Saturday, January 07, 2006

new ways with macaroni & cheese

One of the "most emailed stories" in the NY Times this week was an article from this past Wednesday's food section, about a quest for the perfect macaroni cheese, one made neither from a box nor with a flour-water white sauce. Like the writer of the article, macaroni and cheese was not around much in my childhood household, either, so when I went away to school and discovered the Kraft stuff, I was hooked. I don't like the Kraft box version much anymore, especially since I learned about how many weird chemicals and preservatives are in it, but it's good to know there are organic box varieties out there that are even better and not much more than $1.50 each (The article also does an extensive review of those, and I can vouch for Annie's being tasty).

But I was most intrigued by the author's search for the perfect recipe, and she included two, one that professed to be creamy, the other crusty. I could hardly see how the creamy recipe would not also be crusty, since it involved uncovered baking time, which is guaranteed to put a crunchy layer of cheese over the top. What I was really curious about was the fact that she baked the uncooked macaroni right there in the pasta, and that it also featured cottage cheese placed in a blender to remove its consistency.

I tried this one the other night, using all the high-fat ingredients required just so I could get the whole effect. Next time I'll try it with lowfat ingredients and see if it works. A colleague of mine made it with low-fat ingredients and commented that the final texture was "grainy." This was a little bit true of this recipe, but it didn't strike me as grainy in a bad way. The entire pound of sharp cheddar was delicious and decadent, it did have a crunchy crust, and the noodles perfectly absorbed all the creamy goodness of the cheeses. I would definitely try to make this again, but my next move will be to tackle the second NY Times recipe, for "crusty macaroni and cheese."

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

2 T. butter
1 cup cottage cheese (not lowfat)
2 cups milk (not skim)
1 tsp. dried mustard
Pinch cayenne
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 pound sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 pound elbow pasta, uncooked

Heat oven to 375. Using one tablespoon of the butter, grease a 9" round or square baking pan, or gratin dish. In a blender, puree cottage cheese, milk & spices. Set aside 1/4 cup grated cheddar. In a large bowl, mix pureed milk mixture with the rest of the cheddar cheese & uncooked pasta. Pour into pan, cover tightly with foil, and bake 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, uncover pan, stir gently, and scatter remaining cheese over all, dotting with another tablespoon of butter. Bake, this time uncovered, for another 30 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.


Mia Goddess said...

Hi Rachel! Did you think I could stay away from full fat mac and cheese??? Honey, please, I *will* be making this! Of course, I'll wait until I'm not "perfect" any'll happen. :)

Okay, a couple of things. I've been looking for your email address to send you the cranberry scone recipe, but I can't find it. You can email me at mia at runbox dot com and I'll get it to you.

Second, and this one is very important, I went to your profile to see if your email address was listed there, and I saw you had listed "anything by Zadie Smith" under favorite books. I am currently reading "On Beauty" for my book club, and I am HOOKED! I hadn't read White Teeth but I immediately went out and got it so it would be queued up for when I finish this one (book club is on the 13th). Anyway, I just found her, so I thought that was interesting.


Jeri said...

I tried the crusty recipe first. I couldn't bear to pay $6 a pound for American cheese that I'd have to grate myself when I had 2 lbs. of grated sharp cheddar at home, so I used all cheddar. It smelled divine while baking. It's a bit oily (and I couldn't even get a whole tablespoon of butter to stick to the sides of the pan!) but my husband pronounced the recipe a success. His comment: "You can pick it up and eat it with your fingers! That's good." When we recover, I'll try the creamy.

Rachel said...

The crusty one is even better!! You were right to pick that one... Updates to follow...