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mac and cheese

September 10, 2010

I had every intention of eating a complete meal for dinner yesterday, with meat, veggies, the works.

And then yesterday happened.

Two of my three classes were canceled for Rosh Hashanah (yay!). So I slept in a whole hour and spent the rest of the morning reading cases. Not really sure what’s wrong with me. Then, I had the brilliant-beyond-brilliant idea of taking the subway in for my third class instead of the train so that I wouldn’t be restricted by the train’s schedule on my way home. Only there was a ton of traffic on my way to the subway station, and apparently the subway itself runs much less frequently in the middle of the afternoon (something I definitely should know by now, but don’t). Meaning that it took me almost two hours to get to campus, meaning that I effectively stood my “big sister”/mentor up on our first meeting-for-ice-cream. Fail. Then, I spent the two hours of the class I did have learning just how much I don’t know about “the basics” of law.

The subway trip on the way back, though, was the real highlight. It was so crowded that I was smooshed up against the back of the car, and the only thing between me and the door was a couple that was clearly in a long-distance relationship (Amtrak tag on the guy’s backpack, incessant murmurings of “I don’t want to leave you againnnn”). They were very much undeterred by my nearness and were playing the whole kiss-every-other-word game (as in “What did you eat last night?” *mwa* “Chicken, I’m almost a vegetarian now!” *mwa*). I tried to edge away and give them a little bit of privacy, but that basically wasn’t possible. Especially when the subway went around a corner and I essentially catapulted over them, prevented from careening out the door of the moving car only by my head wedging itself against the wall above the door. My life of grace.

So by the time I got home, basically all I wanted was a big wad of cheese, maybe with some pasta thrown in for good measure. And that’s essentially what this particular recipe of mac and cheese is.

Mac and cheese, along with brownies, is one of those things that I’d happily try recipe after recipe for until one of them demands my complete loyalty. (I think I may have that recipe for brownies, actually, but that’s for another post.) Meaning that this recipe has been on my mind ever since it was posted on Ezra Pound Cake a couple days ago (meaning that, if I’m completely honest, I was ready for this even as I woke up yesterday, not just after getting home).

It’s a pretty simple one—not much to complicate the cheesiness. It does call for nutmeg, but I even left that out because I wasn’t in the mood by that point to dig through the spice drawer for one of the three jars of nutmeg that’re in there. Something about the mixture/ratio of cheeses, though, is really yummy. I also love the crispiness of the cheese on top—and I’m usually overly-attached to breadcrumb toppings.

So in the end, this made a perfect dinner alongside a raw ear of corn—because raw is the best way to eat corn. For serious, it’s so much sweeter than cooked!

Macaroni and Cheese
1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) grated extra-sharp cheddar
1 cup (4 oz.) grated Monterey Jack
1/2 cup (2 oz.) grated Parmesan or Gruyere (I used Parm)
2 1/2 cups milk (skim worked fine)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic (optional)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (I omitted)
dash of cayenne
1/2 lb. (8 oz.) elbow macaroni
hot sauce (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Set a baking rack in the top-third of the oven. Butter a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish or an 8-by-8-inch baking dish. Set aside.
2. Combine the cheddar, Monterey Jack, and Gruyere or Parmesan cheeses in a medium bowl. Transfer 1 cup of cheese to a small bowl; reserve for topping.
3. In a medium saucepan, warm the milk over medium heat. [I microwaved it for 45 seconds on high.]
4. In a Dutch oven or saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter. Add flour immediately; whisk to combine for about 1 minute. Raise the temperature to medium and slowly whisk in the milk. Bring it to a boil to thicken, whisking the entire time. (You might need to raise the temperature slightly to get things going.)
5. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the mustard, salt, garlic, pepper, nutmeg, cayenne, and the 2 cups of mixed cheeses. Set the cheese sauce aside.
6. Fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Add macaroni. Return the water to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes. Drain well and add pasta to the cheese sauce. Stir to combine. Taste, adjust the seasonings, and add hot sauce, if you wish.
7. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Top with reserved cheese and bake for about 25 minutes, until the top is golden brown and bubbly but the inside is still creamy.

Source: Ezra Pound Cake

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