Saturday, February 22, 2014

Eats: Macaroni And Cheese

Hello! I know that many of you grew up with macaroni and cheese, but when I was a kid it was rarely served at our house. There were only two occasions when it appeared: at Christmas Eve, to appease the kids who didn't like the main course (French-Canadian style meat pie), and whenever my parents' old friends, Shirley and Jerry, came to visit. 

The Christmas Eve macaroni and cheese was sometimes homemade, but other times it came out of a box. Didn't matter to me either way, as I was just happy to have an alternative to the dreaded meat pie. 

Shirley and Jerry (and their two kids) came to visit maybe 2-3 times a year, with one of those times always being New Years' Eve. Marathon bridge games (Mom and Shirley vs. Dad and Jerry) were the order of the day (and night), but Shirley always made time to cook up a huge pot of macaroni and cheese for us kids. We loved it. I never got her recipe, and she has since died. I asked my mom once about Shirley's macaroni and cheese, and she replied it was made with Velveeta. 

I was a bit disappointed in that, as I don't really care for Velveeta. I did occasionally use boxed macaroni and cheese as a cheap eat in college, but as a full-fledged adult with more discretionary income, I prefer real cheese. 

Thus, the search was on for a good macaroni and cheese recipe. I tried a few here and there - Amish-style (didn't care for its taste because of the seasonings used) and one that was cooked in its entirety in the slow cooker - yes, it started with uncooked macaroni. Very easy, but there was nothing special about it. Other recipes came and went as well.

Four years ago I tried another recipe, this time one clipped from a community cookbook. "Easy and very good!" I wrote next to the recipe. My recipe search was over. 

Now, I know that macaroni and cheese is fattening, so I only make it once or twice a year. (My husband and daughter don't like it, so when I make it, I end up with several servings just for me.) However, I had a lengthy snow shoveling session one day earlier this week, and the next day heaved snow off of a flat-roofed section of our house (that was actually sort of fun). So, I figured the extra calories would be okay. And they were worth it indeed:

Yum! If you want to see if it's "easy and very good", as I had proclaimed when I first tried it, here's the recipe:

Macaroni and Cheese

8 ounces macaroni, cooked and drained (I used whole wheat)
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt(I omit, as there's salt in the cheese)
1 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 375. In a greased 1 1/2 quart shallow baking dish, alternate cooked macaroni with 1 1/2 cups of the cheese in two layers. Set aside. Melt butter in saucepan. Blend in flour. Gradually stir in milk, salt (if using) and pepper. Bring to a boil. Stir one minute. Pour over macaroni and cheese. Top with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted. 

The only real "work" in the recipe is the making of the white sauce, but it goes together pretty fast, and I've never had any trouble with it. It may seem a bit thin when it's done, but thickens up nicely during the oven baking time. 


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