ISO World's Best Mac 'n' Cheese
I like the version in the best recipe. One thing (now don't report me to the food police please) is that I actually bought some Velveeta to add in to the cheese mixture. It seems to me that whenever I watch a food competition that includes mac and cheese, the winning recipe always has velveeta in it. The last time I made the recipe, I threw in some velveeta, and it was really good. What I like about the CI recipe is that you don't bake it, just brown it under the broiler to get the top a little crispy. I find when my DH makes it in the oven, it gets kind of stiff, and I most def like my mac and cheese on the creamy side...
I like the Cook's Illustrated recipe, made with mostly cheddar and some deli american cheese (not kraft singles). It's got evaporated milk and maybe 1 egg and is done on the stovetop.
I added the american cheese to the mix after reading an NYT article on mac & cheese many years ago -- they said that the oils and whatever that they put into the velveeta style cheeses (like American) help make a better smoother texture than just straight cheddar.
You know, I have made mac & cheese a time or two with american or velveeta, along with cheddar - but there's something about the oily-slightly curdy-ness of the non-processed cheese that I really like. For years, I loved the creamy texture of cafeteria macaroni and cheese, but as I got older, I just liked the body and texture and flavor of a real cheese sauce after it's baked for a while. That puddle of oily goodness running on the plate under the macaroni.......yum. ;-)
I've tried Paula Deen's - too eggy. Alton Brown's - another eggy one. I've tried different recipes from various recipe websites. I decided that the one that I have made since forever is it.
White sauce, dry mustard, paprika, shot of hot sauce, piles of grated good sharp cheddar, and elbows or shell pasta. Then more cheddar and panko on top.
The one that bills itself as the "World's Best "Mac n Cheese is Beecher's, across from Pike Place market in Seattle. I think they may be right. I've had their version many times, and made it from this recipe: http://www.threeimaginarygirls.com/no...
It is delicious and very easy. It is best made with their Flagship Cheddar, which you can get online, but you can also make it with any hard, sharp, salty cheddar. You will be tempted to use fresh garlic, but don't--it's not as good as the powder in this recipe, and you want a subtle, almost blunt hint of garlic. I always use the higher amount of chipotle powder and it's perfect.
I'm glad someone posted the Beard recipe. In the book, he says you need a good cheddar. one that "sings with flavor". None of the other posts have discussed this, but it is central to a dish that is so simple. (For cryin' out load, it's called mac 'n' cheese, people.) You would be well served to use aged Vermont cheddar, the kind with the density of plutonium, the kind that tastes likes Vermont smells on a golden June evening:
You can adulterate it with jack for melting quality or Parmesan for richness, but as Beard says, "this is an American dish, one of our best". I trust him implicitly. Keep it real.
I will add my notes at the bottom for you:
Macaroni and Cheese Gourmet | February 1998
For those who prefer macaroni and cheese with a greater ratio of crunchy topping to creamy center, we suggest dividing the macaroni and cheese between two 3-quart shallow baking dishes and doubling the topping recipe, dividing it between the baking dishes.
Yield: Makes 6 (main course) servings
3/4 pound elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups panko* (Japanese bread crumbs) or coarse dry bread crumbs
1 cup coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar (about 4 ounces)
For cheese sauce
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
2 3/4 cups whole milk
3/4 cups heavy cream
4 cups coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar (about 1 pound)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F. and butter a 3-quart shallow baking dish. Fill a 6-quart kettle three fourths full with salted water and bring to a boil for macaroni.
Melt butter and in a bowl stir together with panko or regular bread crumbs and Cheddar until combined well. Topping may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.
In a 5-quart heavy saucepan melt butter over moderately low heat and stir in flour and red pepper flakes. Cook roux, stirring, 3 minutes and whisk in milk. Bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly, and simmer, whisking occasionally, 3 minutes. Stir in cream, Cheddar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Remove pan from heat and cover surface of sauce with wax paper.
Cook macaroni in boiling water until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water and drain macaroni in colander. In a large bowl stir together macaroni, reserved cooking water, and sauce. Transfer mixture to baking dish.
Sprinkle topping evenly over macaroni and bake in middle of oven 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden and bubbling.
NOTES: Use a deep dish rather than a wide shallow one.
I use cellentani instead of elbow mac.
Use no crumbs or just a few. This asks for way too many crumbs. Top with cheese instead. (The simpler the better as far as I'm concerned.)
Also, you can use cayenne rather than the pepper flakes.
