Mississippi Comeback Sauce: The Perfect Homemade Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
Macaroni And Cheese Recipe
The Perfect Homemade Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
Macaroni and Cheese The Way It Should Be
By Kevin McClain
In creating The Perfect Homemade Macaroni and Cheese Recipe, I was motivated because many families find that they cannot turn down one of our beloved side dishes, macaroni and cheese. It has been a staple to many an entree in American cuisine. It has no regional boundaries although some regional chefs tend to want to
add something which in their mind, adds pizazz to the traditional dish. Both adults and kids alike love macaroni and cheese, but disappointingly, they think that the five minute boxed version, with its powdered cheese, is what it’s all about. I am about to begin a journey of ridding America of the corruption of one of our beloved side dishes, macaroni and cheese and rejuvenate it back to its pure and simple preparation, as it was meant to be. After reading this article you will discover how to prepare the perfect macaroni and cheese. This I promise you.
There are many recipes out there for macaroni and cheese but there are only 2 distinct styles of preparation that are used widely. one of the more common recipes is one where the macaroni is smothered with a bechamel style sauce flavored with cheese and then my Grandmother’s favorite, the custard style version. This version consists of a mixture of eggs and milk that is poured over macaroni noodles and cheese and baked to set into a custard. Some cooks like to top the macaroni and cheese with some type of crispiness such as bread crumbs or crushed saltine crackers, but in the South we prefer the smooth or custard-like version without any toppings except cheese bubbling over the finished dish. I have prepared enough macaroni and cheese in my lifetime to fill enough 55 gallon drums from Mississippi to the Florida Keys. So, I am picky about whose macaroni and cheese I eat because most of the time it is a tired and uninspiring slosh of a dish that people throw together just because of its popularity. I say to you America, stop that right now!!! Once you get this recipe, you will realize how simple it is to make a perfect macaroni and cheese whether it be stove top or baked.
There is a book by John Thorne called “Simple Cooking” that devotes a whole chapter to our favorite dish. He wrote, and I quote, “As it happens, I’m very fond of macaroni and cheese, and keep a special spot in my heart for cooks who genuinely love it: they are not that many.” I was inspired after reading those four pages and decided to share this knowledge with all who cared enough to want to prepare the best macaroni and cheese possible.
Start Of A Great Recipe
Mr. Thorne’s recipe starts by cooking the macaroni just a bit under al-dente.(Remember, you will be baking this off in the oven so the macaroni will continue cooking.) The hot and drained macaroni is then tossed in a heatproof bowl with butter. Oh, and by the way, always remember, the better quality the ingredients, the better tasting the dish. some evaporated milk, hot red pepper sauce, dry mustard, eggs and a lot of cheese is stirred into the macaroni noodles. the macaroni and cheese is then baked for 20 minutes with additional milk and cheese put in every 5 minutes as you stir the mixture. the purpose for this is to let the eggs set, which creates an amazing smooth sauce. Isn’t that what you want? as the dish is cooking and you are stirring it, the inner tubes of the macaroni are being filled with that smooth sauce, giving you a burst of this sauce in each and every bite. How delightful I was when I followed Mr. Thorne’s recipe. Someone had gotten the dish right. This dish was the real thing and I was one of the owners of this recipe. I quickly studied it so that I could memorize and burn it into my brain cells.
I decided to confirm my discovery by making 2 dishes of macaroni and cheese that many people make. The bechamel style and the custard style. First, the bechamel style dish was a bit grainy, heavy and tasted like “macaroni with a cheese sauce”, not the light and silky dish Mr. Thorne had introduced me to.
Being that the custard based macaroni and cheese recipe was a simpler version of Mr. Thorne’s recipe, I thought by omitting the stirring, I could skip a step and have a dish just as good. I was wrong. compared to Mr. Thorne’s authentic smooth and creamy recipe, the custard style dish turned out to be a dry cheese custard surrounded by macaroni.
Testing The Recipes
After ruling out the competitive recipes I now had to experiment some more to answer some questions such as was evaporated milk really as good as whole milk or half and half? Was cheddar cheese the only cheese that made this dish exceptional. Although the recipe was as close to perfect as I had ever known I wanted to see if a few refinements could elevate it to untouchable status. I realized that after 20 minutes the dish may have been hot but it wasn’t piping hot like I wanted my macaroni and cheese to be. By the time my guests had finished a serving, the cheese sauce had cooled a little and began to set. Mr. Thorne’s advice to sprinkle the macaroni and cheese with crumbled crackers was one possibility as it offered insulation, Yes folks, insulation. But I wanted something more. I did enjoy the rich cheese flavor Mr. Thorne’s recipe achieves with a whole pound of cheddar cheese, but I was stuffed after a few bites. I needed to know if the dish was just as flavorful with a little less cheese.
I tested the recipe with a variety of milks such as low-fat, half and half and whole. The evaporated milk won hands down. all the other milks used to make macaroni and cheese seemed to curdle a bit and gave the dish a grainy and chalky texture. The dish made with evaporated milk was consistently smooth because the evaporation and sterilization process stabilizes the evaporated milk. Turning to cheeses I used New York, Wisconsin and Vermont cheddars. I’m an American, damn it. Being that this recipe calls for a large amount of cheddar cheese, I decided to tone it down with a less sharp cheese, say the Wisconsin variety. I did try some other cheeses to see what those restuarants were trying to do with macaroni and cheese. I tried Gruyere which was so strong I couldn’t finish it. The mildness of Monterey Jack showed me to be a great alternative to so much sharp cheddar(although the sharp cheddar gives the dish an old school taste) and to my surprise, those processed cheeses like Velveeta and American made for a creamier dish with more dimension. I came to this fact: To get flavor, use cheddar. To get texture, use American. It’s a marriage made in food heaven an like eagles, they must mate for life to ensure the integrity of the dish.
The Perfect Warmth
In order for me to solve the dish’s lukewarm serving temperature I decided to not pour the hot macaroni and cheese dish into a cold pan. I instead preheated the pan in the oven so that by the time I was ready to drain the noodles and add them to the pan with butter, the pan was hot enough to need a pot holder. I also warmed the milk some before mixing it with the pasta so I could get a head start on the baking process. Please don’t try to make the dish hotter by leaving it in the oven for over 20 minutes as you will risk curdling the eggs and the dish will be grainy. Remember, your goal here is silky smooth macaroni and cheese, right? Mr. Thorne had suggested using crumbled crackers over the macaroni and cheese dish to foil the rich, unctuous sauce. I decided to toast some buttered stale French bread crumbs and put them on
top for those who like the contrasting textures on the macaroni and cheese.
I also decided to try the recipe stove-top and discovered it to be just as good if you use a heavy-bottomed pot and cooked over medium heat. For those of you who have to add toasted buttered bread crumbs, you can still do this and make the dish just about a fast as you can
the boxed, processed version,except that you’re making the real thing. You are now officially a food purist in my eyes and I love you for it.
So now for a couple of dollars more, you have the difference between that institutionalized, over processed, fake macaroni and cheese dish and the real, silky smooth dish that it was meant to be. So now, “without further to do” as Al Pacino said in one of my favorite movies, “Carlito’s Way” I give you the recipe, given to me by Pam Anderson in her book “The Perfect Recipe” Getting It Right Every Time. I do love this book and recommend you adding it to your cooking library.
Recipe for Mississippi Comeback Sauce