Mac & Cheese

Mac & Cheese, http://variationsoncooking.com

Growing up all I remember of mac and cheese was the bright orange covered pasta that came from a box, which is still a popular main stay in most kitchens. But making Mac & Cheese from scratch, with fresh ingredients is really easy. You just need to master the base, the Béchamel, then you can jump off into any combination you can think up, even as a desert, yes a desert.

So lets start, the first thing you need to master is making a béchamel, which is just butter, flour and milk.

Béchamel

Ingredients

2 sticks of unsalted butter 
1 cup of un bleached flour 
8 cups of milk

and a pinch of fresh Nutmeg

Directions

Place butter in a deep skillet of medium high heat and once it has all melted whisk in the flour.

Keep whisking until rich creamy golden yellow and all the flour has melted into the butter.

With your whisk in hand add the milk to the skillet and whisk until all blended.

Once the mixture has come to a boil reduce heat to low and whisk every minute or so.

As the sauce begins to thicken this is the point to add the flavors to the sauce. For most béchamel sauce salt and pepper is the staple seasonings and from here the sky is the limit. Now of the other ingredients;

Traditional Mac & Cheese

Additional Ingredients

1 lb of mozzarella Cheese, grated 
1 lb of Fontina Cheese, grated 
1 lb Gruyere Cheese, grated 
1 lb of Cheshire cheese, grated or another cheddar of choice 
½ lb Assiago cheese grated 
2 lbs of dried pasta — cooked 2 minutes less then stated on the package 
2 table spoons sugar

Directions

Now add the sugar to the béchamel whisk to combine, next add all the Assiago cheese, and ¼ of each of the other cheese, stir to combine and remove sauce from heat.

As the cheese are melting into the sauce lets build the Mac and Cheese.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large deep baking dish place the cooked hot pasta. 
Next add ½ of each of the cheese tossing to combine. 
The Cheese should start melting in the hot pasta. 
Now pour the béchamel cheese sauce over pasta and toss to coat all of the pasta. 
Lastly top off the dish with the remaining cheese.

Cover with tin foil and cook for 25 minutes, remove foil and place back in the oven for an additional 15 minutes or until the cheese on top turns golden brown.

Let the Mac and Cheese set for about 5 minutes before serving. Following I have some of my favorite Mac and Cheese Variations.

Mushroom Mac and Cheese

Mushroom Mac & Cheese, http://variationsoncooking.com

Ingredients
3 Sticks of unsalted butter 
8 cups of milk 
1 cup dried mushrooms, crushed.
1 cup of flour

2 lbs of Pasta of choice — cook to 2 minutes less then is stated on the package 
1 lb of Fontina Cheese grated 
1 lb of Mozzarella cheese grated 
1 lb of Ricotta cheese 
1/2 lb of Assiago cheese grated 
1 lb of Shiitake Mushrooms sliced 
1 lb of button mushroom sliced 
1 lb of Crimini mushrooms sliced 
1/2 lb of Porcini mushrooms sliced 
1/2 cup red wine 
1/4 balsamic vinegar 
1 cup of Italian parsley, chopped stems removed 
1 large onion diced 
6 sprigs of Thyme, stems removed 
1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Place milk in a large sauce pot and bring to about 90 to 100 degrees, warm but not boiling, remove from heat and add the crushed dried mushrooms. Let stand for about half hour or until mushrooms are soft. Strain and save mushrooms.

In another large sauce pan melt 2 sticks of butter over medium high heat.

Once melted whisk in the flour, keep whisking until you have a nice golden yellow rue. Now add the 8 cups of milk, whisking to blend. ( you are making a bechamel)

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer whisking every few minutes.

Once it starts to thickens and the flour taste as gone, salt and pepper to taste and add the thyme leaves.

While the bechamel sauce is thickening, place onions in a skillet with 2 table spoons of butter over medium high heat and cook until soften.

Next add the mushrooms, toss and reduce heat to medium and cook mushrooms until soft.

