Happy 2015! I was so ready to see the old year go, and I have high hopes for this new one.
To celebrate, how about a warm dish of comfort—homemade macaroni and cheese! I know for those of you with weight-loss resolutions this might not be the recipe to start off the year. For me, when the cold January winds are blowing and the glow of the holidays starts to fade, I want comfort food to warm my winter meals.
The great thing about mac and cheese is the flexibility of the recipe. Pretty much any melting cheese and seasonings will work. Just follow your taste buds. I made this one with Gruyere and extra-sharp cheddar, but in the past I've used Fontina, provolone, and
jack. This one also has dried English mustard and a touch of cayenne pepper,
but sometimes I add a little nutmeg, too. I recently saw a TV chef add cooked
kale to a mac and cheese, and I plan to try adding some cooked spinach to my
next one. Ham, bacon, and grilled chicken also make great additions. Once you
have the basic recipe, you can play around with it however you like.
Mac and cheese is also a great make-ahead dish. Just pop it into the refrigerator or freezer, and then bake it when you’re ready.
New Year Mac and Cheese
Serves 6 to 8 people
1 pound elbow macaroni
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
1 quart whole milk
3 cups grated Gruyere cheese
3 cups grated extra-sharp cheddar
1 to 2 teaspoons ground English mustard, to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish or a 3-quart casserole with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add some salt to the water (enough so it tastes like the sea), add the macaroni, and cook until just done—tender but still a bit firm. Drain and set aside.
Using the same pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk. Once the flour-butter mixture is combined with the milk, switch to a spoon and stir until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheeses until melted and combined. Stir in the flavorings and then the cooked macaroni. Mix until well combined.
Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until bubbly and browned on top.
To make ahead, cover the dish of macaroni and cheese before baking and place into the refrigerator of freezer. When ready to bake, remove the dish and place it into the preheated oven. Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until browned and bubbly. (If the mixture is frozen, cover with foil for the first 30 minutes of baking, and then remove to brown.)