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Two Cooks Enter. One Cook Leaves. | Baked Macaroni and Cheese | Recipe

April 15, 2009
Image stolen, brazenly from desertculinary on flickr.

Image brazenly appropriated from desertculinary on flickr.

Cookbooks, like lingerie, are gifts that keep on giving. JB gave me a tin of excellent (if not terribly manly) Earl Grey Lavender tea for Christmas, and with it, a copy of “Macaroni and Cheese” by Marlena Spieler, with the understanding that I would try for the crown at this year’s Mac and Cheese showdown at the annual Turkey and Turkey Thanksgiving party (and if I happened to make a few practice batches for her, she would suffer through one or two helpings.) Last year’s competition was class against sass as Roland’s smoky, upscale, herbaceous effort was barely beaten out by Deb’s perfectly executed, old-fashioned cheesy elbows. Having been beaten by this same dish two years ago, I can tell you – there was no shame in losing. Deb don’t f*ck around. When I went up against her, it was the culinary equivalent of a UFC bout, without any actual face-kicking. (At least until we started drinking Wild Turkey.)

This year, however, I have time to sharpen my game and run a few preliminary rounds against lesser foes (yes I’m talkin’ trash early. BRING IT) and, of course, I’ve got you people. I’ve hacked Marlena’s baked M+C formula very slightly, though, to be fair, only in this context could roughly doubling the amount of cheese employed be called “slight tweaking.” If you try this version, please, lemme know what you think, and, if you vary it at all, lemme know what you tried and how it worked out for you. BECAUSE THIS IS THE THUNDERDOME, MOTHERF*CKER. TWO COOKS ENTER, ONE COOK LEAVES.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

16 oz Barilla Campanelle Pasta (though any tubed pasta will do)
1/2 pound salted butter
5 tablespoons flour
4 cups hot milk (the first time I tried to make this, I tried heating the milk in JB’s kettle, not realizing that milk behaves differently than water when heated and boiled. I came back into the kitchen after a few minutes to find a graceful stream of hot milk shooting out of the steam-whistle, arcing over the right-side burner, hitting the side of the fridge and pooling at the foot of the stove. So. To sum up. Don’t heat milk in a kettle. I am a dumbass.)

2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
(go to Whole Foods or order some off the internet, already. Get the Spanish stuff. Oh hells yes, get the Spanish stuff.)
2 tablespoons dry mustard
24 oz sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
16 oz mild white meltable cheese (I’d go with Monterey Jack) shredded
10 oz sharp blue cheese, crumbled

8 oz freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 cups panko-style breadcrumbs
1/2 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced

Salt a biggish pot of water. Don’t mess around with the salt. Salt the hell out of it.

Boil the pasta, two minutes shy of the instructions on the box. Drain and return to the pot.

In a big nonstick saucepan, melt 5 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour evenly into the butter and cook for a few minutes. Stir with a wooden spoon and add the milk and the bay leaf. Cook and stir, over medium-high heat, for about 6 minutes. Remove bay leaves and whisk out any lumps. (You HAVE a whisk, right? Come on, man.) Move pan off the heat and add salt, pepper, paprika and dry mustard.

Take a big handful of the Cheddar, the Jack and 1/2 the blue cheese and 1/3 of the Parmigiano, and set aside in a bowl. Take all the cheese that’s left and stir, one handful at a time, into the milk, until all of it is melted. Slowly pour that whole bad boy into the pasta pot, stirring firmly but slowly, until the glorious cheese sauce is mixed in and covering all those noodles.

Cackle slightly.

Melt a couple of remaining tablespoons of butter in a medium-sized saute pan and caramelize the onions and garlic with a little salt. Stir into cheese-pasta mixture.

Wipe the drool off your face and melt 1 stick of butter in that same saute pan. Combine with the breadcrumbs. Toss and stir until butter is evenly incorporated. Set aside.

Take 1/3 of the reserved cheese and sprinkle into the bottom of a buttered 9×13 baking dish. Pour the cheese-pasta awesomeness into the dish, and then sprinkle the remaining reserved cheese on top. If you have any extra Parmigiano, put that on top of the cheese – and then, on top of that, layer your breadcrumbs.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes. Serve warm with large cloth napkins to be draped over the head so that, in your gluttonous shame, you may hide your face from God.

Believe it or not, this is supposed to only serve 4. Four what, I have no idea.



6 Comments leave one →
  1. J Vessels permalink
    April 15, 2009 9:07 am

    Christ on a cracker, that looks amazing. I may make that for dinner tonight, but first I’ll have to re-up my stock of Lipitor. I’m thinking I might add some pancetta or bacon and see if that takes it to a new level.

    The blog’s off to a great start, Theo–I look forward to reading more.

    • Theo permalink
      April 15, 2009 9:16 am

      To be honest – that’s just a photo I stole from flickr. But – to be fair to Miz Spieler – her dish looks even better. 🙂

  2. April 15, 2009 10:41 am

    I can attest to the ridiculosity of the recipe (though I don’t think posting your secret recipe is going to win you the gold crown, my dear). Oh my sweet Lord, it’s good. Hey, I have an idea, T! Why don’t you whip up a batch in my kitchen and I’ll take a picture for the blog. I am such a good friend. 🙂

  3. Deb Meiser permalink
    April 15, 2009 1:08 pm

    Yo, nice work on the site! And, hey, thanks for protecting my privacy but being the title holder two consecutive years @ Turkey & Turkey is nothing to be ashamed of (unlike most of the shit that actually does come up when I’m Googled, I kid, I kid).

  4. J Vessels permalink
    April 21, 2009 9:33 am

    I whipped up a batch of this deliciousness the night you posted it. I halved the recipe and used shallots instead of onions, a colby-monterrey jack mix instead of just jack, and about 3 oz of good quality gorgonzola for the bleu because a taste after adding that much seemed to indicate that adding more would overwhelm the flavor. Oh, and I cooked 1/2 lb of pancetta and added that. It was everything I hoped it would be. I still ended up with 6 servings, so whoever wrote that the whole recipe would serve four must have been writing for the Jolly Green Giant’s monthly magazine (this month’s cover: JGG in Hugo Boss and Sprout in Juicy Couture for kids).

    • Theo permalink
      April 21, 2009 10:01 am

      I had considered swapping out the onions for crispily-fried shallots. And the judicious application of pancetta sounds perfect. I’m glad your effort came out so well. And I couldn’t agree more on the serving size – though I’m pretty sure Jolly-G is a Prada man.

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