Say Cheese

Behold.  The great American comfort food.  My frenemy (because I’m lactose-intolerant).

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That’s right.  Macaroni & cheese.  In case you were wondering why this looks kind of funky, it’s because I used the little bow-tie pasta, and these are made with vegetables (along with flour).  I saw them at the supermarket one time and decided to buy them, and 6 months later they’re finally seeing daylight/boiling water.

When I told Sam that I was officially going to veg out for 2.5 weeks, he immediately told me that I could start doing “trophy wife stuff,” which normally wouldn’t include cooking (because we’d have a housekeeper if I was trophy wife, duh).  So I did tell him that I’d make dinner every night, and today I didn’t feel like going to the grocery store.

What do you do with boxes of pasta, 8 oz. of garlic white cheddar cheese in block form, and butter?  Obviously make magic.

If you’re looking for a quick easy one, I’m not sure this is it, because you can’t just melt the cheese down and dump in the pasta.  This one uses a bechamel base, which means lots of whisking/upper arm movement.  Here’s the recipe (using basic guidelines from Homeroom’s Macaroni & Cheese):

1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
4 tbsp butter (I usually keep a few of those tiny half-sticks handy)
8 oz grated cheese (I love garlic white cheddar, but you really can use any combination of smooth-melting cheese.  Also, if you don’t want it to be TOO cheesy, you can reduce the amount a bit to thin out the sauce)
About 2 oz grated pecorino romano for a really cool taste (totally optional)
1 lb pasta of your choice

Boil a huge pot of salted water (according to Alton Brown, it should taste like the ocean).  Start by heating up the milk in a saucepan until hot (make sure it doesn’t boil).  While that’s going, melt the butter over medium heat and whisk in the flour.  Keep whisking (trust me) for about 3 minutes, until it turns a nice golden brown and doesn’t smell like raw flour anymore.  Add the hot milk, and keep whisking for about 3 minutes.  It should smooth out and you’ll know you’ve cooked and stirred it long enough when it coats the back of a spoon (it’ll be pretty thick).  Salt to taste, but keep in mind that once you add the cheese, depending on which kind(s) you use, it can get pretty salty.

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This is my upper arm workout for the day.

Cook the pasta until about 1 minute before it’s al dente, unless you want to skip the oven part.  Just before it’s ready, dump in the grated cheese (actually grating a block of cheese is better than pre-packaged cheese, because it melts a lot more nicely), stir until smooth, and then stir in the pasta (I’m assuming you already know to drain and rinse the pasta first).

ImageI could probably eat this whole thing right now.

Pop it in an oven-safe dish (or, if you’re really lazy, just cook the ingredients in a Dutch oven so you can put it right into the oven), sprinkle on some panko if you like the crunchy top, and bake at 300 for about 20 minutes, or whenever you can’t take the hunger pangs any longer.

Eat.  And then pat yourself on the back, because you just made mac & cheese that did not involve powdered cheese.

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