Saturday, December 31, 2011

Peppery Mac & Cheese

This will probably be the only post that I ever write that includes a recipe---unless I'm reviewing a cookbook and the author is cool with me sharing one. My husband convinced me that this one is too good to keep to myself, so, if you don't like it, blame him.

My husband and in-laws are all picky eaters. My father-in-law is not very adventurous. For the first 50 years of his life, he referred to chicken as a vegetable. Fish were also vegetables. Apparently, waiters in Colorado think pork is a vegetable, but that's a totally different problem. Anyway, anything green or that isn't beef arouses suspicion with my father-in-law. However, he makes an exception for mac & cheese. My husband is a picky eater and a vegetarian. When I met him, he was on what I call "the potato chip diet." He subsisted primarily on starch and the occasional celery stalk  a roomy abandoned in the fridge after a batch of bloody marys. (Okay, grammar brains of the world, what's the proper plural of "bloody mary"?)

Everyone wanted to eat in last night, but nobody wanted to choose what to eat, so I chose my old standby: mac & cheese. Since I was at Whole Foods with my mother-in-law and sampled some champagne from Argentina, I felt free to experiment and this experiment turned out well. Please keep in mind that I'm an intuitive cook---I go by how the food looks rather than measurements. If you don't know how to cook, get someone who does to help you with this recipe.

Peppery Mac & Cheese
Approximately 16 ounces of grated cheese including approximately 4 oz. pepper jack, 8 oz. cheddar and 4 oz. bleue (any kind will work as long as you can melt it into the sauce)
1/4 C flour
1 1/2 C milk (preferably the real thing, but skim will work)
16 oz penne, rigatoni or elbow macaroni
salt and pepper, to taste
1 stick butter (1/2 cup or 8 tablespoons), preferably unsalted
Potato chips (enough to sprinkle over the top of the casserole)
French Onions (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Cook the pasta on stovetop as directed on the package
  3. Melt the butter over medium-low heat in a medium sauce pan
  4. Whisk flour into the butter a little bit at a time until thickened
  5. Thin the butter/flour mixture (aka roux) to a thick saucy consistency--add more flour or milk, if desired. It should be thick, but if it flops around the pan rather than being stirr-able, you need more milk.
  6. Reduce heat and add the grated cheese.
  7. Stir until all cheese is melted.
  8. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Drain pasta.
  10. Toss pasta with cheese sauce and pour into a casserole dish.
  11. Crush potato chips and sprinkle over the top to form a thin and crunchy crust. Add French Onions if desired and married (versus dating and still in need of fresh breath.)
  12. Shove casserole into oven an bake for 20 minutes. Be prepared to guard the oven until the food is done. Friends and relatives can be sneaky!
  13. Serve while hot.
If you have left-overs, this dish reheats well in the microwave. If you live with men, they will tell you it also tastes good without reheating, but I disagree.

By the way, I love all my followers and readers, but if you add a comment complaining that these instructions aren't specific enough and I've somehow ruined your evening/life/kitchen, etc. by sharing with you, all the love in the world, but I'm deleting the comment.