Ahhh, classic mac and cheese. I remember buying large boxes of EasyMac at Sam’s Club freshman year and living off that and 99 cent pizza (you could even get then for 49 cents on sale!). This baked mac and cheese knocks the pants of EasyMac any day.
I’m not discounting stove-top mac and cheese here, but the really good stuff is the baked mac and cheese. That thicker consistency with the browned bread crumbs on top is soooo much better than the more liquidy stove-top version. Don’t get me wrong, the stove-top version has it’s place; It’s easier and faster than going to all this trouble. But for a plate of comfort food that really hits home, this is the way to go.
Click through for the recipe and more pics.
This recipe comes almost directly from Alton Brown. I have made this a couple times before and always enjoyed it. I have changed it slightly, but the essence remains true to his style. Omit the onion or use less if you are not a fan. I’d go ahead and say err on the side of putting in too little onion if you are not sure. I add a bit of cayenne to it for some heat. It doesn’t so much make it spicy as add some depth to it. Use your favorite hot sauce if you don’t have cayenne around. Use any combination of cheddar cheeses you like. I’m a fan of the sharpest I can find, but I have used a combination of different cheddars in the past.
Also, as a final note, make sure you temper the egg well. Adding egg directly to a hot liquid will result in scrambled eggs. Tempering an egg into a hot liquid will result in a thickened liquid that can bake up stronger. In short: scrambled egg in mac&cheese = bad.
1/2 pound elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
3 cups milk
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely minced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon paprika
1 /2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 large egg
12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Cook the pasta according the the directions on the box for al dente. It’s OK if it is a little more firm than you would normally make it, remember you will be baking it surrounded by a cheesy liquid later, it’ll cook more.
- Melt 3 tbsps of unsalted butter in a small pot. Whisk in the 3 tbsps flour and 1 tbsp of mustard. Raise the heat to medium and keep whisking for five minutes. You are going for a roux here, so the butter and flour mixture needs to be just about to simmer, but not quite.
- Once the roux is prepared, slowly stir in the three cups of milk while whisking. Then add the onion, bay leaf, cayenne pepper and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.
- Temper in the egg. See Kyle’s technique post about how to do this.
- Stir in 3/4 of the cheese.
- Taste it! Adjust with salt and pepper and any other seasonings you want.
- Add the macaroni and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.
- In a medium saute pan, melt the butter. Toss in the bread crumbs to coat with butter. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs.
- Bake for 30 minutes. (If the top isn’t as golden and crusty as you like, move it to the top rack and broil for 30 seconds or until it looks good. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.