Mad About Macaroni

On Friday evening, Peter invited over one of his best friends from high school, Alex.  Alex is hilarious (everyone in attendance at our wedding literally thought he was a comedian by the time he finished his speech) and incredibly sweet.  Peter and Alex are able to find a way to be ridiculous no matter the circumstances.  On this particular evening, they danced - by themselves - at a random bar with live music.  Peter did some impressions of his dance moves the next morning.  I'm sure the band was #notimpressed.

I knew Peter & Alex would find their way into a late night despite their better intentions, so I wanted to make something heavy and comforting.  I went for the ultimate highschool throwback: mac & cheese.

I make variations on this mac & cheese every so often and Peter is a huge fan.  He always asks for it.  This time I tweaked it by using all white extra sharp cheddar and throwing in high-quality ham and frozen peas and broccoli.  It was delicious, but feel free to customize the below to satisfy whatever your cravings might be.  A version of this recipe appeared in the Gourmet Comfort Food special edition magazine last May and it's an excellent all-purpose base for macaroni & cheese.  The below recipe is basically the Gourmet recipe with my own tweaks.

Serves 4 big eaters

Breadcrumbs

Tip: Make the breadcrumbs first and clean up the mess before you start on the mac & cheese.  Less to deal with later.

3-4 slices of crusty bread (rustic style works great)
3 tablespoons of seriously sharp cabbot cheddar
3 tablespoons of parmesean cheese
3 tablespoons of finely chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons butter

Chop bread in a food processor to make breadcrumbs.  Toast breadcrumbs in the oven at 400 degrees (if available, toast them in a cast iron skillet). (Tip: If you don't have a food processor, toast the pieces of bread first.  Put the bread in a plastic bag, and roll over the bread with a rolling pin.  You'll have breadcrumbs.)  When toasted, put the skillet on a burner and melt in 2 tablespoons of butter.  Toss with bread crumbs.  Add parsley and cheeses.  Toss with a fork.  Turn off burner and set aside until ready to assemble the mac.

Macaroni & Cheese

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 cups whole milk
2 teapoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce
12 oz. (2 packages) Cabott Seriously Sharp Cheddar, coarsely grated
1/3 cup grated parmesean
1 lb macaroni (curly is great - best if you can find cavatappi but fusili is fine too)
1/4 lb high quality ham, diced
Frozen veggies (1 bag of frozen peas, or 1/2 bag peas and 1/2 bag broccoli - whatever you have on hand will be fine), thawed (put bags of frozen veggies in a colander and run warm water over them for a few minutes or place the bags in a bowl of warm water; open bags and strain through colander to remove excess water).

Cook macaroni: Boil macaroni until al dente.  Drain and reserve in pan until ready to assemble mac.

Make a roux:  Add 3 butter to heavy saucepan on medium low heat.  Whisk in flour and cook, whisking, for three minutes.  Whisk in 2 cups milk.  Bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly (and making contact with the bottom of the pan, you want to prevent the milk from burning).  Then simmer, whisking occasionally, three minutes.  Your sauce will be thickened.  Whisk in remaining 1/2 cup milk, mustard, worcestershire, cheese, ham, veggies and 3/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper until smooth.

Combine & Bake: Pour sauce over macaroni.  Place macaroni in a buttered baking dish.  Top with breadcrumbs.  Bake 20 minutes at 400 degrees.  Enjoy!

x.

Peter & Alex on our wedding day - see what I mean?