One of my favorite dishes to create daily at Bistro 'A la Mode is the Twisted Mac-n-Cheese. It is all from scratch and the flavor of the day changes depending on what I want to do, so it has been a good comfort food creative outlet. I make a base recipe that is the best make-ahead macaroni and cheese recipe I have ever created for a baked casserole-style Mac. Once the macaroni canvas is made, then I twist it...
This week we did:
Obviously I won't be sharing the exact recipes I use in the Bistro here on the blog, but if you are looking for a perfect macaroni casserole style recipe, here's my family favorite.
My Tips for success:
- Slightly undercook the pasta. I generally only cook it about 7 minutes. It will be a little crunchy, but the sauce is a little loose and the noodles will absorb the extra as they bake. This ensures you have a great texture on the pasta, even though it is baked later.
- Use subtle spices in the sauce to add depth. My secret is the mustard, cayanne and a hint of nutmeg. Don't use too much nutmeg or it will taste like pudding. You want it to be subtle, yet enough of a nuance that people beg you for your secret ingredient. I use fresh grated, about 1/16 of a tsp. Just a hint.
- Watch the heat when you add the cheese to your sauce. I take my white sauce off the stove, let it cool about 5 minutes, and then add the real cheese. Real cheese in creamy sauces will tend to get a "grainy" texture if it is heated too high, so this step keeps it creamy-luscious.
Chef Tess Make-Ahead Mac-n-cheese
yield: 8 1 cup servings
1 lb elbow macaroni, cooked about 7 minutes (slightly undercooked)
1/2 cup butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup all purpose flour
8 cups milk
1T dry mustard
1/4 tsp cayanne pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1 lb sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 lb Monterrey jack cheese, shredded
- In a gallon sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the minced garlic and saute about 3 minutes until tender, but not burned. Add the flour and stir well with a whisk, about 4 minutes. Add the milk and remaining ingredients gradually, while whisking and bring to a boil over medium heat, then simmer about 10 minutes. Be sure to stir every 2-3 minutes so the milk doesn't burn on the bottom of the pan.
- Remove the pan from the heat. Allow it to cool about 5 minutes then stir in the shredded cheese. Smooth perfect cheese sauce can't be done if you cook the cheese on the stove, it will get a grainy texture if the cheese gets too hot...and you want it to be creamy smooth right?
- In a large 9inch by 13 inch deep casserole pan, lightly grease the pan. Pour the cooked, drained pasta into the pan and season well with salt and pepper. Pour the cheese sauce over the noodles and stir to combine.
- Top with breadcrumbs or twisted variation of your choice (see twisted ideas above). Usually just a drizzle of savory sauce and a different crumble of bacon or cheese on top will kick it to the next level of awesome! I have so many more flavor variations to make it is sometimes scary how my brain works!
To Bake Immediately:
Bake the casserole at 400 degrees until sauce is bubbling and the topping of choice is crisp, about 20-25 minutes.
To save for later: Cover casserole with foil and place in the fridge. May be kept up to 5 days. Ready to heat and eat. Bake, covered with foil, 400 degrees 25-30 minutes. Remove foil and allow to bake 10 minutes more, until topping is crisp.
To make into a freezer meal: Cover with foil, label and date and transfer to the freezer.
To prepare: Thaw the casserole in the fridge for 24 hours and follow the directions for the refrigerator version. OR bake from frozen, covered with foil 1 hour 20 minutes. I recommend thawing first. It just gives your sauce a really great texture.
There you go darlings!
Come and see me at the Bistro. I'd love to give you a big hug!
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