M is for Macaroni & Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is, for me, the ultimate comfort food.

mac cheese close up

I’ve been loving the  upscale-homestyle cooking trend of the past several years, where every other restaurant chef has a version of macaroni and cheese on the menu. They’re all delicious, some very creative, but really, I can do without truffle oil and exotic cheeses.

I’m happy with just the basics – elbow macaroni (or, okay, cavatappi ;-p) mixed with a sauce of good cheddar cheese, topped with crunchy bread crumbs, and baked until bubbling.

Everyone has a favorite recipe;  I’m always tinkering with mine to make sure there’s enough “sauciness” and it doesn’t dry out while baking, but also not too soupy.

This is a pretty good “base” recipe – I add a pinch of dry mustard to the sauce, and a little more paprika to the toasted bread crumbs.

basic mac cheese fannie farmer mac And this is the classic from Fannie Farmer – this also works well, although I never use cream — just add more milk and cheese.

It takes some time to get it just right. And the results are worth the time.

But sometimes I just don’t have the time…or the energy….or the ingredients….

In that sort of emergency situation,  I confess:  I will resort to Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese.

KraftI was introduced to Kraft in college, where it turned out to be a delicious way of soaking up all the beer and cocktails from a night of partying (ah, the resilience of youth!)

But even though those days of yore and cocktails are long past…still, whenever I’m feeling maybe a little sick, or really tired, and I want something satisfying to eat but I don’t want to cook – well, it’s just so dang easy to whip up a pot!

Of course, it’s nothing like REAL macaroni and cheese, and it’s frightening to contemplate what makes that cheese powder glow such a neon orange. But it’s incredibly tasty (thanks to the scientists at the Kraft labs ;-p)

broccoli      broccoli mac

And hey, if I add a handful of broccoli florets, it’s practically healthy! 😀

How about you? Do you have a favorite macaroni & cheese recipe?