AND most importantly, use an extra-sharp cheese. I use the English Coastal White Cheddar from the UK. It is just as good as the cheddar I use to buy when I Iived in the UK. It will crumble when you cut or shred it. Buy it at Trader Joe's. Tillamook extra-sharp white cheddar can be found at Costco and that isn't a bad choice either.
You can throw a bit of extra cheese in the mix as you pour it in your baking dish so that you get little blobs of melted cheese throughout.
The dijon adds a slight edge to the taste.
I make this for people when they can't cook for themselves. Will probably make some for the playoff games tomorrow as a change from chilli etc.
Hope you like it.
Sorry I don't have an actual recipe, but I make it by feel these days.
But all I do is make a basic, on the thin side bechamel/white sauce, and add cheese until it tastes right. I know it must sound terribly "low-brow", but I usually do mostly cheddar with a little bit of velveeta, as it lends a really nice texture. A couple of tablespoons of parmasan usually end up in there too, as it adds a bit of salty sharpness. As to other flavourings, my mom always added just a hit or two of hot sauce or cayenne. Doesn't add heat at those amounts, just enhances the cheesiness a bit. Combine with cooked macaroni and let it sit for a few before serving.
This was my grandmother's mac-n-cheese recipe.
1 cup macaroni
1/4 cup sugar
large lump of butter
6 oz. Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup rich cream
Cook macaroni in salted boiling water until tender. Drain, combine with sugar, butter, cheese, and cream. Pour into greased casserole dish. Top with more shredded cheese and sprinkle with a little sugar to make it brown nicely. Bake at 350 until bubbly and browned.
Ahhh memories......Sunday lunch at Nana's.
Sorry for the delay... this was in the LA Times in 2006.. I've made many versions of Mac n Cheese.. Ina, Martha, Silver Palate... this one truly topped the list as the most decadent!. It does call for Panko, but you can leave it out and sprinkle with additional cheddar and broil to brown the top. Her goes...
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 tsp. melted butter
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup flour
5 cups milk
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
1 bay leaf
4 cups shredded mild cheddar -divided
3 cups shredded gruyere
1 lb shells or elbow macaroni
1/2 cup heavy cream
1.heat over 350. toss panko crumbs with melted butter on small baking pan - toast bread crumbs 10 min. lightly brown set aside.
2.Lg. saucepan, heat butter med. heat, melt then stir in flour. heat & stir til mix. is smooth and bubbling - 2min.
Remove from heat, wisk in milk. Add dry mustard and peppers, nutmeg, salt and bay leaf. Stir and heat til boiling-reduce to low and simmer 30 - remove bay leaf.
3. stir in 3 cups cheddar and all gruyere until melted. Pour over cooked macaroni in a well buttered 9 x 13 baking dish. Drizzle cream around edge of cassarole, sprinkle with remaining cheddar and toasted crumbs
4. cover with aluminum foil bake 20 min. then uncover and bake 10 more min. then put under preheated broiler 5 min.
A few months ago, I was in charge of catering for my daughter's baby shower. Obviously the menu was all around foods that she loves, including macaroni and cheese. I love my great-grandmother's recipe, but I didn't think it was creamy enough to serve to guests. I found the PERFECT recipe, made it and then lost it. I forgot to bookmark the darn thing! It used Gouda, cream cheese and Cheddar. As I was researching, I discovered a few things I never knew:
1. Do not ever, ever use the pre-shredded cheese that you buy in bags at the grocery store. The cheese shreds are coated with cornstarch so they don't stick together, and all of that cornstarch makes the cheese sauce pretty darn chunky!
2. To keep the sauce creamy, use evaporated milk (or 1/2 whole milk, 1/2 evaporated). The perfect recipe that I can't find now (drat!) used 1/2 evaporated.
And I always use a good bit of Coleman's dried mustard. It really brings out the cheese flavor.
Yes, Colman mustard, about a teaspoon (if I bother to measure) per tablespoon of flour in the roux. I also mix some Worcestershire into the cheese sauce while I'm stirring it. And I've been using nothing but evaporated milk lately. Recipe? Aaaahhh... I don't have one with bechamel in my text files, so that's one of those things for which I go to a cookbook, get the proper proportions of bechamel to cheese to pasta, and take it from there, since I know how to make all of those things already. Sometimes the book says two cups of bechamel and two of cheese per pound of pasta, sometimes something else. It's always edible; is there such a thing as BAD mac'n'cheese? What really blows my skirt up, though, is to zip it up with well-cooked shredded onion and poblano pepper, then either stir in chunks of fresh tomato or top it with tomato slices, then shredded cheese.