Martha Stewart's Perfect Mac and Cheese
I want to start the cooking page off strong, with one of my go-to recipes when I want to impress, Martha's Perfect Mac and Cheese. Now, Martha Stewart is clearly an evil genius and that is totally OK with me as long as she's aiding and abetting my addiction to Mac and Cheese.
As a kid, I was into the Kraft stuff, but it wasn't really until I lived close to the restaurant DuMont in Brooklyn that I really became obsessed with macaroni and cheese, and started considering the nuances of it, trying to recreate that recipe. Martha gives us the most important essential- a good Mornay sauce. You can replace the cheeses to tweak the flavor if you like, I like to mix some yellow cheddar in with the white and also use both Gruyere and Pecorino Romano. If you're not using Gruyere, don't bother. If my cheese didn't age in a MFN cave, I'm not making mac and cheese.
The easiest thing to change is the noodle. It should have a shape that holds a lot of sauce, I like rotini personally, macaroni is clearly the standard, sometimes there's a weird hybrid of the two that is ideal.
Now, vegetarians, cover your ears/eyes. The last thing that takes this to the next level is bacon. I like to cook some first, and then replace some or all of the butter in the sauce with the bacon fat. 'Cause I'm southern like that, and it tastes amazing. Then I crumble up the bacon and mix it into the noodles with the sauce.
My Dad liked it so much he asked for the recipe. That is completely unheard of.
The amazing recipe in question
Perfect Macaroni and Cheese
You can easily divide this recipe in half; use a 1 1/2-quart casserole dish if you do.
6 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
5 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyere or 1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated pecorino Romano
1 pound elbow macaroni
1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place bread pieces in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour butter into the bowl with bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.
2. Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.
3. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere or 1 cup pecorino Romano. Set cheese sauce aside.
4. Fill a large saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 fewer minutes than manufacturer's directions, until outside of pasta is cooked and inside is underdone. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.) Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.
5. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar and 1/2 cup Gruyere or 1/4 cup pecorino Romano; scatter breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes; serve.