Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mac + Cheese Experiment Part 1: Mom's Recipe

I don't always give Mom Muse enough credit. She fed a family of 8 for years on limited means and without falling back on take-out or McD's. And some of us even got chubby on her cooking.

Revisiting the mac + cheese of my childhood seemed like a logical starting place for this experiment. So, on Saturday, the muses gathered for left over pies, favorite movies, and relaxation. And of course, I received a lesson on Mom Muse's idiosyncratic mac + cheese, which we made together to feed the crowd.

Mac + cheese is usually made by creating either a bechamel sauce to which cheese is added or by making a custard with the addition of eggs. My mom's recipe uses neither of these methods. And it doesn't have any kind of topping. Phineas was there to catch it on his iphone (not great quality, sorry). Here goes:

Grate 1lb cheddar cheese and cut 1lb velveeta into 1/2" cubes, while you cook 2lb of elbow macaroni.

Drain macaroni, and mix it with 2 small cans of tomato sauce. Then fill the cans with milk and add it in, too.
Next, layer the macaroni with the cheese in a deep casserole dish or dutch oven. Give it a stir to make sure the cheese is pretty evenly distributed.

Finally, take a peek in a corner of the casserole dish to see how much milk there is. The milk should come up about 2/3 of the side of the macaroni. We added a cup or so more milk at this point. Pat down the top of the casserole and put it in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes - until golden and crispy on top and hot throughout.

The beauty of this dish is that it is simple to make and hearty to eat. It comes out having a very creamy and cheesy bottom layer and a crunchy, less gooey top layer. My mom explained that this satisfied both the kids (creamy/cheesy) and the adults (crispy/less gooey) in the family. She added, however, that everyone loved the gooey pockets of cheese created by the chunks of velveeta. Genius! Like I said, I don't always give my mom enough credit.

Final thoughts: Although I will always love my mom's mac + cheese, I don't think this will be my go-to recipe. I just don't see myself eager to make a mac + cheese with velveeta. Sure it melts well, but it lacks character. Plus, I believe I am healthier for limiting processed foods in my diet. If I am going to indulge in mac + cheese, I want a dish that is a bit more gussied up than mom's week night stand-by. (Although, I will never turn down a dinner invitation at my parents' when mom is making hers!)

Next up: I'm sifting through a slew of recipes and will have another take on mac + cheese next week.

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