People who call mac & cheese "comfort food" don't really know what it means to truly enjoy this gooey gift, because if you're indulging properly the end result is uncomfortable pants that no longer fit. This mac & cheese is so easy to make and so delicious that it could ruin your life, but at least you'll go out with a legendary cheese-eating grin.
Most comfort food carries the unfortunate stigma of being suited only for cold, gloomy days, but the Lazy Chef disagrees. The <em>new</em> definition of comfort food embraces the philosophy of "when you can, while you can." There will come a day when some starched-white uniform won't let even one forkful of this stuff get anywhere near your face, so you may as well enjoy it now.
Without further ado:
<strong> The Basic Tools </strong>
<li><a href="http://www.atgstores.com/sauce-saute-pans_3296.html?linkLoc=topnav" target="_blank">Medium saucepan</a> (x2)</li>
<li><a href="http://www.atgstores.com/general-baking-pan-baking-pans_2284.html?&option0=optionA=215662|14113~Valu" target="_blank">2-quart baking dish</a> (x2)</li>
<li><a href="http://www.atgstores.com/mixing-bowls_2286.html?linkLoc=topnav" target="_blank">Large mixing bowl</a></li>
<li><a href="http://www.atgstores.com/wisks-cookware-accessories_3298.html?&option0=optionA=209905|14073~Valu" target="_blank">Whisk</a></li>
<strong>The Ingredients </strong>
<li>1 1/4 pound (7 1/2 cups) extra-sharp cheddar, grated</li>
<li>1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated</li>
<li>1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter</li>
<li>1 pound elbow macaroni</li>
<li>6 tbsp. flour</li>
<li>5 cups whole milk</li>
<li>4 quarts water</li>
<li>3 cups coarse bread crumbs</li>
<li>2 tsp. each of salt and pepper</li>
So, this one's a four-parter, but they're all very easy. No problem. Start by preheating your oven to 400°F and we'll come back to it when it's ready to rock. But for now ...
<span style="text-decoration: underline;">Part 1 (The Topping)</span>: Melt 1/2 stick of butter and mix in the bread crumbs, 1 1/2 cups of the cheddar and 1/2 cup of the P-R. Combine and set aside. Don't worry - it's supposed to be clumpy.
<span style="text-decoration: underline;">Part 2 (The Sauce)</span>: Melt 1 stick of butter in the saucepan on medium-low heat and stir in the flour. Stir this concoction (called a roux) for about 3 minutes and then whisk in the milk. Bring it to a boil and keep whisking, then dial it down to a simmer for another 3 minutes. Finally, stir in the rest of the cheese, salt and pepper and whisk until smooth. Once smooth, turn off heat, cover and set aside.
<span style="text-decoration: underline;">Part 3 (The Mac)</span>: Sprinkle salt in the water and bring it to a boil. Toss in the mac and boil until <em>al dente</em> (that's French for 8-10 minutes). Drain the noodles, but keep 1 cup of the water.
<span style="text-decoration: underline;">Part 4 (The Assembly)</span>: Combine the mac, reserved water and sauce in a bowl and mix it up. Butter your baking dishes and then pour in the good stuff. Finally, sprinkle the topping over both and bake until golden brown and bubbling - about 20-25 minutes.
You may notice that this recipe makes A LOT of mac & cheese. That's because it's awesome and keeps well for future nibbling, but if you don't want <em>20 servings of deliciousness</em> on hand, just cut the recipe in half for a more "comfortable" amount. If you want to take things the other way, though, feel free to add fresh peas and/or diced prosciutto to really make this a full-on meal.
Happy dining, and check back soon for more recipes from the Lazy Chef at <a href="http://www.atgstores.com/" target="_blank">ATGStores.com</a>.