As this past week wrapped up I looked at one of my good friends and said: ‘How can it be Mother’s Day next week?’ How did we just plop into this month already? Last time I checked it was still April. One doesn’t have to look too far to see how fast the days fly. Especially if you are an active individual or family.
Therefore I began planning for Memorial weekend. What foods seems totally ‘American’ to me and those I love. The first dish that came to mind was macaroni and cheese!
There are so many versions of mac and cheese we could chatter through days of conversation. First, I’m going to say I think there are basically two types. One is where the mac and cheese is made with shredded cheeses amongst the layers. The second is a creamy base with additional cheeses spread between. Personally I will chose the second version every time over version #1. Why? After baking the mac is actually dry, true the cheese is present, but with no moisture. With a cream sauce there’s a fighting chance you’ll create a mac and cheese that’s still moist.
If you choose a cream sauce one little tip I like to share is to make a little extra. This way should you need to moisten the dish you have extra sauce ready. Pastas soak in a great deal of dressings/sauces. Remember to cook the noodle and rinse it with cold water before finishing the dish. This may help a bit too.
As far as cheese choices, wow, the sky is the limit. Consider the guests in attendance first and foremost. If lots of young people are coming it is wise to stick with a standard cheese sauce. Personally I enjoy smoked cheese for a bit of change. For more adult styles of mac and cheese reach for Gouda & Havarti along with other basic cheeses. If parmesan is used you’ll be adding a mountain of sodium content in comparison to other cheese choices.
The top of the baked dish can contain butter cracker crumbles, saltine crumbles or bread crumbs. And this is just for starters. With all the different crackers on the market you could come up with some pretty interesting toppings.
Time to dress the mac and cheese. Place the pasta in creative serving dishes. Then start a condiment station. Everything from bacon, green onions, chives, sausage, salsa, and sour cream would be delicious. Little tikes would love slices of cooked hot dogs! Believe me if you grill a variety of meats, make macaroni and cheese and serve a phenomenal salad you’ll make everyone happy. Just don’t forget the dessert!
Yes, I skipped over the fact that Mother’s Day is this weekend. For most mothers it’s not about a fancy meal it’s being with those you love. It doesn’t matter what you eat because the focus is on the f-a-m-i-l-y. If it’s a simple sandwich shared with those we love that’s all we need. Don’t forget to ask ‘mom’ what she would like. She may prefer a quiet day reading a book. (That’s what yours truly would enjoy.) Actually I like coming home to a clean house with no clutter! And…an easy meal with the guys.
Try not to look at the calendar this week and go out there and live it up!
Simply yours, The Covered Dish. www.thecovereddish.com
Super Cheesey Mac & Cheese
1 (13.25 oz.) box macaroni shells
(In bulk macaroni this is approx. 3 1/4 cups dry macaroni)
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups 2% milk
1/4 pound Muenster cheese, small chunks
1/2 pound white American cheese, small chunks
1/2 pound (8 oz.) mild cheddar cheese, shredded or chunks
1/2 sleeve of saltine or Ritz crackers
2-3 tablespoons melted butter
Additional shredded cheddar cheese, (at least 1/2 cup)
In a 6-8 quart pot boil water with a pinch of salt added. When water boils add macaroni and cook until ‘just’ tender (al dente). Remove from heat and drain.
In a saucepan melt the 3 tablespoons of butter whisk in the flour and all dry ingredients. Stir in milk, over low/medium heat bringing the cream sauce to a light boil. Lower temperature and add the cheeses. Keep temperature low and melt thoroughly.
Return macaroni to cooking pot and pour warm sauce over, stirring gently. Pour macaroni and cheese into a 9 x 13 greased baking pan. Sprinkle additional shredded cheese over top Melt butter and mix with crackers pouring over the top. Place in a 350 degree oven and bake until the crackers brown slightly and the mixture is bubbly around the edges. Sometimes the top doesn’t brown and it’s bubbly, switch to broil for a monitored time to brown the crumble topping.
This is a good ‘foundation’ for mac and cheese. Personalize it by using your favorite mixture of cheeses. Try smoked and unsmoked Havarti and Gouda cheeses. Of course, if you’re in a bind use old-fashioned Velveeta. (Goodness, that’s scary!) For a richer sauce you can also use cream in place of milk.
Often cooks want to add a beaten egg or two to their sauces, go for it! For a fun party consider making two pans of mac and then preparing different toppers like: chopped green onions, fried bacon pieces, cooked sausage, cooked mushrooms, chopped ham, chives etc.
Add ingredients inside the macaroni to make it a one dish meal i.e.: for spring add ham and cooked peas. It is recommended to make the macaroni with no additional ingredients the first time.
Personally speaking EVERY time I make macaroni and cheese I use a different set of ingredients. A cream sauce however is always my preference.
Debbie Dance Uhrig