Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Mac and Cheese

In keeping with the holiday entertaining idea around here I've got another one that can feed an army or scaled down to feed just two as a weeknight side dish.  There's nothing more comforting than a heaping portion of hearty noodles and a thick, delicious cream sauce. With a pinch of chili powder and ground mustard there's a few surprises in each bite that leave your palate craving just a little bit more.

For an army....
  •  3/4 lb elbow macaroni, cooked to just shy of al dente
  • 4 tbsp butter + 2tbsp sliced thin for the top
  • 3 tbsp flour 
  • 3 c milk (1% was just fine for me!)
  • 1 c broth (chicken or vegetable) ** you may not need all of this.
  • 1.5 tsp ground mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 10 oz cheddar, shredded and separated (about 2.5 cups) 
  • 1/3 c italian seasoned breadcrumbs
For two
  • 1/4 lb elbow macaroni, cooked to just shy of al dente
  • 1 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp sliced thin for the top
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 c milk
  • 1/4 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • ~1 + 1/4 c shredded cheddar
  • 2-4 tbsp italian seasoned breadcrumbs
While you're boiling your noodles...
In a sauce pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter (be sure to reserve the extra amount for the topping!). Once melted whisk in the flour. Cook 1-2 minutes until bubbly. Slowly whisk in the milk and reduce heat to medium. Stirring occasionally, allow the mixture to come to a light bubble and thicken. (The small batch should take just a few minutes, the larger batch can take up to 6-7 minutes). When the mixture thickens, reduce head to medium low and whisk in the cheese--reserve 1/2 c for the large portion and 1/4 c for the small portion. When the cheese is melted, season with the mustard, chili powder, salt and garlic. 

Add the noodles to the cheese sauce until well coated. Pour the macaroni mixture into a casserole dish (3 qt size for the large, or ramekins for the small). Sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese, then the bread crumbs, and place a few thin slices of butter on top. 

For the large size, bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes until bubby and golden brown on top. 

For the small size, bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes until bubby and golden brown on top. My ramekins were pretty full so I set them on a baking sheet to catch any spills of bubbling cheese. 

Enjoy as a weeknight meal, along side a holiday roast or treat your guests to these mini versions along side fried chicken or grilled steaks.

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