Picking Up My Shovel

Snow removal rules the day.  Here’s a photo progression of the sharp and  creamy mac and cheese that accompanied Sunday’s Fennel and Arugula Salad.  If I have time at the end of this very long day, I will update the photos with a recipe.

Start with a combination of grated sharp cheeses, like these here: Extra Sharp Vermont White Cheddar, and grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Gather up your favorite short tube-shaped pasta.  Some swear by the classic elbow.  I like these Pipette.

Make sure you have your hot Colman’s Mustard powder and cayenne pepper on hand; if you don’t, soldier on and  substitute with German Extra Senf Mustard and some kind of hot sauce.

Off the heat, combine white sauce, cheeses, and macaroni.

Pour into a prepared large oval baking dish (or similar).

Top with 1 cup of fresh bread crumbs that have been tossed with about a tablespoon of butter.

Bake until crisped on top and bubbling around the edges.  Serve.

To make this rich but no frills Macaroni and Cheese:

  • 12 ounces extra-sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound of your favorite short tube-shaped pasta (elbows, pipette, mini penne, and the like)
  • 6 Tbsp. butter
  • 6 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1-2 tsp. Coleman’s dry mustard (in a bind, I substituted 1 Tbsp. of really hot German-style prepared mustard)
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (again in a bind, I substituted about 20 shakes of Tabasco sauce)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 cup freshly made bread crumbs from any toothsome loaf
  • 1 Tbsp. soft butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 4-quart shallow baking or gratin dish and set aside.  Begin to bring a large pot of salted water to the boil for the macaroni.  Grate your cheeses and set aside.

In a medium heavy saucepan, melt the 6 Tbsp. of butter over medium low heat.  Add flour, stirring it in a tablespoon at a time, and make a roux.  Once all the flour has been incorporated, stir and cook the roux for a minute or two until lump free and the rawness has cooked out of the flour.  Do not burn.

Warm the milk in a small saucepan (or in a heatproof measuring cup in the microwave).  Add the milk in a slow stream to the roux, stirring constantly.  Continue stirring and bring mixture to the boiling point over medium heat.  Stir as it thickens, and add mustard, cayenne, salt, and pepper.  Remove from heat when thick and creamy.  Cover and set at the back of the stove.

Cook the pasta about a minute less than called for on the package, or until just about al dente.  Drain well and return to the pasta pot.  Add to the pot the white sauce and the cheeses, stir together thoroughly, and turn into the prepared dish.

Place the bread crumbs in a food processor, add the soft butter, and pulse 2 or 3 times to blend.  Scatter the mixture over the top of the casserole.  (If you don’t have a food processor, scatter the crumbs over the casserole and dot over the top with the soft butter.)

Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until bubbling and golden on top.


©2011  Jane A. Ward