A Porch of My Own

A Porch of My Own

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Macaroni and Cheese

There is nothing more comforting than a big bowl of macaroni and cheese. It doesn't matter if the box kind is your favorite or if your mom made a special kind for you. It conjures up images of home and family and childhood. My grandmother, Mamaw, used to make a simple homemade version. (Photo is Mamaw and Larry) It was cooked elbow macaroni to which she added some milk that she had thickened with flour. She layered this with slices of cheddar cheese and cooked it in the oven until the cheese melted. We were not raised on the box kind and I continued to make it the way Mamaw did after I had my sons, Larry and John. When they were little there was a time that I was trying to stay at home with them and make money working from home. One of my ventures was child care. I had a little girl that I kept for a while and she wanted some macaroni and cheese. I proudly made the homemade kind Mamaw had always made. When I served it to her, she started screaming "this is not macaroni and cheese! I want REAL macaroni and cheese!" She was referring to the box kind, I later learned from her mother. So, sometimes the easy way is the best way, moms!
One of the best mac and cheeses I have ever had is at the Limestone Grill in Boerne, Texas. Fantastic and more of a grown-up recipe! I don't think they serve it anymore though.
I have tried several recipes from top TV chefs and personalities and have been disappointed. They were all dry. So my husband, Rick, and I put our heads together and came up with this recipe that is both grown-up (no Velveeta or Cheese Whiz!) and creamy, not dry. I think you will love it! However, you may not want to cook it for the kiddos. Those cheeses can get pricey! And, hey, if they like the box brand, who are we to argue!

Special Occasion Mac and Cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray sides and bottom of casserole dish.

Grate a combination of cheeses into a large bowl before you begin. You can substitute what cheeses you use but you have to use some that melt well or your dish will curdle and not be smooth and creamy. Don’t use cheddars, they will curdle!! I use these ones or some similar:
          1 ½ cups grated Asiago
          1 ½ cups grated Emmentaler swiss cheese (this is a brand at HEB; melts well)
          1 cup grated Fontina
          ½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano. (Don’t use the plain parmesan that is already grated. This will curdle sometimes.)
          1 round package (in the wooden container) Camembert cheese, cut into small pieces

Cook 1 pound of elbow macaroni. Don’t overcook, cook al dente. You can have this cooking as you are getting the pancetta and garlic ready.

Stack enough thinly sliced pieces of pancetta to equal about an inch of meat. Dice into small pieces. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in small sauté pan over medium heat. Add pancetta and cook until brown and crispy. Remove and drain on paper towels. Add 2 cloves chopped garlic to pan and cook until lightly browned. Remove and drain.

Add the cooked pasta to the large bowl with your grated cheeses. Add the pancetta and the garlic. Add 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme or crumbled dried thyme and ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper or mild red chili pepper . Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add 1 ¾ cans evaporated milk. You can add more if it looks like it needs it. Put the mixture into your prepared pan and cook about 10 minutes. Stir and add more milk if needed and add a little grated Parmigiano Reggiano to the top. Return to oven and cook another 5 to 7 minutes until heated throughout. Remove and let set 5 minutes for flavors to mingle.

1 comment: