Mac & Cheese Emergency - Eggs or No Eggs
I am cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year for my extended family. I love mac & cheese and make it often for my immediate family. The problem is that my extended family likes a baked casserole type mac & cheese but I usually mac a stovetop version because my husband and children prefer a loose mac & cheese. I would like to attempt to make a baked version but I don't know how! I usually start with a roux and add colby jack and cheddar cheeses. Simple and very cheesy. How do I turn it into a creamy baked version. Should I add eggs? Tempering in the eggs or will the roux/cheese mix bake well without drying out?
Here is a classic baked Mac and Cheese Casserole:
Preheat oven to 400. Grease a rectangular 4-qt. casserole with 1 T. butter; set aside. Bring a lg. pot salted water to a boil; add 1 1/2 lbs. dried elbow macaroni and cook until a little past al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and rinse. (I know, heresy, but this is from the mouth of the best cook I know, and I'm not changin' nothin.')
Add 51/2 cups lightly packed cups shredded sharp cheddar, 2 cups canned evap. milk, 2 sticks butter, sliced, 2 tb. sugar, and salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste; toss well and transfer to the prepared dish and spread out with a spatula. Top with 1 1/2 cups lightly packed shredded sharp cheddar, and bake 20 minutes until light golden brown on top. Let rest 10 minutes before serving. This is some seriously rich stuff and is REPUTED to serve six to eight, but it works for eight to ten for us.
There are tons of recipes on the board and internet for mac and cheese but I have a feeling that if you prefer a looser texture, you're not going to want to use a recipe that uses eggs. I make it basically as you've described - I start with a roux, then add enough milk to create a fairly thin white sauce, then add tons of cheese (cheddar and a little velveeta, plus whatever else I'm in the mood for). Mix in the cooked pasta, dump into a baking dish, top with buttered bread crumbs and bake. Eggs make it set up more and give more of a custardy texture, of which I am not a fan.
this is supposedly a clone of the Stouffer's Creamy Mac and Cheese and it doesn't require a roux.
Macaroni & Cheese
1 cup skim milk
5 teaspoons flour
2 cups shredded medium cheddar cheese or 1 cup velvetta and 1 cup shredded cheddar
2 teaspoons margarine
½ tsp salt
1 ¾ cups cooked elbow macaroni (about ¾ cup uncooked)
Whisk flour into skim milk in a small saucepan and place over medium/low heat
Add cheese margarine and salt and stir until the cheese begins to melt.
Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring every couple minutes.
Boil the elbow macaroni according to package directions. Drain the pasta well and combine the pasta and cheese sauce and serve.
I can't imagine eggs will add anything. I make baked mac and cheese by slightly undercooking the noodles (I actually use ziti or rigatoni, as I find they hold up to an hour in the oven better than elbows) and then--here's the trick--I fold the noodles into the bechamel and then layer that with cheese. In other words, I don't melt the cheese into the bechamel (thereby making mornay, for all you purists) or otherwise mix it with the noodles and sauce. It sometimes "breaks" and becomes greasy, whereas if you layer it (two or three layers of each, depending on the size of your baking dish), you get strings of cheese and lots of flavor but it won't get greasy.
If your fam prefers a looser texture, make a bit more sauce.
No eggs. My favorite mac and cheese recipe is the Martha Stewart one posted in the New York Times a few years ago http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.co... I've made lots, and this is now my to go recipe. The way to make it perfect is to make sure you whisk the milk with the roux for a long time, longer than you'd think, I go about 8 minutes. That makes it super creamy, but you're only using milk, no cream, and the flavor is fantastic. You don't have to use the same cheese choices, use your colby and cheddar, the roux and the long whisking makes this recipe, and it's super cheesy. I also regularly prepare it up to baking the night before Thanksgiving and then cover and refrigerate. You can put the breadcrumb topping on and then pop into the oven on Thanksgiving when the turkey comes out of the oven and is resting, and then it's nice and hot and perfect for dinner.
All of your suggestions sound great. I'm going to try it without the eggs. I'm interested in Erika L's idea of layering the cheese. Is there an even distribution of cheese with the layering technique? Does the top brown nicely?
I can't top with breadcrumbs, even though I prefer it that way, my family might boycott dinner.
I put down 1/2 the noodles and sauce, a little over 1/2 the cheese (I use a mixture of about 2/3 sharp Cheddar and 1/3 Mozza, also spike the sauce with Tabasco to amp up the cheese flavor--but that's just me, other cheese would work perfectly well, too), then the rest of the noodles/sauce and top with the rest of the cheese. Ratio of noodles:cheese is per your taste; I use about 1# noodles to 1# cheese. To make sure it's creamy, I drizzle on another 1/4 to 1/2 c milk after everything's in the pan (esp if it's a shallow pan such as a 9x13). And to ensure a brown top, I sprinkle on about 1 tsp of paprika or chili powder--doesn't add heat but makes for a gorgeous crusty rusty brown top. Honestly, no one will ever guess the secret of the beautiful color.