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Friday, January 23, 2015

The Perfect Macaroni and Cheese

Over the years, macaroni and cheese or as many of you know it, mac n' cheese, has been my golden unicorn. In Sweet and Spicy Monkey language a Golden unicorn is something that I strive to accomplish yet it remains out of my reach.

I don't understand it, I can bake anything from apple pies to lemon meringue pies (I will share with you one day when I get in a pie mood) to making fudge, baking cakes and cookies, and whipping up some delicious dinners like chili, soups, and even a turkey for Thanksgiving.

Yet I cannot make a decent mac n' cheese. Yes, something as simple as mac n' cheese remains my golden unicorn.

Oh, I can whip up a mean dish of Kraft macaroni and cheese, even adding some of my favorites to it like crushed red chile peppers or pepper jack cheese. I'm a mac n' cheese wizard when it comes to Kraft, but when it comes to homemade, I just can't get it right.

And I've tried some of the best recipes for mac n' cheese, yet mine just don't turn out the same. They always come out dry and mealy. None of that long, stringy cheese like you see in the magazine photos.

I was starting to give up all hope on ever being able to make homemade mac n' cheese.

That is, until I came across this recipe for the perfect macaroni and cheese by Martha Stewart. I figured if I couldn't make this, then I could finally hang up my pots and pans and call it a day.

Or challenge Martha Stewart to come show me what I'm doing wrong and teach me how to finally make homemade mac n' cheese. I figured if anyone could teach me, it would have to be Martha herself.

So I decided to give it one last hoorah and try to make Martha’s recipe for macaroni and cheese.

I have to say, even though my kitchen looked like a bomb exploded in it, this is an easy recipe to follow and it turned out deliciously cheesy! And the toasted buttered bread on top gives it that little crunch that sends this mac n' cheese over the top.

Now when I saw nutmeg as one of the ingredients it caught my interest. Nutmeg in macaroni and cheese? I don’t remember Kraft having nutmeg in their mac n’ cheese. Needless to say, the nutmeg pairs well with the cheeses, almost giving it an addictive flavoring.

The cheese sauce is like none I’ve ever had before, perfectly creamy and not at all greasy. A two thumbs up from me Martha on perfecting this cheese sauce.

Oh Martha, will you ever forgive me for not coming to you when I first began this long journey for the perfect bowl of homemade mac n' cheese? Thank you for finally letting me capture my golden unicorn with your recipe for the perfect macaroni and cheese.

Excuse me now as I go ride my golden unicorn on the sandy beaches while eating a big bowl of Martha's mac n' cheese. To be continued soon....

In the meantime, I hope you get a chance to make this recipe soon, as it makes for the perfect comfort food on these cold winter nights.

Martha Stewarts - The Perfect Macaroni and Cheese

Serves 12


6 slices of English Toasting sandwich bread, cut into small pieces with crusts removed

½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick)

5 and ½ cups whole milk

½ cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons sea salt

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 and ½ cups sharp white cheddar cheese, grated

2 cups Gruyere, grated OR 1 and ¼ cup Pecorino Romano, grated

1 lb. elbow macaroni


Preheat oven to 375F degrees

Prepare a 3 quart casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray or you can use butter.

In a small bowl, add together sea salt, nutmeg, pepper, and cayenne. Set Aside.

Grate cheeses and place in separate bowls. Set aside.

Cook macaroni as directed on box. Remove from heat while macaroni is al dente (undercooked). Rinse under cold running water to stop the cooking process and remove any lingering starches. Rinse well as the starches are what cause the mealy texture to your cheese sauce. And the macaroni will cook completely when you place your finished product into the oven.

For now, leave macaroni in colander, draining, until we’re ready to add it back in.

Place bread pieces into a medium bowl. Set aside.

Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter and pour over the bread pieces, mixing well. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat milk over low to medium heat, stirring constantly so it does not boil.

In a small saucepan, melt remaining 6 Tablespoons of butter. When butter starts boiling, add in flour and stir well. Remove from heat.

Add a small amount of heated milk, about 1 cup, to butter and flour mixture. Whisk until blended.

Slowly add in milk and butter mixture into pan of heated milk, whisking constantly, until all ingredients become smooth in texture and mixture boils. Mixture will become thicker as it heats.

Remove pan from heat and add in spices and 3 cups grated white cheddar, 1 and ½ cups grated Gruyere cheese OR 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, if using instead of Gruyere cheese. Blend well until mixture is smooth.

Add macaroni to cheese sauce, mixing well so all macaroni is covered in sauce.

Pour into prepared casserole dish.

Sprinkle remaining 1 and ½ cups grated white cheddar and ½ cup grated Gruyere OR ¼ cup grated pecorino Romano cheese.

Place in preheated oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove dish from oven and sprinkle prepared bread crumbs over the top.

Place dish back into the oven and continue cooking for 20 minutes or until bread crumbs are a golden brown.

Remove dish from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe from ~ Martha Stewart

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