from Laurie Burrows Grad*
Wow, Memorial Day Weekend is here, a perfect time to serve a dish that no one can resist…
Did you know Thomas Jefferson served macaroni and cheese in the White House in 1802? But, it was not until the late 1930’s that Kraft Foods introduced a macaroni and cheese dinner, which became an instant hit; it is so All-American.
Ilove to serve individual sizes of mac ‘n cheese to my grandchildren so they don’t get overwhelmed or defeated by too much food on their plates. Adults love to top the dish with breadcrumbs but Ifind that kids just like their mac n’ cheese plain. If you don’t have individual dishes, place the mixture in a buttered 3-quart baking dish.
To simplify the recipe for younger children, the grandmother can grate the cheese beforehand in a food processor or you can buy pre-grated cheese in bags but make sure to get the kind without too many preservatives.
cheese Grater – Microplane is recommended
10-12 1-cup custard cups or 3-quart baking dish
small heavy saucepan
large heavy saucepan
rimmed baking sheet
1 tablespoon salt
1 pound elbow macaroni or you can substitute the Italian cavatappi pasta (a short s-shaped pasta tube that resembles a small corkscrew)
2 cups half and half
1 ½ cups whole milk
¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
12 ounces white cheddar cheese, grated (2 cups grated)
8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated (1 cups grated)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
pinch of ground nutmeg
salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Lightly butter or coat 10-12 1-cup custard cups with nonstick cooking spray.
- Bring a large pot of water with the tablespoon of salt to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook until just al dente, about 5 minutes, or according to the package directions, stirring occasionally. Drain, run under cold water to stop the cooking, and then drain well again.
- In a small heavy saucepan, heat the half and half and milk, but do not allow it to boil.
- In a large heavy saucepan heat the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk constantly, for about 2 minutes, or until the flour is absorbed into the butter.
- Gradually add the half and half and hot milk, while whisking constantly, until the white sauce is thickened and smooth, about 3 more minutes.
- Remove from the heat, add the cheddar and jack cheese, season with the mustard, nutmeg, salt and pepper and stir until the cheese melts into the sauce. Toss in the drained macaroni and stir to combine the pasta with the sauce.
- Ladle the mixture into the prepared baking dishes, sprinkle the tops with the Parmesan cheese, place the dishes on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until bubbling and golden.
- Allow to stand for 5 minutes, and then serve hot.
- A topping of 2 cups panko Japanese bread crumbs and 2 ounces of melted butter can be sprinkled on top before baking.
- Cheese can be varied to taste: Extra-sharp cheddar, Gruyère, Fontina, mozzarella, Sonoma pepper jack cheese.
- Ham, prosciutto, bacon and other ingredients can be added if desired.
* Laurie Burrows Grad is a cookbook author, television chef, food journalist, and activist/fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association. Her cookbooks include Make It Easy in the Kitchen; Make It Easy Entertaining; Make It Easy, Make It Light; and Entertaining Light & Easy. On a personal note, she is the enthusiastic babysitter for her ten-year-old grandson Lucas and his six-year old sister, Georgia.