My husband is a mac and cheese snob. Now, I don't mean he demands his macaroni served with truffle oil or anything like that. I just mean that he is just really, really picky when it comes this American classic. Next to my homemade macaroni and cheese, his favorite is Kraft in the blue box and Annie's. Its total comfort food.
A few years ago, I discovered Martha Stewart's recipe for mac and cheese and we just fell in love. I make it all the time, yet interestingly enough, I've never blogged it. Maybe because it became such a staple that I never thought to blog it. That, and since my blog is mostly Weight Watchers recipes, and macaroni and cheese is NOT a WW friendly recipe.
Then, a few weeks ago, I happened to catch Good Eats, For Whom the Cheese Melts 2, which was all about macaroni and cheese. Now everyone knows that Alton Brown "knows best." So since he claimed his macaroni was scientifically perfect, I had to try it. When I told my husband I was going to be trying a new mac and cheese recipe, there were a few grumbles under his breath about fixing that something that wasn't broken and divorce.
Of course, I had to make a few edits after reading the reviews and others for personal preference. I omitted the mustard powder (my husband hates mustard with a passion) and the onions (honestly, this just seemed like a weird addition to this dish).
Well, shuck my corn....my husband LOVED IT. I don't know if it was the mysterious flavor added by the paprika and bay leaf, or the slightly different consistency in the sauce (this sauce has less roux and an added egg compared to Martha's). Well, whatever it was, he went back for seconds and tried to make it back for thirds (but I stood between him and the dish).
1/2 pound elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 3/4 cups fat-free milk
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon paprika
fresh black pepper
1 large egg
10 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente. Rinse with cold water and set aside.
While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and keep it moving for about five minutes, making sure it's free of lumps. (Note: I have never made a successful roux. I always wind up with a ball of flour. If this happens to you, make sure you whisk the roux into the milk with a little extra elbow grease to break it up.) Stir in the milk, bay leaf, pepper and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.
Beat egg in small bowl. Add about 1/4 cup of the hot milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, to the egg. (this is called tempering, when you raise the temperature of the beaten egg before adding it to the hot mixture, so you don't end up with scrambled eggs). Add egg mixture to the hot milk mixture and mix in thoroughly.
Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt. Fold the cooked macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese and then the bread crumbs. Spray top of casserole with cooking spray to evenly coat the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes (I broiled for 3 minutes at the end to get a nice crunchy top). Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving. Yields 6-8 servings.
Original Recipe from Alton Brown