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Mac n' Cheese- fool proof recipes needed!

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For some reason, my homemade mac n' cheese NEVER comes out right. Perhaps I dont cook the roux long enough? Basically, here is what I do:

Make a roux (butter, flour-cook for a min or 2) + milk+ some nutmeg, garlic, pepper, salt
add in the cheddar cheese (or gouda)
add cooked noodles.

This always ends up grainy tasting and not that creamy, comforting taste I'm looking for.

Any suggestions? What am I doing wrong here?

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  1. Try cutting back on the flour a little and cooking a little longer... not so long that it browns though. Also, I usually skip the nutmeg and add a little cayenne for mac n cheese.

    1. sounds like you have the right mix.

      I have taken to using whole wheat flour for my roux... and I tend to cook it for a little less than 2 min. You may want to try cream instead of milk, and try adding the seasoning to the roux, also I add a pinch of dry mustard. then add the cheese slowly, stirring the whole time.
      also i add about a tablespoon of the water from the noodles to my mix before tossing it all together.

      1. I tend to cook the roux longer, but that probably isn't causing your problems. You are probably heating the cheese too much or for too long. Using grated cheese helps (more suface area for faster melting at the same temperature) and lots of (gentle) stirring with low heat.

        Another thing to try is adding a bit of an acidic ingredient to discourage the cheese from separating. Sherry goes well in cheese sauce. A dry white wine wouldn't hurt either, or a little white Vermouth. Things like Dijon mustard or white Worcestershire sauce might help a little too since they contain vinegar. (And isn't mustard itself an emulsifier?)

        You still have to be careful with the heat; the only fool proof cheese sauce is Velveeta!

        2 Replies
        1. re: HPLsauce

          roux definately needs to be cooked more than a minute or two, to well, cook it, no flour taste, no graininess, develop the richness and depth. Mind you cooking it longer does not mean that it should "color" so watch your heat level.

          Strikes me we just did a thread on Mac and Cheese, Alton Brown's was mentioned as a good strandard recipe. He uses condensed milk. Try a search for it here.

          1. re: Quine

            Just a clarification -- it uses evaporated milk. Condensed milk is the sweet stuff.

        2. Made this foolproof recipe AGAIN last night. I never got mac and cheese right, until now. Unconvential, unhealthy and unbelievable. I'll never go back and am totally confident to serve to guests. I add seasonings and extra leftover cheese.

          The Lady's Cheesy Mac Recipe courtesy Paula Deen
          Show: Paula's Home Cooking
          Episode: Fire House Pot Luck Dinner

          4 cups cooked elbow macaroni, drained
          2 cups grated cheddar cheese
          3 eggs, beaten
          1/2 cup sour cream
          4 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
          1/2 teaspoon salt
          1 cup milk

          Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
          Once you have the macaroni cooked and drained, place in a large bowl and while still hot and add the cheddar. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and add to the macaroni mixture. Pour macaroni mixture into a casserole dish and bake for 30 to 45 minutes. Top with additional cheese if desired.

          4 Replies
          1. re: MDM

            What kind of seasonings do you use?

            1. re: Babette

              I use a bunch of herbed sea salt, cayenne and a little hot sauce.

            2. re: MDM

              This is one of my kids favorites! I make it whenever my husband is going to be gone for the evening. I throw in some chopped ham and maybe some veggies. It's good.

              1. re: MDM

                Thanks for posting this. I like how quick it goes together. It was creamy, but I didn't find it particularly cheesy (and I used a bit extra cheese.) Next time I think I would add some Parm. and extra grated on top at the end.

              2. After years of making mac'n'cheese either by the mac/milk/butter/cheese method (as in the Sterns' "Square Meals" School Cafeteria recipe) or by melting cheese into white sauce like my mom always did, I did this. And my wife said, "I'd like you to make it this way from now on. Please."

                It helps if you live where there are lots of Latino markets. Amounts are approximate, as always:

                8 oz. dry elbow macaroni

                1/2 yellow onion, chopped fine
                1 small fresh pasilla pepper, stemmed and seeded and chopped fine (wear rubber gloves!)
                butter or margarine or olive oil, or any combination of same
                1+ cups Mexican table cream, or 1 1/2 cup heavy cream or créme fraiche
                2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, or combination of your faves
                3 Roma tomatoes, seeds and pulp removed, chopped coarsely
                salt, pepper, whatever else you like

                buttered panko or other crumbs, with or without grated cheese

                For the sauce, heat enough of your chosen fat to cook the chopped onion and pepper to softness, and do so. Black pepper and any dried herbs should be added during this part. Raise the heat, pour in the cream, stir. If you're using Mexican cream, it will thicken quickly. When it does, remove it from the heat and melt the cheese into it, stirring just enough to blend. If you're using any other cream, you will need to keep stirring for ten minutes or so - adjust heat so it doesn't scorch - until it's reduced and thickened, then proceed as above. Stir the chopped tomato into the cheese sauce and keep it warm and covered, but not too hot.

                Preheat the oven to 350º. Cook the macaroni just to the al dente stage, drain, and combine with the cheese sauce. Grease a baking dish of the appropriate size, pour in the mac, top with the buttered crumbs and set uncovered in the middle of the oven for about twenty minutes, or until it's hot and bubbly. Turn on the broiler at the end if you want, just enough to brown the top a little.

                I've also done something roughly similar with evaporated milk and egg, but this is a bit easier I think, and it's rich, very smooth, and tasty. The pasilla pepper adds just a very subtle spiciness.