creation. There have been many before it, and I am sure I'll continue to experiment. But for now, I'm really happy with this one.
- 1/2 lb elbow noodles, cooked to al dente and then run under cold water
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Butter... 1 tbsp for the sauce and 1 tbsp for the topping (guess it's not all that much?)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional, but we like the kick they give the dish)
- Salt - about 1 tsp
- Pepper - about 3/4 tsp
- 1 tbsp flour
- 2.5 cups light cream (or whole milk, but I like using cream)
- Cheese: 2 tbsp cream cheese, approximately 3 tbsp shredded Jarlsberg, handful shredded Parmesan, handful shredded sharp cheddar
- 1/2 c breadcrumbs
- 1 tbsp dried parsley (you could also add other herbs, but since Jon isn't a fan of the herbs I was calling out from the kitchen, I kept it simple)
- Heat olive oil and melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat
- Add onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes; saute 2 minutes
- Add flour and whisk until you have a thick mixture (making a roux)
- Add cream, salt, and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Let simmer for a few minutes, whisking, and then remove it from the heat.
- Add cheeses - I added the cream cheese first, whisked it for a bit to melt, and then added the other cheeses, whisking until I had a really creamy sauce. Taste your sauce and adjust cheese or salt/pepper as needed.
- Pour cooked noodles into a baking dish and pour the sauce over them, mixing so the cheese sauce completely covers everything and gets into every little nook and cranny. Here is how it looked once the sauce was in the dish - very creamy, but not soupy:
- Melt another tbsp butter in a pan. Once melted, add the bread crumbs, dried parsley, and a touch of salt and pepper. Toss for about 30 seconds, until toasted. Pour the bread crumb mixture over the noodles/sauce.
- Bake on 350 for about 20-25 minutes, turning the broiler on for the last 3-4 minutes.
Here it was right out of the oven -
I'm very happy to have leftovers for lunch tomorrow!!!
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