macaroni and cheese (finally!)

Posted: March 5th, 2015

macaroni and cheese

Macaroni and cheese and I have a very long history together, so let me give you a short summary.

When I was growing up I LOVED the boxed stuff.  So much so that as a little kid, when my grandmother made homemade macaroni and cheese for me, I was disappointed that it was not the box stuff.  When I got older, boxed macaroni and cheese was something I would make for myself if, say, the rest of my family was at my brothers’ baseball game and I hadn’t wanted to go.

Fast forward to college, where I started noticing this certain type of macaroni and cheese in all kinds of restaurants.  It was creamy and cheesy, but with a texture I couldn’t quite pinpoint.  I can tell you now that it is custard-like, because I know what goes into it, but at the time I couldn’t figure it out.  I loved this macaroni and cheese though.

And because I was in college and had yet to actually learn about cooking, I thought that perhaps the macaroni and cheese was like this because it was homemade.  So I made some homemade macaroni and cheese.  I made a bechemel sauce and melted cheese into it and poured it over macaroni and baked it in the oven, and it came out like any old macaroni and cheese.  Good, but not what I had been hoping for.

I made macaroni and cheese a couple of times after that, but for the most part I gave up.  The macaroni and cheese that I love must be some kind of secret, because none of the google searches I did for various macaroni and cheese recipes led me to anything special.

macaroni and cheese

Then, a couple of months ago I was thinking about macaroni and cheese again, particularly how it relates to Southern cuisine, and for some reason I thought to type “southern macaroni and cheese” in the search bar.

And lo and behold, there it was.  The secret to making the macaroni and cheese that I love.  Eggs.

(And I felt completely not worth my weight as a food blogger and self-professed super taster for not being able to figure that one out.)

But that was it.  Eggs.  Eggs are what gives the cheese sauce a custard-like texture.  (And if I say curdled will it turn you off?  But it is…the texture is like delicious creamy cheese curdles and I don’t know a better way to describe it.  But hey, we’ve already learned this year that dairy curdles as part of your meal can be absolutely wonderful.)

I’ve tried over the past couple of months to get this recipe exactly how I wanted it.  You have to have the perfect sauce to egg to cheese to noodle ratio.  It took me awhile, but I think I’ve finally found it.  And I’m so glad I can share it with you.

macaroni and cheese

macaroni and cheese

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Yield: Serves 10-12

To me, this is the macaroni and cheese of down home southern cooking, and it is my favorite. I realize the egg addition might not be for some people, and that is fine. Just make it without adding the egg. But if you've never had macaroni and cheese with egg added before, I hope you will try it. It gives the macaroni and cheese such a unique and comforting texture. One other note--please use freshly grated cheese. The stuff that comes pre-grated does not melt nearly as nicely.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. elbow macaroni
  • Kosher salt
  • Olive oil or vegetable oil (for drizzling)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups milk, slightly warmed
  • 2 eggs
  • 16 oz. extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 8 oz. Gruyere, grated (or another 8 oz. of Cheddar)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the macaroni. Cook according to package directions, usually about 6-8 minutes. Drain, toss with a bit of oil to keep the pasta from sticking, and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Slowly begin adding the milk, a couple of tablespoons at a time, stirring constantly. Once a thick sauce seems to be forming, you can add the milk in larger batches, continuing to stir. Once all the milk has been added, continue cooking and stirring until the sauce has thickened slightly. Turn the heat down to low.
  4. Crack your eggs into a small bowl, and whisk to scramble slightly. Use a ladle or cup measure to scoop out about 1/2 a cup of the warm sauce and slowly add it to the egg, drop by drop, whisking constantly, until the egg has gently been brought up to the temperature of the sauce. Then pour the egg mixture into the sauce and stir to combine.
  5. Stir in the cheese, a pinch of salt and pepper, and a small pinch of nutmeg. Add the macaroni and stir until all the noodles are coated with the cheese sauce.
  6. Pour the macaroni into a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is beginning to turn golden brown in spots. Serve warm.

Notes

adapted very slightly from Ina Garten

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a month of meals {february 2015}

Posted: March 2nd, 2015

a month of meals: february 2015

(I started doing these posts about 2 years ago, but never loved my format.  So finally I decided to do what I would be interested in seeing if I was reading these posts–just a straightforward list of my month of meals.  I hope you might find it interesting, and I especially hope it might give you some inspiration for your weekly dinners.)

(Past months: January 2015) Read more »

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chocolate chip pancakes {updated}

Posted: February 25th, 2015

chocolate chip pancakes

I mentioned last month that one of my goals is to bring back an old recipe from this site with updated pictures and sometimes an updated recipe every month.  So here we are, the last days of February, squeezing these chocolate chip pancakes in.  (Do I really have to link to the old post? Please tell me no.)

Can I be honest about something?  Usually January is my least favorite month of the year (aside from those first couple of days when the year is shiny and new), but February has been a doozy this year and I am more than happy to say goodbye to it and move on to March with warmer weather and daylight savings time. (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! my excitement for daylight savings time could go on forever).  Although we ARE apparently having a snowstorm today, so that’s a bit of fun winter excitement (I know so many people are sick of snow at this point.  But y’all.  We get it maybe once a year…as evidenced by the fact that I just said “y’all.”) Read more »

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roasted carrots and parsnips

Posted: February 23rd, 2015

roasted carrots and parsnips

So Evelyn’s doing pretty good with this whole baby led weaning thing.  Well, I say she’s doing good in that food is pretty consistently going to her mouth at least a couple of times before she gets sick of being in her high chair and some bites are actually making it in to her stomach.  (But that’s another post for another time…I’ll have a bit more information on her first month of eating food here in a couple of weeks.) Read more »

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chocolate caramel mousse

Posted: February 17th, 2015

chocolate caramel mousse

Confession: I grew up thinking that I absolutely hated caramel.  Caramel was just those little chewy candies that get stuck in your teeth.  I was not a fan in any shape form or fashion.  I wasn’t even the biggest fan of it in candy bars, even when it was paired with chocolate.  It was acceptable then, but given the choice between a piece of candy containing caramel and a piece of candy that did not…well, have I not made my choice obvious already? Read more »

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