I have a very particular idea of what macaroni and cheese should be. It must be baked, it must have crunchies on top, and it should never, never be orange. I recently ordered the mac and cheese at chat’n’chew (That’s a disgusting name for a restaurant. I think it implies chewing with your mouth open.), which is quite well known for its mac and cheese. It was velveta orange and it made me feel like puke all day. Terribly disappointing.
This is more or less the way my mom has always made it, from the recipe on the box of Mueller’s Elbow Macaroni. They probably don’t make Mueller’s Elbow Macaroni anymore. And the other brands of macaroni don’t come with the recipe, which I learned to my horror the first time I tried to make it myself. The mustard is my mom’s secret weapon, the garlic is mine.
- 1/2 pound elbow macaroni
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard seed
- a few grinds of black pepper
- salt to taste
- about 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- a few slices of stale bread
- 3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- a little salt
Toast bread and set aside to cool. Cook macaroni until a little under done. The macaroni should be on the crunchy side of al dente. It will cook more in the oven and you don’t want it to be mushy.
Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour. Stir and cook until you have a nice golden brown paste. Slowly whisk in the milk. Keep whisking until you get rid of the lumps. Stir in the mustard and black pepper and cook a few minutes over low heat until slightly thickened. Stir in the cheese and cook a few minutes longer. Add salt to taste.
Break up the bread slices and grind in a food processor or blender. It’s ok if the bread crumbs are not of uniform size. Peel the garlic cloves and use the side of the blade of a heavy knife to crush them. You want them softened up but still more or less intact. Put the olive oil and garlic cloves in small pan and cook a few minutes, until the garlic is lightly browned. Stir in the bread crumbs and a pinch or two of salt. Stir to coat. Now fish out the garlic cloves. You can eat them if you want. They’re delicious.
Pour the macaroni into a 8 or 9 inch baking dish, or a small casserole. Pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni and stir until the macaroni is well coated. Sprinkle the top with bread crumbs.
Bake at 400 degrees until nice and brown and bubbly. Try to control yourself and let it set up a little bit before you start scooping.