There's something akin to perfection in macaroni and cheese. Pasta + hot melted cheese = warm, delicious goodness. So with this endless, snowy and cold winter upon us, what better way to feel cozy than by sharing our love of all things mac and cheese. Danielle I can't recall my first mac and cheese experience but I do know my Mother never gave us boxed mac. I'm pretty sure college was the first time I ever laid eyes on boxed mac (and the last - that stuff is disgusting! Do yourself a favor and don't feed that powdered chemical cheese to yourself or your family.).
I was fortunate after college to live in NYC and have a roommate who was an aspiring chef. She got a job recipe testing a mac and cheese cookbook. What this meant was she needed to make every single recipe according to the instructions to be sure the amounts were accurate and the dish came out as anticipated. It was a rough life "helping" her but someone had to do it! I think that's when I realized the full potential of homemade mac and cheese and the importance of bread crumbs.
In my opinion, if it doesn't have breadcrumbs it's not authentic mac and cheese. It also opened up to my eyes to the potential that mac and cheese need not be limited to just mac and cheese. You can add meats (um, bacon anyone?), fish (hello lobstaaaaah), vegetables and more to your mac. You can try one cheese or four. The possibilities are endless. And the best part is since a normal recipe makes many servings, you can freeze it and have mac and cheese on hand for whenever the mood strikes.
Brian Mac and cheese comes in many shapes, sizes and degrees of authenticity: this is a given. Everybody's got a special recipe, and so the true beauty of mac and cheese is really in the palette of the taster. For my money, the best mac and cheese recipes I've ever had are...
Adventures in Cooking Blog: This is a recipe that everyone should try since it's relatively easy and absolutely will not disappoint. In this variant, Eva's "Fancy Pants Macaroni and Cheese" as she calls it, you get not one, not two or even three cheeses...but FIVE cheeses. And no boring macaroni noodles, let's try something crazy like fusilli (they're easier to pick up with a fork anyway). And, wait for it...bacon. You're pretty much guaranteed to have my full attention and support if you're talking about anything bacon-related and when you add in cheese, well - if one is good, then five is out-of-this-world. Try this out and get ready for requests to make it reasonably frequently.
Red Rooster: Ok, so this one's only available as an option for New York locals or to keep in mind when you visit the NYC area. Red Rooster, a comfort foods eatery by Chef Marcus Samuelsson in Harlem, serves a delicious/amazing/wonderful "Mac & Greens" dish that can completely make your day (heck, it can easily make an entire week). Imagine this combination: smoked gouda and NY cheddar cheeses, melted alongside orecchiette noodles, caramelized onions, maple bacon and lightly smoked collard greens. Simply amazing and, if you're ever in the area, not to miss!
Stouffer's: Ok, I know what you're thinking, especially ending on this: "Stouffers?!?" However, I'd be remiss in not mentioning this less authentic type of mac and cheese, simply because of the occasional role it played in my middle and high school years when I got home late from tennis or lacrosse practice. Out-of-the-box, pierce the plastic covering, five minutes on high in the microwave and you're set. Not gourmet, but when in a bind, this delivers. (Cooking tip: Cook an extra 30 sec on high to get a nice crunchy, crispy top - the best part!)
I absolutely love KraftR mac and cheese. As a picky eater, I basically lived off of easy mac for four years in college and I never got sick of it. My favorites as a child were the spiral ones and of course anything character-shaped. As basic as easy mac is, it will always be delicious to me.
As I got older though, I started expanding my horizons a little and I came to realize that if you're not adding bread crumbs and hot sauce to your mac and cheese, you're doing something wrong. Check out this baked macaroni and cheese recipe with my two favorite ingredients from myrecipes.com. Also, this buffalo-chicken mac and cheese recipe is definitely worth trying too.
Lastly, at a wine festival this past summer I tried a mac and cheese BURGER (yep, that's right!). Two of the greatest American foods in one bite. Just feast your eyes on this:
What are you some your favorite mac and cheese recipes?
Photo courtesy of mspt47