Saturday, January 8, 2011

Cheese drawer odds and ends Mac & Cheese

A loose recipe I make every so often when I have some good cheese on hand ....

1st. Boil and drain one pound of pasta to al dente, drain and set aside. (I tend to use penne or ziti, but if you have elbows on hand, that is fine too)

2nd. Make a roux - melt half a stick of butter in a large pot. Whisk in about a quarter cup flour. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it's a light brown with a light scent of toast.

3rd. Mix in about a pint of milk, stirring constantly as it comes up to temperature (the flour will thicken the liquid as it comes to a boil). Season with mustard (dry powder or a prepared dijon or brown would be best), a few tablespoons of sherry or white wine, paprika, garlic powder or finely minced garlic, onion powder, pepper (preferably white pepper), nutmeg.

4th. Mix in about a pound of cheese, shredded. In my last batch I think I used fontina, cheddar, parmesan and a little bit each of Parrano and swiss. Any "real" cheese (except those studded with apricots or jalapenos) will work. Items that say "velveeta" or "cheese product" just won't do. This is a GREAT way to use up any bits in your cheese drawer. Anything from asiago to ricotta to brie to dubliner .... your mac and cheese will be different each time, but for a mouse like me, always a success. Save a little of one type for the top. Mix the rest in, stirring until it is all melted.

5th. Mix the pasta into the milk/cheese mixture. Taste to make sure it is seasoned to your liking. If you want, add some chopped ham or turkey or chicken (cooked) at this point. You could also mix in any veggie that is not high water content - already roasted pepper or cooked and drained peas, for instance.

6th. Divide into casserole dishes. This will make two good size round casserole dishes, or one generous 13 x 9 plus a bit left over.

7th. Top with the reserved cheese you saved for the top, and if desired some buttered panko crumbs or bread crumbs or crushed ritz crackers.

8th. Refrigerate for later or pop into a 375 degree oven until bubbly.