Baked Macaroni and Cheese
adapted from Alton Brown
1/2 pound elbow macaroni (about 2 cups)
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
3 cups milk
1/3 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 large egg
12 ounces (about 3 cups) sharp cheddar, shredded
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1) When making dishes like this it’s better if you shred your own cheese. The pre-shredded cheeses have added ingredients to make the cheese not clump together and makes them not melt as well. I actually used pre-shredded cheese here and it was fine but if you want it extra creamy shred your own.
2) People that did not have success with this recipe did not salt their pasta water correctly. You want to salt it so much that if you tasted the water it would taste like the ocean.
3) You need SHARP cheddar cheese. That’s what gives it flavor. Don’t use mild.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large pot of boiling, extremely salted water cook the pasta to al dente. Do not overcook it!
While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it’s free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf. It will thicken, trust me.
Temper in the egg which means to just bring the temperature of the egg up a little so that when you add it to the cheese sauce it doesn’t scramble. Just throw a couple of Tablespoons of the warm cheese mixture into a small bowl with the egg and mix. Then throw the egg mixture into the cheese mixture.
Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.
Melt the butter in the microwave in a small bowl and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five to ten minutes before serving.
We tried this today for the first time. My 26 year old nephew joined us for dinner. Everyone really liked this one! I did not have any breadcrumbs so we just had it without the bread crumb topping. I had ritz crackers and it didn’t dawn on me until after we had eaten that I probably could have crushed those up and used those in place of bread crumbs. Going to try freezing leftovers to see how they hold up. Dean is not a real big mac n cheese guy but he raved about this.