Now add the red wine, 1/2 cup of parsley, red pepper flakes to taste and balsamic vinegar to the skillet. Reduce heat to simmer and check the bechamel sauce.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Timing is important here the bechamel sauce, the mushrooms and the pasta should be done about the same time. I start the mushrooms once the milk has gone into the rue

Once the sauce is the consistency of yogurt add the Assaigo cheese, and 1/4 of each of the cheeses and stir to combine and turn off heat.

The mushrooms should be tender at this point and the wine and balsamic has almost reduced off, remove from heat.

Now its time to combine all the parts; in a very large deep dish place the cooked hot pasta. Now add 1/2 of each of cheese and toss to coat ( you should have a 1/4 of each of the cheese to top off the dish with).

Next add the white sauce and the balance of the parsley, toss to coat, followed by the mushrooms and toss again. Level off and then sprinkle the balance of the cheese on the top.

Cover the pan with foil and cook for about 25 minutes, then remove foil and cook for another 15 or so minutes or until the cheese on top is golden brown and crunchy. Serve hot.

For a variation on this add cooked balsamic glazed chicken to the party.

4 large chicken cutlet 
3 table spoons of olive oil 
2 table spoon Paprika 
1/4 to 1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar.

Directions.

Place all ingredients in a bowl and coat well the chicken. Place all in a hot skillet and cook chicken through and it is coated with a sticky glaze. Let chicken cool and diced to about 1 inch cubes, then add it to the mac and cheese at the same time as the mushrooms.

Buffalo Mac & Cheese

Buffalo Mac & Cheese, http://variationsoncooking.com

Ingredients

3 sticks of unsalted butter 
1 cup of flour 
8 cups of buttermilk 
2 lbs of pasta of choice, cook 2 minutes less then it states on the package

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
1/2 teaspoon of each of powdered garlic and onion 
salt and pepper to taste 
1 lb of mozzarella cheese grated 
1 lb of goat cheese crumbled 
1 lb of Chevre cheese crumbled 
1/2 lb of Buffalo Blue cheese crumbled 
2/3 cup of celery leaves chopped

6 to 8 large boneless chicken breast, skin removed, diced in 1 inch cubes

veggie oil 
1/2 corn starch 
1/2 cup flour 
1/2 cup plus 2 to 3 table spoons 
Louisiana Hot sauce

1/4 cup apple vinegar 
3 tables spoons of onion powder 
3 tables spoons of garlic powder

Directions

Preheat Oven to 375 degrees

Now there are allot of things you need to do here at once — start with the chicken first Let’s start with the sauce, place one stick of butter in a sauce pan and melt, then remove from heat and whisk in 1/2 cup Louisiana hot sauce, the apple vinegar, the onion and garlic powder and salt and pepper then set aside.

In a large skillet over medium high heat add enough veggie oil to skillet to be about 2 inches deep. You will need a container with a lid that you can shake the fried chicken in with the hot sauce mixture. 
 Whisk together the corn starch and 1/2 cup of flour.

Now you need to do to things at once here. Bring the cube chicken and the dredging mix to the stove with the skillet of oil.

Now dredge the cubes of chicken in the mixture, pat off any excess mixture and drop them in the hot oil, fry about 2 to 3 minutes until crispy.

Now only dredge the chicken right before fry and not before, they will be come doughy. As you remove the first batch of chicken drop it in the container and add about 1/4 cup of the hot sauce mixture, put the lid and shake. You want the chicken well coated; shake for a least a minute. Remove from the container and place on a plate: DO NOT DUMP the chicken out, you want the chicken coated not swimming in the sauce.

Repeat until all the chicken is cooked and coated.

Now start on the bechamel sauce and the pasta.

Place the water on for the pasta and bring to a boil and drop the pasta; remember to cook the pasta 2 minutes less then the package states

In a deep sauce pan place 2 sticks of butter over medium high heat. Once melted add the cup of flour and whisk until you have a golden yellow rue.

Now add the milk and whisk to blend.

Once the bechamel starts to thicken, salt and pepper to taste, red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon of garlic and onion powder and add the 2 to 3 table spoons of Louisiana hot sauce.

Once the sauce gets to the consistency of yogurt add in a 1/4 of each of the cheese with the exception of the blue. Whisk to melt and remove from heat and add 1/3 of a cup of the celery leaves and stir.

