Mac and Cheese? Thank You Please

Jackie Gordon Singing Chef - Mac and Cheese? Thank You Please

Do I really need to write a compelling story about macaroni and cheese I make religiously on Thanksgiving? Or spins a tale about the macaroni and cheese birthday cake I made for my niece when she was two? I think not.

Macaroni and cheese are three magic words that spark instant reaction usually including, but not limited to: Sounds like oooh and ahhh, delight, heart rate increasing, mouth moistening, the welling up of excitement and anticipation, feelings of warmth, coziness, safety, tears of joy, eyes lighting up,  the “juxtapositioning” of immediate gratification, pure pleasure and future guilt, the sweats, jealousy from the people who are not present and many more.

I have not had to twist anyone’s arm to eat it, but I have had to keep my brother from body blocking it when our guests ask if they could take some home.

I like a bechamel based mac and cheese with the perfect balance of extra sharp cheddar and pasta with crunchy hard cheese on top. My proportions are one pound of cheese for each pound of dry pasta. You can certainly add more cheese, but never less.

THIS IS NOT DIET FOOD!

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Macaroni and Cheese aka Jax Max Mac and Cheese Recipe

Mains, Sides, Vegetarian & Vegan
I can make all sorts of new fangled, over-the-top and invented dishes I want for turkey day, but I know my family and friends would turn on me if I didn’t make macaroni and cheese. It’s on the menu every year. It’s rich because it has a lot of CHEESE in it and BUTTER and that’s what makes it DELICIOUS! This is recipe for a crowd or just a few Mac ’n’ Cheese enthusiasts. You know your people. Be sure to make enough. It also freezes beautifully.
Macaroni and Cheese aka Jax Max Mac and Cheese Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds dry pasta (macaroni, penne, rigatoni, etc), cooked (I like it slightly more cooked than al dente.) and cooled
  • 3 pounds extra sharp cheddar, 1/2 grated, 1/2 cut into 1” cubes
  • 1 quart milk, warmed
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cups unsalted butter
  • pinch nutmeg ground (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grated cheese (Parmesan, pecorino, aged gouda)
  • 1/3 cup butter, cut into small pats
  • 1 cup plain bread crumbs

Directions

  1. Preheat to 350°.
  2. Have pasta ready in a large bowl.
  3. Prepare the baking pans by greasing thoroughly with butter.
  4. Prepare the b├ęchamel by melting the butter in a medium sauce pan, then adding the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. It will make a paste and keep stirring and cooking it for about two minutes. Do not brown it or burn it.
  5. Stir in the warm milk and continue to stir until the sauce thickens and comes to a boil. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper and continue to cook for another few minutes to let the sauce thicken a little and cook off the floury taste. Remove from heat. Add the grated and cubed cheddar cheese and stir until the cubed cheese is 1/2 melted. If the cheese doesn’t melt, you can return the pan to the stove on a low flame, stirring constantly to keep the sauce from scorching.
  6. Add cheese sauce to the pasta and mix thoroughly. Press the pasta mixture into the pans and top with the bread crumbs, grated cheese and dot with the butter pats.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes. The dish is ready when the top is browned and the mac ’n’ cheese is bubbly.
Total time:
Yield: 16 servings

Notes

I’ve been know to mix two or three different types of pasta in my make and cheese to play with the texture a little. I like to mix small macaroni and penne and the curly macaroni.

To freeze it, cut the Mac ’n’ Cheese into pieces, wrap them individually in waxed paper and put them in a large freezer bag.

Macaroni and Cheese Birthday Cake

Vegetarian & Vegan
We didn’t give my niece sweets until she was three years old. She loved macaroni and cheese so I made a mac ’n’ cheese birthday cake for her second birthday. I dyed the mashed potato decorations with beets and spinach, but you can use turmeric, carrots, parsley, red cabbage and so forth.
Macaroni and Cheese Birthday Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds dry pasta (macaroni, penne, rigatoni, etc)
  • 2 pounds extra sharp cheddar, 1/2 grated, 1/2 cut into cubes
  • 3 cups milk, warmed
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 cup of grated cheese (Parmesan, pecorino, aged gouda)
  • 1 1/2 cups plain bread crumbs
  • Cold smooth mashed potatoes plain and colored with natural food coloring (I used beet juice and spinach juice to dye them pink and green)
  • Piping bags or parchment cones fitted with a large star tip. You will need one for each color you make.

Directions

  1. You have to make the cake ahead of time to give it enough time to cool so you can remove it from the pan.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  3. Have pasta ready in a large bowl.
  4. Prepare the baking pans by greasing thoroughly with warm butter and thoroughly coating the pan with bread crumbs.
  5. Prepare the b├ęchamel by melting the butter in a medium sauce pan, then adding the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. It will make a paste, keep stirring and cooking it for about two minutes. Do not brown it or burn it.
  6. Stir in the warm milk and continue to stir until the sauce thickens and comes to a boil.
  7. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper and continue to cook for another few minutes to let the sauce thicken a little and cook off the floury taste. Remove from heat.
  8. Add the grated and cubed cheddar cheese and stir until the cubed cheese is 1/2 melted. If the cheese doesn’t melt, you can return the pan to the stove on a low flame, stirring constantly to keep the sauce from scorching.
  9. Add cheese sauce to the pasta and mix thoroughly. Press the pasta mixture into the pans and top with the bread crumbs, grated cheese and dot with the butter pats.
  10. Bake for 30 minutes. The dish is ready when the top is browned and the mac ’n’ cheese is bubbly.
  11. Grease a 12” x 3” cake pan heavily with butter.
  12. Mix bread crumbs and grated cheese and thoroughly with 2/3 of the bread crumb mixture. Be extra careful to grease and crumb the inner edges of the pan well.
  13. Press pasta mixture into the pan. Cover top with remaining bread crumb mixture.
  14. Bake for 30 minutes. The “cake” is ready when the top is browned and the mac ’n’ cheese is bubbly. Cool for 45 minutes to one hour—you want it to still be warm so the “cake” releases from the pan. If you take it out too early it may be too warm and fall apart.
  15. Place a heat proof platter or sheet pan on top of the cake pan and carefully invert it the cake pan and the platter-sheet pan together. Place the platter-sheet pan on a flat surface. Tap the cake pan gently and ease the pan off the “cake.”
  16. Put mashed potatoes in the piping bag or cone. Decorate your cake with mashed potatoes as desired.
  17. Reheat the Macaroni ‘n’ Cheese Birthday Cake before serving in a 350° oven for 20 minutes.
Total time:
Yield: 8-10 servings