Sunday, May 18, 2008

Masterful Mac 'n' Cheese (Plus bonus cupcake pin-up photos!)

Is it the artist or the tools that make greatness? In the case of this macaroni and cheese, I would humbly say it's the artist. However, tools help a hell of a lot...as you will see from these photos. Dan's dad is a photography enthusiastic and today I got to have fun with macro lenses. Nothing can make my lazy food photography look so good as schmancy camera equipment, so behold! Also, below is my definitive macaroni and cheese recipe.

Masterful Mac 'n' Cheese

Crusty, bubbling, cheezy goodness.

1 lb. macaroni noodles, cooked al dente (don't rinse!)
1 lb. cheese, grated (use more than one kind)
1 1/2 c. whole milk
1/2 c. sour cream
2 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. seasoned salt
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. dried onion flakes
1/2 tsp. half-sharp paprika
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. white pepper

Optional Topping:
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 c. cracker crumbs
1/2 tsp. half-sharp paprika
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt

Basically you start off with a simple bechamel sauce and add cheese, making a mornay sauce. You can either serve this right off the stovetop or bake it in a 450 deg. oven to crisp the top.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the butter until bubbling and whisk in the flour. Cook, stirring frequently, until slightly browned. Stir in the milk and bring to a simmer. Add the spices and simmer for 10 minutes, whisking well. Remove from heat and whisk in the sour cream. Then add 3/4 of the cheese and stir until blended. If you're serving it from the stovetop, add in all of the cheese. Pour the cheese over the noodles and combine well.

For baked mac 'n' cheese, pour the noodles into a shallow, greased baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. To make the optional topping, heat the butter until bubbling in a small frying pan. Add the crumbs and seasoning and toast, stirring constantly--take care that it doesn't burn. Sprinkle this mixture over the cheezy noodles and put the baking dish into the oven. Bake until the top is crisp, helping it along with the broiler if need be. Serve!

Americana in all its glory!

Tips:

Cheddar and Monterey Jack make a good combo because the sharpness of the cheddar is balanced by the mild creaminess of the jack, but you can use any combo you like. A high-quality NY cheddar is best, but hard to find for a decent price here, so I use Cracker Barrel to good effect. When choosing your cheese, you will get better results using more than one and your goal should be to balance flavor and meltiness.

If you don't have half-sharp paprika, you can use a combination of paprika and cayenne to give your desired spiciness level.

If you don't have sour cream you can use yogurt or all milk. I wouldn't go lower than 2% milkfat.

Salt the noodles well when you cook them and don't rinse them--you want the starch to thicken things further.

Cupcake Pinup Photos!

So, I've gotten hassled by unnamed members of our family for simply linking to recipes and posting photos. I stick my tongue out at you :-P If you want this recipe you'll have to search it out yourself--it was from America's Test Kitchen. These are dark chocolate cupcakes with vanilla bean buttercream frosting, and yes, they are off the hook! Click on the photos to see them biggified.


These cupcakes pity you because you can't eat them.


EXTREME CLOSE-UP!!!!

1 comment:

Marjorie Magidow Schalles said...

OK - you are the reigning Goddess of Macaroni! Alex and I made this last night and it is FABULOUS! Who would have thunk I needed a recipe? But this made the proportions come out right, for maybe the first time in 30 years. Delicious! (And ours was just as purty, too)