Well, apparently our daughter. Yes, I’m making some calls for confirmation, but we believe she might be the only two-year-old in the world who doesn’t eat macaroni and cheese. Fortunately, Parker’s distaste for America’s favorite side dish does little to discourage us from making it.
In fact, it was a giant pan of Mac n’ Cheese that sustained Brooke for the days trapped inside as ‘hurricane’ Irene rolled through New York City. But now the weather is clear and Labor Day cookouts are upon us, so we’re here to make sure you are the star this year’s neighborhood pot luck. Our mac n’ cheese, along with my mother-in-law’s Famous Caesar Salad will insure you are the most popular person on the block. And keep the invites to neighborly functions rolling in… whether you want them or not!
Mornay (aka Cheese Sauce)
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2½ cups milk, heated
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste cooks and bubbles a bit, but don’t let it brown — about 2 minutes. The goal is a medium tan color.
Add the hot milk gradually while constantly whisking. The mixture will become extremely thick, but thin as more milk is added. Continue whisking until the smooth. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often to prevent scorching. Season with salt and pepper to taste, lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cook about 20 minutes, stirring every 2 -3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the grated cheese.
**May be prepared up to 2 days in advance. Keep tightly covered in the refrigerator.**
Mac n’ Cheese
1 pound pasta (elbows or penne)
1 teaspoon Sriracha hot sauce or other hot sauce
½ cup heavy cream or milk
1 recipe mornay, recipe above
½ cup grated or diced mozzarella cheese (optional)
½ cup Parmesan cheese
Breadcrumbs for topping (optional)
Preheat oven to 500˚ F
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until it is just tender. Drain the pasta and set aside in a colander to steam dry for a few minutes.
If the cheese sauce was prepared in advance, warm it and stir in the hot sauce and cream. Combine the drained pasta and cheese sauce, mix well and taste for seasoning. Stir in the mozzarella (if using).
Pile the pasta high into a large gratin dish or cast iron skillet and cover the top with the parmesan cheese. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the top is golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes. Cool the dish outside of the oven at least 5 minutes before serving.