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02/06/2020

~ Better than Store-Bought Stovetop Mac & Cheese ~

IMG_8993In my food world, three meals require a side of orange-and-cheddary creamy-dreamy macaroni-and-cheese:  meatloaf, fish sticks, and, chili dogs.  There's more.  If you're looking for the perfect side-dish to turn Buffalo chicken wings into dinner, set your sights on mac and cheese. When I was growing up, when we sat down to eat meatloaf, fish sticks or chili dogs, my mom indulged my brother and I in a side-serving of mac and cheese.  Interestingly, she didn't buy the stuff in the blue box.  She refused.  She made her own copycat version of it on the stovetop.  It was quick-to-make and fabulous -- it's also the same retro recipe I used to indulge my kids.     

IMG_8998Do I add any secret ingredients to my stovetop mac & cheese?

IMG_8938If you consider cheddar cheese powder a secret ingredient, then, yes, I suppose I do.  I discovered it while meandering around a downtown street fair.  I stopped at a vendor selling popcorn.  An employee happened to be stirring a powdery orange substance into some melted butter. The container read:  dried yellow cheddar cheese powder.  Minus the spices, it is the main ingredient in the foil envelope contained in boxed macaroni and cheese mixes. Shortly afterward, I ordered some via a catalog source.  Nowadays I purchase it on Amazon.com.  If you don't have it or don't want to use it, worry not.  Mom didn't and her mac and cheese was wonderful.

IMG_8915For the macaroni:

16 ounces elbow macaroni or medium shells pasta

8  tablespoons salted butter

1  teaspoon garlic powder

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes

IMG_8918~Step 1. Thin-slice or cube the butter and set aside.

IMG_8912 IMG_8912 IMG_8912 IMG_8912 IMG_8929 IMG_8929 IMG_8929 IMG_8929~Step 2.  In a wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot bring 3 quarts of water to a boil over high heat and add 1 tablespoon sea salt.  Add macaroni, give water a stir, and cook until al dente, 7-8 minutes. Drain macaroni into a colander and immediately return them to the hot stockpot on the still warm stovetop.  Add the butter, garlic powder, salt and red pepper flakes.  Stir until the butter melts and spices are incorporated throughout the macaroni.  Cover the pot and briefly set aside.

IMG_8941For the cheddar cheese sauce:

4  tablespoons each: salted butter and all-purpose flour

2  tablespoons cheddar cheese powder (optional)

2  teaspoons dry mustard

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/4  teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 1/4  cups milk (plus 1/4-1/2 cup, if necessary)

8  ounces shredded sharp yellow cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)

IMG_8945IMG_8945IMG_8945IMG_8945IMG_8945IMG_8945IMG_8945IMG_8945IMG_8945~Step 1:  In a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan, melt butter over low heat.  Add the flour, cheddar cheese powder, dry mustard, salt and cayenne pepper. Whisk until flour mix has been incorporated into the butter and a thick, pasty mixture has formed.  When mixture begins to foam, slowly, in a thin stream, add the milk, whisking the entire time to work out any lumps. Increase heat to medium and bring to a gentle simmer, whisking constantly, then continue to simmer for 1-1 1/2 minutes, or until nicely-thickened and silky smooth.  If at any time the mixture seems thicker than you'd like, whisk in some additional milk until desired consistency is reached.

IMG_8972 IMG_8972 IMG_8972~ Step 3.  Turn the heat off.  Add the grated cheddar.  Using a large spoon, stir until the cheese has melted and a glorious cheese sauce has formed, about 1 minute.  Fold the cheese sauce into the still warm macaroni.

Serve ASAP, &, reheat leftovers gently in the microwave:

IMG_9005Better than Store-Bought Stovetop Mac & Cheese:  Recipe yields 3 cups cheese /12 cups macaroni and cheese./8-12 servings.

Special Equipment List: 4-quart stockpot w/lid; colander; cutting board; chef's knife; hand-held box grater (optional); 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides (a deep, wide-bottomed skillet); whisk; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3c70171200bCook's Note: Macaroni and cheese is near the top of the American favorite food list.  This ooey-gooey irresistable mix of unpretentious pasta and cheese has earned a beloved place on tables ranging from grandmothers kitchens to college dorms to gourmet restaurants.  We serve this baked version year round, indoors or out, at all sorts of gatherings, holidays and celebrations:  ~ Creamy Baked Five-Cheese Baked Macaroni and Cheese ~

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

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