Last week, in the effort of finding a home-cooked, Lenten meal that wasn't grilled cheese and tomato soup, I ventured into an unknown world. The world of baked mac n cheese. And, if I do say so myself, I came out on top.
I grew up in a world without baked mac n cheese. So did Sean. To be honest, it didn't even occur to me that mac n cheese even existed before Kraft until, oh, maybe a year ago. Here I was, a grown adult, wandering through life thinking Kraft invented the cheesy goodness.
Right. Sheltered. Check.
Anyway. On a forum I follow, there was thread of people practically begging for good mac n cheese recipes. I mentally filed it away, vowing that I would make this homemade goodness someday.
While I'm biased (because this is the only baked mac n cheese I've ever had), this is the most amazing recipe ever. I started out with an Alton Brown recipe, and seeing as he holds the rank of god in the cooking world, one can't go wrong. I modified it slightly - half out of laziness, half because we didn't have some ingredients. The biggest problem with this recipe? Not eating the entire batch at once.
Baked Mac N Cheese
1/2 lb elbow macaroni noodles
3 tbsp of butter
3 tbsp of flour
3 cups of milk
3 tsp onion powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp Lowery salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1 bay leaf
12 oz of shredded cheese (I used Colby-Jack, but Sharp Cheddar would be awesome too!)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
3 tbsp butter
1 cup crushed Ritz crackers (I added 2 tbsps of Italian breadcrumbs too)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2 qt casserole dish (or an 8 x 8 baking dish).
In a pot of boiling water, cook the pasta to al dente - about 7 minutes. Drain and set aside.
In a separate pot (no smaller than 1 1/2 qts!), melt the butter. Whisk in flour, continuously stirring for about 5 minutes. It'll be dry and crumbly, like this:
Stir in the milk, bay leaf, and seasonings. Let simmer for 10 minutes, then remove bay leaf.
Stir in 2/3 of the cheese, then fold in the macaroni. Pour into casserole pan and top with remaining cheese. In this step, it looks super goopy - but that leads it to be amazingly cheesy after baking!
Melt the topping butter in another saucepan. Stir in the cracker crumbs or bread crumbs until coated. Spread on top of macaroni mixture.
Bake in over for about 30 minutes, then let sit 5-10 minutes before serving.