In a very large deep baking pan add the pasta and 1/2 of each of the cheese with the exception of the blue, toss to coat.

Next add the bechamel sauce to the pan and toss to coat. Now add the chicken, the balance of the celery leaves and the blue cheese and toss to mix throughout. Top off with the balance of the cheese.

Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes, then remove foil and bake over 15 minutes more or until golden brown and crispy.

Jambalaya Mac and Cheese

Jambalaya Mac & Cheese, http://variationsoncooking.com

Ingredients

2 sticks of unsalted butter 
1 cup of flour 8 cups of milk 
2 lbs of pasta of choice, cook 2 minutes less then it states on the package

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
1/2 teaspoon of each of powdered garlic and onion 
 salt and pepper to taste

1 lb of Monterey Jack cheese grated 
1 lb of Gruyere, grated 
2 lb of Havarti cheese crumbled 
1/2 lb goat cheese crumbled 
 8 boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch cubes

1 ½ lbs of pork butt, cut into 1 inch cubes 
16 Andouille sausages, sliced in ½ pieces 
 1 lb of bacon, diced 
2 red onions, diced 
4 stalks of celery, diced 
4 red peppers, diced 
6 cloves of garlic, minced 
½ cup of parsley chopped, stems removed 
1 ½ cups of diced green onions 
2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper 
2 teaspoons of ground cumin 
2 teaspoon of ground yellow mustard 
½ cup of Rum 
¼ cup of red wine vinegar 
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat Oven to 375 degrees

In a large skillet over medium high heat place render off the bacon, remove the crisp bacon to a paper towel lined plate. Now add the onions, peppers and celery to the bacon fat and cook until tender. Remove the veggies to a bowl and set aside. Now cook the sausage until crispy, remove and set aside. Now it’s the chickens turn add to the skillet and cook until golden brown and remove. Last but not least is the pork, cook until brown and remove.

Return the veggies to the skillet and add garlic, ½ the parsley and the spices, rum and vinegar to deglaze the pan.

Now return all the meats to the skillet with the exception of the bacon, reduce heat and simmer until the liquids have reduced until almost gone.

Remove from heat.

Now to the bechamel sauce,

In a deep sauce pan place 2 sticks of butter over medium high heat. Once melted add the cup of flour and whisk until you have a golden yellow rue.

Now add the milk and whisk to blend.

Once the bechamel starts to thicken add the powdered garlic and onion, salt and pepper to taste and the red pepper flakes and whisk to combine.

Now add the goat cheese and ¼ each of the cheese and stir, once the cheese begin to melt remove skillet from heat.

In a very large deep baking pan add the pasta and 1/2 of each of the cheese and toss to coat.

Next add the bechamel sauce to the pan and toss to coat.

Now add the meats, the balance of the parsley and the bacon and toss to mix throughout. Top off with the balance of the cheese.

Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes, then remove foil and bake over 15 minutes more or until golden brown and crispy. Return the veggies to the skillet and add garlic, ½ the parsley and the spices, rum and vinegar to deglaze the pan.

Now return all the meats to the skillet with the exception of the bacon, reduce heat and simmer until the liquids have reduced until almost gone.

Remove from heat.

Now to the bechamel sauce,

In a deep sauce pan place 2 sticks of butter over medium high heat. Once melted add the cup of flour and whisk until you have a golden yellow rue.

Now add the milk and whisk to blend.

Once the bechamel starts to thicken add the powdered garlic and onion, salt and pepper to taste and the red pepper flakes and whisk to combine.

Now add the goat cheese and ¼ each of the cheese and stir, once the cheese begin to melt remove skillet from heat.

In a very large deep baking pan add the pasta and 1/2 of each of the cheese and toss to coat.

Next add the bechamel sauce to the pan and toss to coat.

Now add the meats, the balance of the parsley and the bacon and toss to mix throughout. Top off with the balance of the cheese.

Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes, then remove foil and bake over 15 minutes more or until golden brown and crispy.

For more of my Variations on Mac & Cheese go to my BLOG,

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Andrew BeauChamp’s story.