Drink Magazine

Three Cheese Mac & Cheese

By Karenvanzant @KarenVanZant
I recently made this macaroni & cheese for a birthday party and it was a big hit. I needed to bring a dish that would serve approximately 10-12 people, and mac & cheese is always a safe bet- who doesn't like it?! However, I had never made homemade macaroni and cheese, so I looked online for a place to start. I found a good base in a recipe on Martha Stewart's website, but I changed quite a bit of it to my own liking. She uses 2 cheeses, I'm using three. She has a homemade breadcrumb on top of hers, I left it off. She uses Cayenne pepper, I used cajun seasoning. (I also changed the amount of seasoning- I added more than her recipe calls for). Plus, I added bacon to mine, you can't go wrong with bacon! (Unless of course you're feeding vegetarians, which I wasn't, so I knew it was ok!) So after reviewing Martha's recipe, I made my own version, and everyone seemed to love it. It's definitely more work and money than opening up that blue box with the powdered cheese, but SO worth it!
What You'll Need:
5 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
6 tbsp butter
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cajun seasoning (I use Tony Chachere's, an awesome blend!)
6 strips bacon, cooked, crumbled & cooled
3 cups shredded Welsh Cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded Irish Cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese
1 LB elbow macaroni
parsley, for garnish (optional)
* A note about the cheese:
As I mentioned in another blog entry, it is VERY important to use real cheese in this particular recipe. Sometimes we all have to skimp & save on cheese- But when you're cooking with cheese, it's not going to come out correctly, or frankly even taste very good unless you use real, un-processed cheese. It will be a weird consistency and have zero flavor if you use the pre-shredded bags of cheese in the dairy section of your grocery store. Yes, this recipe is expensive to make, but you're not going to be making a 12-serving dish of mac & cheese every day, so why not splurge for a special occasion? Also, if you don't like the cheeses listed above, feel free to use whatever you like, just make sure it's a cheese that will melt nicely. If you're not sure what you'd like or what to use, go to a cheese shop if you have one near you- and I can't stress enough how helpful Murray's Cheese will be for you, if you live near one- and I'm not just saying that because I used to work there! As long as you have 6 1/2 cups total of cheese, you can use whatever you want, and however many different types you'd like.
What to Do:
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart caserole dish, and set aside.
2. In a saucepan over medium heat, heat the milk. While the milk heats through, melt the 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add the flour. Cook, while whisking, for about 1 minute.
3. While whisking, slowly pour in the hot milk. (I'd suggest having someone help you do this, it's really hard to whisk & pour 5 1/2 cups of hot milk at the same time!) Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixure bubbles and it becomes thick.
4. Remove the pan from heat. Stir in salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cajun seasoning. Next, stir in all of the cheeses, reserving 1 1/2 cups of cheese to use on top. (You can decide of course which cheeses to do this with, I set aside 1 cup of the Welsh Cheddar & 1/2 cup of the Gruyere).
5. Prepare the elbow macaroni, and cook about 2 minutes less than the manufacturer's directions. Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water and drain well.
6. Stir both the macaroni and the bacon into the cheese mixture.
7. Pour the macaroni and cheese into the buttered casserole dish. Sprinkle the reserved cheese on top. Bake until browned on top, about 35-45 minutes. Let dish cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes, and sprinkle with parsley on top before serving.
This is a photo I took before I left for the party, so this is what it looks like after it's been in the oven for about 30 minutes...I put it in the oven once we got to the party for an additional 15 minutes, so it will be a bit more brown than this on top, and it looks really great after that, and the parsley will give it a nice bit of color, as well!
Three Cheese Mac & Cheese

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