Saturday, May 8, 2010

Bask in the Delicious

I have been on a silly quest lately. For some reason, I have been obsessed with homemade macaroni and cheese. It wasn’t like I was chasing anything either. I have minimal memories of the dish as a child. My father hated it and my mother never made it. Since I did not have a childhood reference for it, this need came out of the blue.

The first attempt was a recipe from Food Network Magazine. I decided to try it for the simple fact that it looked easy. I can cook; don’t get me wrong. I have been on my own for several years and have had only one brush with bad food I have prepared. But I also am cognizant of what I can and cannot do. Boil water? Yes, I can do that. Deglaze a pan? No, that is a little out of my league and I really don’t understand the need to do it. Anyway, the recipe looked like I could do it. I worked on the cheese sauce while the noodles cooked in the boiling water. The sauce never seemed to set up properly. The roux turned out nicely, but when I added the soymilk it never seemed to thicken. To speed the process along, I added the cheese. Four cups of melting cheese is a sure way to thicken any sauce. I drained the water from the noodles and added the cheese sauce.

The recipe called for butter to be melted with parsley in the microwave. I did as the recipe suggested and added that to the bowl with some panko breadcrumbs. I mixed everything together and tried it. It was like eating cheesy burnt leaves. The cheese was a little bland. Overall, I was disappointed. The leftovers went into the garbage disposal.

I told my co-workers what I was trying and they suggested a recipe from a cookbook made of coworker submissions. There was a macaroni and cheese dish that was easy to make and really good they said. I tried it and do have to say it was better. The sauce had a better flavor and it did look good on the plate. The dish even did something impressive. The taste improved the next day. There must have been some magical food chemistry happening that I am yet to understand about leftovers improving as they sit. I was impressed, but wanted to be blown away on the first bite. I moved on.

One of co-worker gave me several macaroni and cheese recipes to try. I had been talking about my attempts and she went into her cookbooks and photocopied a couple for me. (She must have a library of books, considering the number of recipes I was presented with. I’ve been to her house and there has to be a wing full of cookbooks that I did not see.) They were all simple, with a variation on the theme of macaroni and cheese.

I gave one a try and have to say I have found it. It is a simple recipe with the roux. I used 2% milk instead of soy and the sauce thickened nicely. Cheddar and Swiss cheese were used. I used elbow macaroni instead on the fancier twisted pasta the magazine recommended. I mixed everything together and poured it into an 11 x 8 dish to cook even though a 13 x 9 was suggested. I could not see what the difference would be.

It turns out to be important…very important. The cheese bubbled up and over the sides of the pan. My cooking rack and bottom over my oven ended up with a nice, cheesy coating by the time cooking was complete. I opened the oven door to a face full of smoke and the sight of hot deliciousness in front of me. I pulled out my circular pizza pan to set the cheese-covered dish on and marveled at my creation.

My 11 x 8 pan held homemade macaroni and cheese. The cheese sauce still bubbled under a crisp layer of Swiss and Cheddar cheese sprinkled over top. The top mad a slight crunching sound as I broke it to spoon up a serving onto a place. It was wonderful. The macaroni interlocked itself into a nice pile. The Sauce was warm and had a more natural taste than any powdered creation from a blue box. The flavor even held up the next day. Leftovers were just as good. The final test was freezing the final few servings, which will be reported on at a later date.

I just need to find a new dish to attempt now.


  1. OMG! That looks so darn yummy. I love it when the cheese gets nice and 'crunchy' on top. You are quite the chef!

  2. I don't know about a library of books, but their is definitely a shelving unit of cookbooks. I love to collect them. Judging by the delicious looks of this dish, I am glad it was a hit. You left out one simple ingredient though......two nicely sized containers full of yumminess for your co-workers.