Sunday, January 16, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese As It Should Be

Mac and Cheese is comfort food and filler for empty tummies. When smart chefs get hold of the idea that they are supposed to make it somehow sophisticated, they fail miserably and ruin the whole dish.
I love stinky cheese. I am a mad defender of stinky cheese. But this is not the place for it. This is the place, and possibly the only place, where Velveeta is a necessity---in no way expendable or replaceable.

Making good Macaroni and cheese is the easiest thing in the world. There are just two rules, number one, of course, being Velveeta. That cannot change. The second rule involves pasta shape and is something more flexible. I recommend jumbo, if you can find it, or large elbow macaroni. Penne or shells will do in a pinch. Avoid anything smaller or more delicate. You may use anything from 8 ounces to one pound, and of course your finished dish will serve more or fewer, more or less lavishly, depending on your decision. I used 12 when the children were all home---I use 8 now… I still serve it with broccoli, and a roll. When my father-in-law was waning, we could always get him to eat my macaroni and cheese in great quantities, even when he wouldn’t eat anything else.

You’ll need a pound of Velveeta.

You’ll need the equivalent of a stick of butter. I used margarine when I had to and it worked fine. Really, really cheap margarine worked just fine.

You may use whole, skim, or canned milk---you’ll need 4 cups. When I use canned, I just use one regular sized can of milk and enough water to make up a quart. This is probably the cheapest way to do it.

Oh, yes! ½ cup all-purpose white flour.

So here’s how:

Cook the macaroni, al dente.

In a large pot, melt the 1 stick “butter” on medium heat and mix in ½ cup flour, 1 teaspoon salt and about ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Stir with a whisk until it is well blended and cooked for just a minute---it’ll taste better.

Pour in milk and whisk well. Continue whisking (most of the time) so that no lumps develop in your white sauce until it thickens. Add velveeta, either grated or just sliced thin, and let it melt and cook, stirring constantly (it will sure scorch fast!). When the cheese is melted, stir in the macaroni and pour the whole thing into a pyrex or metal casserole and bake at 350 about 20 minutes until it’s bubbly and starting to brown a bit. Or, if you are very hungry, skip the baking altogether. Sometimes kids can’t wait. Serve with a veggie. On the off chance that you have leftovers, just refrigerate and reheat in the microwave or oven. OR, mix in one can Wolf Brand chile and serve with cornbread---GREAT leftovers.

Love, Syler

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