Making a Mess of Mac and Cheese

Have you ever had that awesome culinary moment when you’re watching a cooking show and you start to think, “Boy, this looks good. I think I’m going to make this.” So you grab a pen and a scrap piece of paper you have lying around and write down the recipe, getting a little smug with your old school cooking know-how. (“This is so how they did it before the interwebs,” you snicker to yourself… thinking of all those housewives jotting down notes as Julia Child drinks fake wine and whisks like a mad woman.) And, you realize that you have all the ingredients so you walk over to the kitchen after the show is over and you start making that recipe for dinner. It’s going to be awesome.

Even though you know that the program was taped or a rerun, you don’t even think about looking over the recipe a second time. Bah, with the cookbook! Double bah, to checking your measurements online.

To you, dear stupid fool, I say: DON’T FORGET THE F-ING FLOUR!

To my credit, I wrote down the flour in the ingredient list. I just didn’t write down where to put it in the recipe. What I had was still mac and cheese, just not the stable, non-drippy mac and cheese the hosts were inhaling with delight at the end of the episode. So, here’s the recipe from Cook’s Country TV (reg required) as it should be… not as I made it… (They’re the people from America’s Test Kitchen… which if we’re getting into it, I prefer the test version to the fake folksiness of the country show… but the butter usage on the country-fried version is really divine.)

Macaroni and Cheese with Tomatoes

Serves 8-10

  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 lb elbow macaroni (see note)
  • 1 (28-oz) can petite diced tomatoes
  • 6 T unsalted butter
  • ½  C all-purpose flour
  • ¼ t cayenne pepper
  • 4 C half-and-half
  • 1 C low-sodium chicken broth (or use veg)
  • 4 C shredded mild cheddar cheese
  • 2 C shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Adjust oven to middle position and heat oven to 400°. Bring 4 qts water to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Stir in 1 T salt and macaroni and cook until just al dente, about 6 minutes. (The show was very explicit about undercooking the macaroni so that it would absorb the tomato flavor in the next step.) Drain pasta and return to pot. Pour diced tomatoes with their juices over pasta and stir to coat. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until most of liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat until foaming. Stir in flour and cayenne and cook until golden, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in half-and-half and broth until smooth. Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Off heat, whisk in cheeses, 1 t salt, and 1 t pepper until cheeses melt. Pour sauce over macaroni and stir to combine.

Scrape mixture into 13×9″ baking dish set in rimmed baking sheet (a MUST unless you like melty cheese all over your oven) and bake until top begins to brown, 15-20 minutes. Let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Results

Well, beside the gigantic flour omission? Pretty good. Gooey, but good. Make sure you really whisk the sauce or you might tend toward a grainy texture on the cheese.

Macaroni and cheese

That’s why you need the baking sheet under that pan… oh, the mess!

I thought that this would be a big hit with Mr. Moo, but alas, the tomatoes freaked him out. Even after I picked through the mac and cheese, he gave me his super skeptical look and then politely asked, “Sandwich, please?”

I might try to make this one more time with the flour before I go back to my Velveeta shells and cheese+salsa = dinner routine. (Oh, yes, I did just say that… I LOVE it… I LOVE it… I LOVE it… )

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  1. #1 by emmateacup9 on 12.11.2012 - 5:37 pm

    Yum! Yum!

  2. #2 by Bam's Kitchen on 12.11.2012 - 6:32 pm

    Great minds think alike!

  3. #3 by kerna2 on 12.12.2012 - 7:28 am

    will definitely be trying this one. We’re always on the lookout for a great mac’n cheese recipe.

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