As I mentioned, I’ve just come home from being out of town for a week of family time. As it is, grocery shopping is not one of my favorite activities. But there’s something about coming home from a trip that makes it even more of a struggle. Thursday I avoided it entirely by sending the fiancee to pick up burritos for dinner. Friday I kept putting it off until finally it was 5:30 and if we wanted to eat, I needed to go. But of course, by then there wasn’t time to make the pierogis I had planned. The solution? Macaroni and cheese.
I happen to think that macaroni and cheese with only one kind of cheese is vastly inferior to those that mix at least three kinds, preferably more. However, there’s something to be said for the simplicity of using just one cheese, not to mention the cost. So I would consider this macaroni and cheese, from Alton Brown’s recipe, to be the ultimate cheddar-only version. Although that’s not to say it went off without a hitch…
Seriously, Alton? I love a high cheese-to-pasta ratio as much as the next girl, but look at that! That’s not a casserole, that’s soup! Perhaps I should have reduced the sauce a little more. But no big deal, I just boiled up a few more handfuls of pasta.
The topping of mac and cheese is a serious issue of contention in our house. If it were up to me, it would be topped with a mix of cheese and wheat germ, and also baked in a large, shallow pan to maximize the crispy topping. If it were up to John, there would be nothing more than a light sprinkle of cheese. But the toasted panko bread crumbs were an excellent compromise.
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Time: Approx. 1 hour
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
3 cups milk
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 large egg
12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente. While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it’s free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.
Temper in the egg. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.
Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.