Thursday, October 06, 2016

heretical mac & cheese

I watched the following video for an "ultimate mac & cheese" months ago. It stuck with me, and luckily, I was able to find it again. Here it is, embedded for your delectation:

Most versions of macaroni and cheese use a roux (Béchamel, really; see comment) that gets fortified by more and more cheese that you stir into the mix. This recipe, which the chef says has been passed down in his family, avoids roux altogether in favor of a different binding or thickening agent: eggs. The chef stacks his macaroni and cheese in lasagna-like layers, then pours an eggs-and-milk mixture—which reminded me a bit of a nog—into the pot as a binder.

The mac & cheese is baked covered for about half an hour, then baked uncovered for another thirty minutes. The end result looks a lot like pizza. In that sense, this recipe is a bit heretical: it's recognizably mac & cheese, but it's mac & cheese that's been pulled in several different directions: toward pizza, toward egg nog (and possibly quiche or frittata), and toward lasagna. I love the unorthodox approach, though, and can't wait to try this sometime... but first, I need to purchase a sufficiently deep pot or baking dish.


  1. You make your mac & cheese with cheese added straight to a roux? Most versions I'm familiar with start with a Béchamel and then turn that into a Mornay. I would think that cheese added straight to a roux would be way too thick. Never tried it, though.

  2. Yeah, Béchamel is more like it, not a straight roux. If what comes next is a Mornay, though, it's a hypertrophic Mornay: piles of cheese, not just a couple ounces.

  3. To answer your question more directly, I have no standard way to make mac & cheese. I don't really make it that often; I've tried the Béchamel thing before, but it didn't delight me. I've also tried something like this video's egg thing, but I overemphasized the eggs and ended up with a carby (but decadently delicious) frittata.

  4. I do a Béchamel and it always works. It really comes down to the cheeses more than how they get melted in my opinion. I always use a minimum of four cheese and always include a sharp Cheddar (extra-sharp if I can get it). For me, it's roughly 1-to-1 on noodles vs. cheese. If I'm making a two-pound box of noodles, I use two pounds of cheesy goodness. And if I need to err somewhere, I err on the side of more cheese.

    I also like to dice a large onion and stir it into the noodles before adding the cheese sauce. Also, no breadcrumb topping. It spoils the crunchy bits on top.

  5. That sounds amazing, Steve. I'm coming over to your place tomorrow night.

  6. I've always been very liberal with the cheese in my mac & cheese Mornay, so it's probably not a traditional Mornay. Although I don't think I could handle quite as much cheese as Steve. 1-to-1 noodles-to-cheese? Your arteries must love you to bits.

    I do agree that a variety of cheeses is good, and having a mix of sharp and mild is always nice. A bleu cheese can sometimes be an interesting addition, even.

    I also like to spice up the dish—I generally add onions, garlic, mustard powder, black pepper, and nutmeg, and if I'm feeling extra spicy I might toss in some hot paprika and/or cayenne pepper. (If you wanted to come over for some mac & cheese I would make sure to add stonking huge chunks of onion.)

  7. Verily I say unto you, he who does not savor the onion is like a ship adrift without a rudder.

    -Gospel of Onion, Chapter 5, Verse 36



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