Yucky and yummy. The two words that best sum up this past weekend. The weather here in Connecticut was cold and raw, rainy and (anticipating) snowy, so obviously this was the yucky part. The yummy part – the unbelievably yummy part – comes in the form of a classic comfort food – the ultimate in comfort food – a fantastic mac n’ cheese.
Last year I found not just any old mac n’ cheese recipe – no, no – I found the Mac n’ Cheese recipe that is truly one of the most iconic in Americana cuisine – Fannie Farmer’s ‘Boston Cooking School Cookbook’ – 1946 – 8th edition. This one’s a must for your repertoire.
Right before the new year (and barely 2 weeks after our Newtown tragedy) we had dear friends over for a cozy get together and dinner. I think we were all feeling pretty beaten down and just plain exhausted, so to me it seemed only natural to cook-up a menu that was hopefully comforting to all – Julia Child’s meatloaf and mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans roasted in a huge iron skillet on the hearth, and of course, a hearty baking dish of oven baked goodness – Miss Fannie’s mac n’ cheese. Ultimately it was nothing fancy – just homemade and nostalgic. But other than hopefully accomplishing some comfort for all, there was a major discovery made in this house. My Conor, Mr. Kraft Mac n’ Cheese man, actually dogged the real mac n’ cheese. After years of unsuccessfully trying to coax him into the real deal, he found this classic mac n’ cheese to be incredibly satisfying – actually pretty darn good. So let’s just say, there’s no going back. Yippee! (So sorry Kraft.)
This weekend’s weather conditions were perfectly yucky to whip up (literally) a big batch. The recipe below doubles Miss Fannie’s original recipe and easily fills a 14-inch x 11-inch baking dish so it could feed 8-10 people, or in this case, have plenty of leftovers. The only thing to debate now is this: Is it best the day it’s made or heated up the following day(s)? You decide.
Miss Fannie Farmer’s Mac n’ Cheese (adapted and modified from the ‘Boston Cooking School Cookbook’)
(Enough to fill a large baking/casserole dish – serves 8-10)
1 16-ounce package of macaroni
1 stick of unsalted butter (8 tablespoons)
8 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk
2 cups light cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese ( love Cabot’s Seriously Sharp)
1/2 cup seasoned dried bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cook and drain macaroni and set aside. Coat baking dish with butter and set aside.
In a medium/large soup pot melt butter (I find it much easier to work in a larger pan). Mix flour with salt and pepper and add to melted butter in pan. Whisk together until well blended to form a rue. Gradually add milk, and then the cream – whisking constantly. Bring to boiling point and boil for 2 minutes – stirring consistently.
Reduce heat and cook for about 10 minutes – stirring constantly. It will be a nice thick consistency.
Add shredded cheddar, little by little, until the cheese melts. Turn off heat. Add the cooked macaroni to the cheese mixture and mix well.
Transfer cheesy macaroni to the buttered baking dish. Blend together the breadcrumbs and grated parmesan, and sprinkle evenly over the entire dish.
Bake for 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown. I like to turn on the broiler for the last minute, and watch carefully not to burn, to ensure a nicely browned crispy top crust.
Absolutely love these heirloom recipes!