Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Macaroni & Cheese

Tonight's dinner is probably one of my all-time favorites. It's a home-style mac & cheese that only resembles the boxed stuff in name. Although I have recently seen that Kraft now makes a home-style mac & cheese, I'm not buying it, I love my own.

If you're thinking that macaroni & cheese doesn't belong on a baking blog, think again. This version is baked and trust me when I say it's worth it! It's a wonderful and amazing comfort food that is perfect for cold days. You will feel happy with this!

It will take you about an hour or so to make this, so plan ahead.

Ingredients:
3 cups milk
A whole lot of water (enough to fill a large pot 3/4 the way full)
Pinch of salt (optional)
4-8 slices of bacon (turkey bacon can be substituted) (optional)
16 oz macaroni noodles
4 Tablespoons butter
3 1/2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
3 cups cheese (cheddar is the most common, but you can use most any cheese here. We use a cheddar/jack combo)
3/4 cup bread crumbs
Cooking Spray or a little more butter

Tools:
Large pot/dutch oven
Small pot
Medium pot
Small or medium skillet
2-3 quart baking dish (I use a 2.5 quart, but you can go slightly smaller or bigger)
Large spoon
Colander

First things first. Turn your oven on to 350 degrees so that while you start making it, your oven will preheat.

Fill your large pot 3/4 the way full with water and add a pinch of salt, if you're using it. Put it on the stove and get it up to a boil. It will look a lot like this:


As the water does it's thing, pour the milk into a small pot and turn the heat onto medium-low/medium. Allow it to heat up. For me, it take about 10 to 15 minutes, but your stove may vary some. Also put the small or medium skillet on the stove and turn it to medium. Once it's hot, start cooking up your bacon. I used 8 slices of turkey bacon because it was left over from "breakfast for dinner" we had the other night. Once it's cooked, tear the bacon into little pieces or crumble it if well enough done (mine never seems to quite be that well done). Here's a picture of the two of them:


Once the water has come to a boil, add the macaroni noodles and cook according to the package directions. If your package gives a range of time, go with the shorter time. I cooked mine for 9 minutes. Once cooked, drain the water from the noodles.

Once the milk has heated through, remove it from the stove and let it stand in a corner (but don't call it Baby, cause Nobody puts Baby in a corner!). Add the butter to a medium saucepan and melt it on the stove. Once it's melted and looking foamy, add the flour. 


Stir them together until it resembles a brownish/yellowish flour mix, like this:



Add the milk slowly to the butter/flour mixture and stir as you go. Once the milk has been thoroughly incorporated, remove from the heat. Add the cheese a cup at a time, stirring as you add them. The mixture will look something like this:


Grease the baking dish with either cooking spray or butter. Dump the noodles into the baking dish and pour the cheese mixture on top. Using the spoon, mix the two together. Add the bread crumbs on top, followed by the bacon


Place the whole thing into the oven and let it cook for about 20 minutes. Your final product should resemble the picture below:


Notice the bacon has darkened quite a bit and so did the bread crumbs. Allow it to cool for about 5 minutes, then serve. This is one meal that everyone, even my incredibly picky eater, will have seconds. It's incredibly creamy and so very good.

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