if you can’t stand the heat

The boyfriend had a craving for mac and cheese. Although two young people still at least two weeks away from a paycheck should have gravitated toward the Kraft Blue Box, or at *least* entertained the idea of whipping up a bunny box of Annie’s, we threw caution (and 7 dollars worth of cheese) to the wind.

So we traded off standing in the sweltering kitchen, with two burners a’burning and one oven a’roasting-the-eff-out-of-our-entire-apartment.

Please note that my only square of countertop is just about as wide as my boyfriend’s hand. Tragic.

So three grocery stores, 6 pounds of sweat, and 15 minutes spent fretting over a roux, we had this.

“This is probably the best I’ve ever had,” and I quote.

Crackaroni and Cheese

from Smitten Kitchen (adapted from Martha Stewart)

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for casserole
6 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to l/2-inch pieces
5 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more for water
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar cheese
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyère or 1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 pound elbow macaroni

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place the bread in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour the melted butter into the bowl with the bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside.

2. Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Melt the remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add the flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.

3. While whisking, slowly pour in the hot milk a little at a time to keep mixture smooth. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick, 8 to 12 minutes.

4. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar cheese, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyère (or 1 cup Pecorino Romano); set the cheese sauce aside.

5. Cover a large pot of salted water, and bring to a boil. Cook the macaroni until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir the macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.

6. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup Gruyère (or 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano), and the breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes (though we needed a bit more time to get it brown, but your oven may vary). Transfer the dish to a wire rack for 5 minutes; serve.

Jessica’s Alterations

-Halved the recipe. Still plenty to be had.

– Ripped up old french bread rather than wasting money on a gummy loaf of white bread

– Used whole wheat flour instead of white. Perhaps led to the “Will this ever thicken?” dilemma, and definitely left an interesting texture! But otherwise, acceptable substitute.

– Skipped nutmeg and cayenne, because we are poor.

– Used bowtie pasta, because it’s prettier!

– Cooked it all up in a round cake pan, cause we don’t have a casserole dish.

– Stuck it under a broiler for <5 minutes, for the brown and toasty factor.

Operation mac and cheese? Success. I love Smitten Kitchen

But how will we reheat it without a microwave?


2 Comments to “if you can’t stand the heat”

  1. On our menu tonight is mac and cheese. This looks great. I think I’m going to make this kind. Thanks!

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