Mac ‘n Cheese: The Pursuit of Cheesy Happiness

by Pitmaster Jimi James

‘Tis the season…I am of course talking about SUMMER!!!!

Picnics, cookouts, family reunions, snatching a burger off your neighbors grill while they’re inside…or any reason to be outside!!!!!

Mac n Cheese

As Americans, we have a love for cheesy goodness. Well, we should love it, because one of the creators of the Declaration of Independence created Mac ‘n Cheese with a 1,200 lb. wheel of Vermont Cheddar!

Okay, is that really true???

I could care less, and so will you when you make this marvelously baked mac ‘n cheese. Please make twice as much as the recipe states or everyone at your cookout will be pissed you ran out before they had their 4th helping!!!!

Check out the recipe below:

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb elbow macaroni
  • 2 Tbsp of butter
  • 2 cups or 8 ounces + 2 oz for the top of grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 4 ounces of cubed Velveeta
  • ¼  cup butter + 1 tsp
  • ¼  cup flour
  • ¼  tsp dried ciantro
  • ¼  tsp sweet Hungarian paprika
  • ¼  tsp ginger
  • ¼  tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 tsp spicy brown mustard
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs plus 1 tbsp butter

 

The first thing we’re gonna do is to create a roux. Yes, that’s a fancy French word for butter and flour mixture. While you’re at it, go ahead and preheat your oven to 400 degrees too.

Roux

So lets make our roux. I promise you’ll be okay, and everyone will be amazed you now know French!!!

You’ll need a sauce pan for this step. Turn the heat on medium high. Put your ¼ cup + 1 tsp butter in the sauce pan, and let it cook down. It will get frothy and start singing or popping.

Butter

When the butter starts singing, add your ¼ C of flour and whisk together. The mixture will start to look like a paste. When both ingredients are combined, you will need your 3 cups of milk.

Now, we are NOT going to add it all at once. You will want to add ½ a cup of milk, whisk it into the roux mixture, and then add your spices, including the nutmeg, ginger, sweet Hungarian paprika, pepper, cilantro.

The reason we are adding the spices at this point, and not after we have added all the milk, is the fact that spices have an oil content. We want the flavors to come out strong in our mixture.  If we added them at the end, you would still taste the flour mixture. We want to season our flour, so our sauce will flavor our macaroni.

Once your spices are added and whisked in, let that cook for about 1 minute and keep whisking. Then, add the rest of your milk to the roux.

Next we are going to add the Worcestershire sauce and the spicy brown mustard, and continue to whisk.

You are going to turn the heat OFF at this point; otherwise, you’re going to burn the cheese, and it will separate and get grainy and taste horrible.

Now we are going to add the 2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar and just 2 ounces of the Velveeta. We’re going to reserve the last 2 ounces of Velveeta and sharp cheddar for the end. Whisk in the cheese until it melts down. Leave it on the stove and let’s work on your macaroni now.

Now we’re gonna cook our macaroni noodles. You’ll need another sauce pan. Fill half-way with water and 1 Tbsp. of salt. Bring to a rolling boil and put your noodles in, and stir. If your pot begins to over-boil, just turn down the heat to medium-high.

Cook your noodles for 7 minutes. They will be kinda chewy still. This is referred to as “al dente”. We don’t want to cook the noodles all the way, because we are finishing them in the oven.

Once 7 minutes is up, drain your noodles, and rinse well. Put your macaroni in a casserole dish, and add your 2 Tbsp of butter and mix in well. Once you have it mixed in well, add your sauce to the noodles and mix in well.

I’m gonna stop here for just a moment because I need to tell you how you can make your mac n cheese good and cheesy or really gooey and rich. Using the 1 lb. in this recipe, you will get a very cheesy, tasty version, but if you’re looking for a rich, moist and gooey version, you will want to cut your amount of macaroni to just a 1/2 lb.

So 16 ounces: very cheesy and tasty. 8 ounces: very VERY moist, rich and gooey version.  Good!  Now back to the program.

We have added our butter, added our cheese sauce…Now, I want you to take the last 2 ounces of sharp cheddar and sprinkle across the top, and take the cubed Velveeta and stick it in the mixture however you want. This will melt down on top and make it cheesier.

Done???

Okay, now let’s make your crust.

Take ½ cup Italian bread crumbs and add 1 Tbsp melted butter and mix together.  (It will have a consistency of graham crackers and butter when you make make a pie crust.)

Bread Crumbs

I want you to sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over your mac ‘n cheese.  Make sure you cover it good!!!

You’re going to put your mac ‘n cheese in the oven (previously preheated to 400 degrees).  Bake your mac for about 20 minutes.

The reason we are baking this on a high temperature is that we want the cheese and crust to caramelize.

 

Now get to making this awesome side and impress your friends.

Don’t tell them you have help from a Pitmaster with over 36 years cooking!

 

Stay hungry, my friends!!!! Until next time…

Pitmaster Jimi James

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