Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Ultimate Macaroni & Cheese!

Now we all love macaroni and cheese, and I've done a recipe or two on macaroni and cheese in the past, but this has to be, by far, my favorite recipe for homemade macaroni and cheese. I've been making it for years, and it's always a crowd pleaser!

I made this special treat for my birthday, since it fell on Good Friday this year, and being the good Catholic boy that I am, was barred from eating meat that day. I also added a special addition to this version, just for my birthday!

This is a dish that will appeal more towards the adult crowd, but kids should love it just as well, and the leftovers are even better!


8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter plus more for dish
6 slices good white bread crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces
5 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
4 1/2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese (about 18 ounces)(I used a mix of Vermont White, and extra sharp cheddar cheese)
2 cups grated Gruyere cheese (about 8 ounces)

1 pound elbow macaroni
8 oz cooked lobster meat (imitation lobster meat is perfectly fine too!), torn into chunks (optional)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish (or two 1.5-quart casserole dishes); set aside. Place bread in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour butter into bowl with bread, and toss. Set 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, whisking, 1 minute. While whisking, slowly pour in hot milk. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.

Remove pan from heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups of the cheddar cheeses, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere.

Set cheese sauce aside while you prepare the macaroni.

Fill a large saucepan with water; bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 minutes less than manufacturer's directions, until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone. Transfer macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well.

Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce, and if using, gently fold in the lobster chunks. Because I would be serving this to my mother, as well, who suffers from a severe seafood allergy, I divided the macaroni and cheese in two halves, and only added the lobster to one half of the macaroni and cheese.

Pour mixture into prepared dish. I'm using two 1-1/2 qt baking dishes since I divided in half. Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheeses, 1/2 cup Gruyere or 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano, and breadcrumbs over top.

Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool 5 minutes.

Serve hot as a delicious lunch, first or main course or just whenever you're craving the ultimate in comfort food!

The leftovers are just as good and if you're looking for a unique twist on leftover macaroni and cheese, why not fry it!

Leftover macaroni and cheese, refrigerated at least overnight.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 egg beaten with 2 ounces water
1 cup panko bread crumbs
Oil for deep frying, preheated to 375 degrees

Cut refrigerated macaroni and cheese into slices or bite size pieces.
Season the flour with salt, pepper and cayenne.

Dredge each piece through the flour and gently tap off excess.

Dip in the egg wash and then coat with the bread crumbs.

Allow them to rest for 5 minutes so the crust can set. Very carefully drop into the oil and fry until golden brown.

Remove to a baking sheet fitted with a rack and rest for 2 minutes before serving.