Although I’ve been lucky and it’s bright and sunny here rather than dreary, it’s cold, and I have to go to work, and it’s cold. Ben made me run outside with him a few days ago, and although I was prepared with my arsenal of winter running apparel, and wind spiked through the fabric to my legs and left them feeling prickly for several minutes as they adjusted to the happy, dry radiator heat.
I relish the radiators–I can leave clothes on them for a few minutes, and when I come back, I just don’t want to let them go. I hover next to a radiator, and I just can’t move. The cold and I aren’t really friends. I’d rather stay on my couch wrapped in a blanket holding for dear life onto a cup of tea or hot chocolate than have an outdoor adventure right now. And like to most people, I crave the warm comfort food that everyone’s been trying to avoid. Let’s succumb to the weather, though, and dig into some warm, creamy macaroni and cheese.
First things first, this macaroni and cheese is of course a bit more complicated that Kraft Mac & Cheese. I’m not talking about the powdered cheese version (because that is irrelevant) but the squeeze cheese version. You would just be lounging on the couch anyway, and the kitchen is warm, so it’s time well spent. And this is 500% worth making the roux and the bechamel and then the lovely oozy cheese sauce.
This macaroni and cheese, Martha Stewart’s perfect macaroni and cheese, is what macaroni and cheese is supposed to be. It is perfectly cheesy and luscious. It has a kick of cayenne and warmth from nutmeg. It’s finished with little bits of golden crunch on top, and it reheats superbly in the oven. Paired with a salad or roasted broccoli, it is the perfect dinner for these cold, harsh days.
*I originally was going to resolve to not eat processed sugars for a week, but I didn’t eat many sweets while in France so I decided that I’d laid off enough of them and the idea was for the birds.
Martha Stewart’s perfect macaroni and cheese
barely adapted from Martha Stewart
makes 8-12 servings
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the dish
2 teaspoons kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ plus ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ plus ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 slices of white bread, crusts removed, cut into ¼ inch cubes
5 ½ cups milk
½ cup all-purpose flour
6 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded OR 5 ½ cups sharp cheddar plus ½ cup Parmesan, shredded
1 pound elbow macaroni
1. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. In a small bowl, mix together salt, nutmeg, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Set aside.
2. In a medium-sized microwavable dish, melt 2 tablespoons butter in the microwave. Add bread crumbs to the dish, and toss to coat evenly. Set aside.
3. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat milk.
4. In a large high-sided skillet (I use this), melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter. Once it bubbles, whisk in flour and stir one minute, until butter and flour are well combined. Slowly pour hot milk into the flour-butter mixture while whisking, and continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick, about 10 minutes. (After all of the milk has been poured into the pan, turn the heat up to medium-high.) Once thick, remove the pan from heat.
5. Stir the spice mixture that was set aside at the beginning into the bechamel (milk mixture). Add 5 cups of cheese (sharp cheddar and optional Parmesan) to the mixture; mix well, until the cheese and melted and you have a beautiful, lip-smackingly delicious sauce. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 375F.
6. Cook elbow macaroni 2-3 minutes less than directed on the box, until the pasta is cooked on the outside but the inside is undercooked. Strain and rinse under cold water. Drain well, and then stir macaroni into the cheese sauce.
7. Pour the mixture into the buttered casserole dish, sprinkle remaining 1 cup of shredded cheese over the pasta, and sprinkle reserved breadcrumbs over the cheese. Bake until the bread crumbs begin to turn golden, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes, and then serve.
To reheat: scoop the amount that you want to reheat into an oven-safe dish, and heat at 300F for 15 to 20 minutes.