Thursday, March 15, 2012

Food on Thursdays: Macaroni and Cheese

We made more leftover morning oatmeal muffins again. We're addicted, it seems. Also, you'll notice our sad parsley plant growing in the pot next to the muffins. Last year at this time our parsley was thriving in preparation for Passover. This year, not so much.

Do you know who leaves for Vancouver is TWO DAYS? We do (sorry, Matt, not you). Alyce has been counting her sleeps all week long, I've been thinking about packing, but then not packing, and Shira has no idea whatsoever what an airplane is. But that's ok. Over the next couple of days we will get our things together, give kisses to Matt, and enjoy eight days with some good people and some good ocean. I can't wait to show Alyce the Pacific!

We are, it turns out, still a sick house. Shira is doing well but now Alyce has a terrible cough and is now using an inhaler for the next couple of weeks. She had problems with wheezing once before, so fingers crossed that this doesn't become a thing. In case you were wondering, her energy levels have not been affected. I repeat, she still has energy. But I didn't want to stray too far from home today regardless, so we spent another morning baking and cooking. Oh, baking and cooking, how I love you.

I might have a problem.

We made another batch of the leftover oatmeal muffins (this time with apples instead of chocolate chips, because I am a beacon of willpower) before turning our attention to our favourite household meal: macaroni and cheese. Now before you feel antsy about the butter and the cheese and the carbohydrates, just take a moment to remember that macaroni and cheese, if made not from a box*, is real food. Actual, delicious, tangible food that is good for you. Yes, it is high in milk fat, but let's not worry about that. Think instead about the fact that you can make this from a few ingredients in your pantry, your children will probably dream about it (mine do), and it's just really good.

I kid you not when I tell you that I make this almost once a week. Alyce does not eat much food, and while we don't cater our meals to her four-year-old preferences, I make this on a regular basis because I know that it gives her so many good things: whole wheat pasta, real cheese, real milk. And butter. I would wager that Alyce is probably made of 75% macaroni and cheese.

You can do a lot with this recipe. I make it a lot for friends (it is my usual meal to bring to a family with a new baby, or to someone who just needs it for their own medicinal purposes. I have tried adding vegetables, but that didn't work for us (not even cauliflower). I usually serve this with a big salad, with some oil and lemon (as per the Broccoli Rule). Other times we just fill up the whole plate with more mac and cheese. It freezes well, and so I usually portion out a few servings in the freezer.

*Boxed macaroni and cheese, I still love you. You just can't be the only macaroni and cheese in my life.

Macaroni and Cheese
Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine

1 lb whole wheat macaroni
8 tbsp unsalted butter
6 tbsp flour
1 tbsp grainy mustard
4 cups milk (whole milk is best, but I use skim all the time)
few sprigs fresh thyme (optional, but worth it)
bay leaf
3 cups old cheddar, or a mix of whatever cheese you like
Worcestershire Sauce
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Boil a pot of water, add a little salt and macaroni.

While that's cooking, melt butter over medium heat (I use my dutch oven for this so that once the whole thing is done I can just throw it right in the oven to bake). After the butter has melted and is starting to bubble, add a little salt (a pinch or two), and the flour. Stir the butter and flour together with a wooden spoon, and as soon as it's mixed, add the mustard. Keep mixing.

As soon as everything is combined, switch to a whisk and add the first cup of milk. You'll want to make sure that the flour mixture has dissolved before you add the rest of the milk, a little at a time. Once the milk is in you can lower the heat, add the bay leaf, and if you are using, the sprigs of thyme. Let this simmer together for 15 minutes, stirring every so often to make sure the sauce doesn't stick.

After 15 minutes, remove the bay and thyme (if you are using). Add the cheese and slowly mix together. Add the Worcestershire sauce (maybe two shakes-worth), a little pepper, stir, and then turn off the heat. Leaving the the heat on after the cheese has melted into to the sauce makes for a rubbery sauce. Martha taught me that. Thanks, Martha.

Once the macaroni is cooked, strain it and throw it in the cheese sauce. This is why I like my dutch oven--because then you just throw it all in the oven. If you're using a regular pot on the stove, then you'll need to oil an oven-safe dish and transfer the mac and cheese. Either way, cook for 20 minutes and you're done!

For those of you with kids who will (gasp) eat breadcrumbs, throw some fresh breadcrumbs on top before baking. And maybe some parmesan, too. I think it usually needs a bit more salt, but since I'm always cooking for little ones, I tend to just salt my own after it's been plated.

Go enjoy it. You deserve it.

No comments:

Post a Comment