Monday, March 23, 2009

Mac and Cheese gone wrong

Mac and Cheese. Let's not kid ourselves, how many times do you open up a box of Kraft Mac N Cheese, or Easy Mac, or whatever store bought cheese powder is your preference. For me, Mac N Cheese was my staple freshman year. It was easy to make, hard to screw up, and about $0.80 a box. Now that I've grown out of "the cheesiest" Mac N Cheese, I've been looking for some more sophisticated takes on my childhood favorite. Here's an article I thought interesting, followed by my own attempts to spruce up this dish:
Norma Jean Darden, the owner of Miss Maude's and Miss Mamie's soul food restaurants and Spoonbread Catering in New York City makes the best mac 'n' cheese I've ever tasted. She was kind enough to share her recipe in The Magical Melting Pot cookbook. What makes it so delicious is the cheesy custard surrounding the macaroni, and all the cheese on top which gives it a beautiful, golden appearance.
You can easily create international versions of this mac n' cheese recipe by using foreign cheeses and adding locally popular proteins such as salami, ham, or shrimp, and seasonings such as dill or chili peppers. Here are four recipes that shed a whole new light on what mac 'n' cheese can be! Proudly serve them for lunch or dinner, along with a nice, big salad tossed in vinaigrette dressing. Enjoy!
Norma Jean Darden's Basic Mac 'n' Cheese Recipe
(makes approximately 6 servings)
2 cups dry macaroni, or other shape pasta
2 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs beaten
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
3 cups Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grease a 9" X 13" baking dish.
3. Cook the pasta in boiling water with the two teaspoons salt, until al dente. Drain and set aside.
4. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and whisk in the evaporated milk until well blended. Add 2 cups of the the cheese, the 1/2 teaspoon salt, melted butter, and cooked pasta.
5. Pour the mixture into the baking dish. Top it evenly with the remaining cup of cheddar cheese.
6. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until the custard has set and the cheese on top turns golden brown.

Proceed as above, but add:
4 ounces dry salami (hot or regular), thinly sliced and cut int 1/4" pieces. This should be approximately 3/4-cup, firmly packed.
1 cup sun dried tomatoes, cut in 1/4" pieces or shredded. If you use the kind that are packed in oil, drain the oil.
Substitute 3 cups of shredded Italian blend cheese (Quattro Formaggio with Parmesan, Asiago, Fontina, and mild Provolone) instead of the Cheddar. If you can't find the Italian Blend, use any of these cheeses, or some combination.


Proceed as above, but add:
1 4-oz. can chopped chilis (mild or hot)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Substitute 3 cups of shredded Mexican blend cheese (sharp Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Asadero, queso blanco) instead of all Cheddar. If you can't find the Mexican Blend, use any of these cheeses, or some combination.

Proceed as above, but add:
6 ounces sliced, cooked ham, cut in 1/4" pieces (approximately 1 cup, firmly packed)
Substitute 3 cups of Swiss cheese, shredded, or sliced and cut in 1/4" pieces.

Proceed as above, but add:
2 cups shrimp (baby shrimp or any size, cut in 1/4" pieces)
1/2 cup fresh dill, finely chopped (or more if you love dill)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Substitute 3 cups of Havarti cheese (plain or with dill), shredded, or sliced and cut in 1/4" pieces.

So In my attempts to spruce up the mac and cheese I made my own...
Mac N Cheese with the crockpot?

  • 2 cups uncooked elbow macoroni (no, I had penne)
  • 4 oz light cheese, cubed
  • 1 cup shredded mild chedder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1.5 cup skim milk
  1. Combine ingredients together in crock pot. cook on low for 3-3.5 hours. Stir after 20-30 minutes.
OVERALL: Sounds good right? I followed everything, the only substitution I made was using pepperjack cheese cubes. When it came time for me to stir the dinner, I noticed that my pasta was burning. WTF, how do you burn food in a crock pot? I stirred and added a bit more milk. Now, I was growing concerned. I double checked and I added everything in the right amounts. But I noticed it was for a 3-4 quart crock pot. I have a 6 qt crock pot. Damn. Ultimately IF I was to try this again, I would double all quantities. But I prefer the stove top way 100 fold!


Wandering Coyote said...

Cooking pasta in a crock pot seems kind of strange to me, actually, but it's good to try these things out. I love all your substitutions on the Mac & Cheese.

Alyse said...

yeah, well using uncooked pasta is weird to me. I probably won't try it again.