Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Macaroni Cheese

Totally unfashionable and utterly delicious, macaroni cheese is probably my ultimate comfort food- starch in starch sauce, baked with cheese, there's nothing cosier to eat when it's freezing outside. I love it so much I'll eat it in August. I had made extra white sauce from the chicken pie, so the preparation for this was minimal, but making up from scratch isn't labour intensive. The most involved part is some therapeutic sauce stirring- you do have cheese to grate, but you can delegate that to anyone pretending to want to help.

Four things:
You can assemble the dish before putting it in the oven in advance, and bake it about half an hour before you want to eat.

I don't always infuse the milk with the usual bay/mace/onion for the white sauce, it is good though. But sometimes the need for dinner sooner rather than later is too much, and if this is a more impromptu meal, then forgo this stage.

I use penne, not macaroni. I like the way the tubes hold more sauce. I always felt like I needed to apologise for this. until I read Simon Hopkinson's wonderful Prawn Cocktail Years and was reassured with the knowledge that he did the same.

This macaroni cheese is white, not orange: http://achewood.com/index.php?date=12312009

*Update 15/10/15*
Well, this is something I make a lot, and I usually serve it with roast leeks- cut into 4cm ish chunks, and roasted in olive oil and sea salt.

 300g penne, or macaroni.
Strong cheddar- few handfuls. I never weigh it out, just be generous. I presume you like cheese if you are making a macaroni cheese,
Parmesan (optional)
30grams butter
15g flour
pinch mustard powder
300ml milk (full fat, for preference)

Make your sauce: Melt the butter in heavy bottomed saucepan, then stir in the flour and mustard powder. Toast the flour-butter mix over the heat for a minute. Add a little of the milk to the pan, stirring. Continue to add the milk, bit by bit and stirring all the time until it is all used up and you have a creamy sauce. You may need to add a little extra milk.
Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, add salt and the pasta, cook until al dente.
If you are making it up in advance, run the pasta under the cold tap until it is thoroughly cold, and mix it with the sauce when that has cooled too. If you are proceeding straight away, have the hot bechemal waiting and just tip the hot pasta back into the pan you used to cook it, then pour the sauce over and stir it in. Stir in some grated cheddar, and a few spoons of grated parmesan, if using. Put in an ovenproof dish, sprinkle with more grated cheese and bake in a preheated oven at 200 degrees till piping hot and browned. If you've made it up and are cooking it from fridge temperature, cook it at 180 degrees for slightly longer.

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