Back in the day, (a.k.a. a few months ago when I first started cooking), I used to prepare an elaborately planned dinner for my boyfriend and myself on Friday nights when he got home from work. When I say "dinner", I really mean a few meals hastily thrown together, all of which were most likely simple, cheap, and along the lines of "semi-homemade". These well-thought-out yet horribly-executed meals meant more than just "dinner" to me. They represented my new enjoyment and my beginning journey into the culinary world. This symbolism didn't quite relay to my boyfriend though. It seemed as if he appreciated my endeavors, but didn't seem to enjoy my novicely made dinner; so I subsequently stopped. But- believe it or not- Just the other day my boyfriend casually asked me, "You making dinner for me on Friday?" ....What?
My insides were bursting with excitement, but I kept my cool and said "Sure babe, I'll make you dinner". I rushed home and contemplated ideas- only to lead myself to Mac and Cheese... Alton Brown's "Baked Macaroni and Cheese" to be exact. I chopped my extra sharp white cheddar cheese and prepared the butter for the roux.
I followed Alton Brown's directions exactly, with the exception of all that extra seasoning with paprika and bay leaf and whatnot (I don't own that shit so don't expect me to add it, AB). I've made a bechamel before, and even a cheese bechamel at that, so I saw no struggle with this part.
The elbows get added to the sauce, and all of this gets poured into the baking dish. More cheese (and by more I mean even more than what was called for) gets sprinkled on top, and then finally the breadcrumb crust gets packed over everything (no photo).
It tasted pretty good... A lot better than that Kraft shit.
I'm not gonna lie though- it kind of lacked in flavor (Probably due to me leaving out all those little "extra" ingredients I didn't have). But then again- how can macaroni and cheese have flavor- it's just pasta and cheese (and it's not like my cheese wasn't good quality cheese, because it was).
Speaking of cheese, was the cheesiness up to my abnormally high "cheese standards?" Well, the stringiness was obviously there, which of course is a plus. The mixture of both white cheddar and regular cheddar was also a nice addition. The goopy sauciness of the cheese sauce was mediocre, and I felt that was the downfall to the dish.
I love a range of textures in food, and I especially liked the crust on the top of the mac and cheese. I wish it would have been more crunchy though, as the rest of the cheesy sauce was a bit too liquidy.
So how did Alton Brown's baked macaroni and cheese fare against a (what I like to call) professional-macaroni-and-cheese-taster (yes I'm talking about myself)? Ehhh, well this time I'm not putting any of blame on anyone except for me. Mr. Brown probably did produce an excellent tasting dish (it was the top recipe from FoodNetwork.com last year), but I wouldn't know. My baked macaroni and cheese was just "decent". So much for me proving to my boyfriend that I can actually cook something worth eating.
Taken from Alton Brown.
1/2 pound elbow macaroni
3 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard (omitted)
3 cups milk
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf (omitted)
1/2 teaspoon paprika (omitted)
1 large egg
12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded (8 ounces sharp white cheddar, and about 8 ounces yellow mild cheddar)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs (I used regular breadcrumbs)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.
3. While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it's free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.
4. Temper in the egg. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.
5. Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.