Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Baked Mac & Cheese

This dish is almost ridiculously yummy and appeals to pretty much everyone.  It's my father-in-law's favorite and of course, the kids are always up for it.  My kids won't even eat boxed stuff (which is fine by me) because this is so much better.  It's even healthier -- no weird chemicals (how do they make that powdered cheese(ish) sauce anyway?).  Frankly, prep wise, this isn't that much harder than the boxed stuff either.  It literally isn't more than ten minutes of actual prep time.  It's worth it too!  It's also cheap and I usually have the ingredients on hand.  Again, I make no claims to originality here.  I think I began with something in The Joy of Cooking for this one and adapted it a bit here and there.

So here's the drill, in the order I do it.  I put the water on to boil for the macaroni and turn on the oven to 350 degrees.  I get out the cheese (we use sharp cheddar) and grate about two cups...  We don't like it super cheesy.  By then the water is usually ready for the pasta, so I drop that in with a little salt, give it a stir to keep it from sticking and set my baking dish next to it with a pat of butter to melt (makes it a little easier to grease the pan).  I have a Le Crueset (2 Qt.) baking dish I use just for this.  It's pretty cute actually - it's shapped like a heart (see right).  They're pricey, but they last forever and are perfect for this -- I make a mean Yorkshire Pudding in this too :)

Anyway, back to baked mac & cheese... while the pasta is boiling, I crack 3 eggs into a 2 cup measuring glass, whisk and then add enough milk to fill it to the 2 cup mark.  I then add about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and several shakes of paprika.  I stir it all together in the measuring glass with the same fork I used to whisk the eggs and put it aside to finish greasing the pan.  The pasta's usually done by then, so I drain it in the colander and run cold water over it (nod to Alton Brown who taught me that this stops the pasta from cooking and opens it up so the cheese gets inside nicely).  I then layer pasta, cheese, pasta, cheese, pasta, cheese -- until the pan is full (3 layers usually does it for me), give the mix in the measuring cup a quick stir in case the salt has all gone to the bottom of the cup, and then pour the egg/milk mix over the layers of cheese and macaroni.

That's it!  Stick it in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes until browned and yummy looking.  I usually let it rest for about 5-10 minutes after I take it out of the oven.  I serve it with some steamed broccoli or something, and voila:  dinner.  Although, somehow the girls conned me into making it for their lunch today.  The leftovers save well and they frequently eat it for breakfast the next day too.

It's a bit more time consuming than some of the other recipes I've written up here for the blog, but not by much.  I usually prefer getting as few dishes dirty as I can possibly get away with, but this one's worth it.

Baked Mac & Cheese
12-16 oz bag macaroni
2 cups cheddar cheese (shredded)
3 eggs
Milk (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tbsp butter

While pasta cooks, grease baking dish and shred cheese.  Then whisk 3 eggs, add enough milk to equal 2 cups and mix together with salt and paprika.  Drain pasta, run under cold water and then layer pasta and cheese until pan is full.  Pour milk/egg mixture over top and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.  Let cool for 5 minutes and serve.

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