For the third and final part of our Thanksgiving series, we’re experimenting with an all-American classic: macaroni and cheese. This is a Thanksgiving staple in our house but can easily be enjoyed all year round. Nothing screams comfort food like a luscious bowl of mac and cheese. We grew up on Kraft (cringe) but lately have been venturing into more complex (and natural) recipes. Apologies to our vegan readers, but this week’s recipe includes three different cheeses and a from-scratch cheese sauce, obviously not vegan friendly. A vegan mac and cheese recipe is coming soon! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! We are thankful to all of our readers who have been super supportive of the blog thus
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CREAMY MAC AND CHEESE
I am usually not a big fan of baked mac and cheese because sometimes it turns out dry and is missing that luscious, creamy texture. For the past few years, I have been on the hunt for a go-to recipe, and stumbled across this one from one of my favorite Food Network TV personalities, Ree Drummond. Every recipe of hers that I have made has been nothing short of amazing, and this one is no exception. This mac and cheese has an unusual and surprising ingredient- dry mustard. At first I was skeptical about how it would turn out but it definitely makes the dish. Even my boyfriend, who hates mustard, agreed. It takes the mac and cheese to another level- trust me! Also, the original recipe used only sharp cheddar, but I used a mix of fontina, colby jack, and sharp cheddar. I would highly recommend using a combination of your favorite cheeses for a more developed flavor. Without further adieu, let’s get cooking!
- 4 cups Dried Macaroni (1 pound)
- 1 whole Egg, Beaten
- 1/4 cup (1/2 Stick Or 4 Tablespoons) Butter
- 1/4 cup All-purpose Flour
- 2-1/2 cups Whole Milk
- 2 teaspoons (heaping) Dry Mustard, More If Desired
- 1 pound Cheese, Grated
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt, More To Taste
- 1/2 teaspoon Seasoned Salt, More To Taste
- 1/2 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
- Optional Spices: Cayenne Pepper, Paprika, Thyme
This recipe is all about the cheese! Sharp cheddar provides a reliable cheesy flavor while fontina and colby jack add some of that ooey-gooey cheesy texture we all love.
The first step here our prep work: freshly grating the cheese. Again, I used about equal portions of three different cheeses, which I highly recommend. Also, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F at this point.
Cook your macaroni until it is firm, not soft enough to eat. I cooked mine for about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Next we want to start our cheese sauce. This is going to be smothered over the macaroni before it heads into the oven and is topped with fresh cheese (yum!). First, melt the butter over medium-low heat.
Sprinkle in flour and whisk together, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes, careful to not let it burn. This is called a roux, which is the basis of a cream sauce or gravy.
Pour in the milk. Using whole milk provides another level of creaminess. Let’s be honest- this dish is clearly not calorie-friendly so why not go all out? It is Thanksgiving, after all!
Now for the surprise ingredient- dry mustard! Add and continue to whisk the mixture for another 5 minutes or so. It will thicken- almost like a gravy.
Now, reduce heat to low. Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to retrieve some of the mixture. Beat an egg and add the milk mixture to the egg very slowly and whisk constantly to avoid cooking the egg. Keep whisking until egg mixture is cooled. This is called “tempering.” Instead of dumping the beaten egg into the very hot mixture in the pan—which would result in the eggs scrambling—you introduce some of the hot mixture into the egg very slowly. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and whisk until completely combined.
Now for the fun part- the CHEEEESE! Dump about 1/2 cup or so into the pan and stir together until it is completely melted. You can turn off the heat now.
Try not to lick the pan- this cheese sauce was calling out to me! So creamy and smells amazing.
Next, it’s time to season. First add the salts (and cayenne pepper or other optional seasonings that you decide to include). Be sure not to undersalt the mac and cheese, but also remember the cheese does add a little saltiness- depending on which kind of cheese you are using. Taste the mixture as you go along to make sure it is well seasoned.
Also add plenty of black pepper. Stir or whisk a few times until all the seasonings are well combined.
Look at that masterpiece! You have just created your very own cheese sauce, congrats!! Feel free to use this as a fondue, spooned over broccoli, or straight out of the pan! (kidding- kind of).
OMG. You guys! Look at that! Stir in the drained, partially cooked macaroni and restrain yourself from eating. Pour into a buttered 13 x 9 baking dish.
Honestly, the macaroni would be delicious to eat just like this, but bring on the cheese!
Sprinkle the remaining freshly-grated cheese on top of the macaroni. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
JUST. LIKE. THIS.
Now, the best part, DIG IN! Happy Thanksgiving!