To kick off the holiday season, I threw a party. I called it Friends-giving-mas-wanza-anukah. Just to cover all of my bases.
I made it a potluck and my contribution was mac & cheese and an apple pie. I figured something not so easy, and something super easy since I know I was going to be super busy at this party.
The mac & cheese was the easy one. It was a recipe from a Cook’s Illustrated magazine circa October 2009. They called it the Foolproof Mac & Cheese. I agree.
Mac & Cheese (slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, October 19, 2009)
4 slices white bread
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound of elbow macaroni
another 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons flour
3 (12 oz) cans of evaporated milk (full fat version)
2 teaspoons hot sauce
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon dry mustard
8 oz shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
5 oz shredded American cheese (deli counter will cut you a block so you don’t have to use singles)
2 oz shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
First make the bread crumb topping by tearing the bread into chunks and throwing them into a food processor along with the 4 tablespoons melted butter and parmesan cheese. Pulse till they resemble bread crumbs.
Cook the macaroni until al dente, about six minutes. Reserve about 1/2 cup of pasta water, then drain and rinse in a little cold water.
In the same pot, melt the other 4 tablespoons of butter. Once melted, add in the flour and stir and cook for a minute until slightly brown. Add in the evaporated milk then the hot sauce, nutmeg, mustard and some salt. Whisk/stir the mixture until thickened. Take off the heat and mix in the cheese and reserved pasta water. Mix in the pasta until coated, pour into a 9″x 13″ pan and top with the bread crumb topping. Bake in a 350 degF oven for about 20 minutes till topping is golden brown and bubbling. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
The end product was delicious. Not too greasy or heavy at all. Still cheesy and gooey! I made it twice and I learned a couple of things…
The bread crumb topping cannot be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge for anything longer than 20 minutes.
The mac & cheese, however, can be made a couple of hours ahead of time. I made a batch a couple of hours ahead of time (without the breadcrumb topping) and covered it in foil and kept it at the back of my oven near the vent while the oven was making my pie. Once I was ready to make it, I topped it with some panko crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese and it came out just fine!
This mac & cheese reheats very well in the microwave. Still cheesy and not greasy, which is the best.
I think this will be my go to mac & cheese recipe. Very simple recipe, very simple ingredients.
The party was a success. I was told I had 17 people packed in my apartment at one time. I’m not the greatest hostess. My style is kind of laid back. I always believe things will come together themselves. It’s tough being a hostess, orchestrating a pot luck while trying fight the urge to just run into a quiet room and just hide. 17 is a lot of people, and I was overwhelmed at times. But I loved it. I have amazing friends who helped tremendously, and the pot luck made feeding everyone a breeze! I loved watching everything unfold from my little spot in the kitchen. I need to work on incorporating mingling into my repertoire, which just means I need more practice. But now…recovery time…
Happy Holiday season 2014 everyone!