Best Mac n Cheese

Best Mac n Cheese

1lb regular macaroni noodles

1 stick (+ more butter to coat the breadcrumbs)

2 cups whole milk

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup white flour

5+ oz sharp cheddar, kraft works just fine, but DO NOT use pre-grated. You must grate it from a block, no exceptions.

A few OZ of your favorite aged sharp cheddar.

1/2 block of philadelphia cream cheese, room temp.

Squirt of yellow mustard

1/2 teaspoon each nutmeg and white pepper (use up to a tsp. each for more flavor).

1/2 tsp. of salt to taste

1/2 medium white onion

few cloves of garlic

Regular macaroni noodles. I think maybe only shells are a permissible substitute (like in the photo), but you really want to stay with standard small macaroni. It's the best mouth feel and brings it home. Penne, rotelli, etc just are too distracting in my opinion.

  • Pre-salt your pasta water and, from beginning to end, don't add any extra oil to the macaroni. If you add any olive oil, etc, it starts to make the dish oily.

  • While that’s coming to a boil, pulverize (i.e. very finely chop) 1/2 medium white onion and a few cloves of garlic into almost a paste. The more smashed and pastified the better. You don't want to 'feel' the onion bits at all in the finished sauce, but don’t kill yourself on this step. Tiny pieces is fine.

  • Cook the noodles ever so slightly al dente because they will cook a bit more in the oven. Set aside.

  • Make the roux over medium heat by melting a stick of butter in a pot. Add the onions and garlic and cook for like 45 seconds, then start adding the flour whisking in bit by bit, then keep whisking a few minutes until it starts to turns a very light beige and smells like cooked pie crust.

  • Stir cold milk and cream slowly into the roux and combine well.  Cold milk/cream will keep it from clumping.

  • Give a fat pinch of salt (I like a good shake over the top).  Don’t skip this step because unsalted milk and cream will make everything fall flat.

  • Add the spices: nutmeg (fresh grated if possible), and fresh ground white pepper. I like white pepper because you can’t see it in the final product.  I always feel I could’ve added a little more pepper/nutmeg too in the end so go for it.

  • Give a good squirt (like a tbsp) of regular yellow mustard.  Don’t use too much or use dijon/fancy mustard here because you don’t want to think ‘mustard’ when you are eating this.  It helps as an emulsifier mainly and give a little kick.

  • Keep whisking over medium heat until it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, but DO NOT BOIL.

  • Then, TURN OFF THE HEAT. IMPORTANT.

  • Add ½ block of cream cheese and stir in.

  • While continuing to mix add in the grated cheese(s) a small handful at a time until it’s all melted in and chunk free.

  • Stir the cooked macaroni back in, turn the heat back on, and turn the heat up to medium.  Gently stir/fold the noodle cheese mixture around and let it all heat back up together for about 3-4 minutes.

  • Now, you can eat it straight, or it’s recommended to pour everything into a baking dish, moderately coat the top with Panko that has been tossed in melted butter.  I also like to roughly toss a bunch of grated cheddar on top, making sure to leave the bread crumbs mostly exposed.  So basically patches of breadcrumbs, and patches of cheese.

  • Bake at 350 for about 30 min or until the top is brown or put in ramekins and put under the broiler (second rack).  Don’t burn it!

  • Other things that you can put in are roasted, de-skinned (important) jalapenos or anaheims, crumbled bacon, small country ham chunks, lobster, brisket, whatever!  Personally, I like to only add roasted chiles, a layer of crumbled bacon on top before the breadcrumbs and extra cheese. I don’t really like chunks of other meat throughout. Also a bunch of cube cheese chunks thrown randomly about give little gems of pure melted cheese.  Go crazy.

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