Macaroni-and-cheese is an iconic American staple lovingly melted within our hamburger-and-hot-dog history and culinary landscape. Do not forget that thick-sliced staple of meat loaf served with mashed potatoes in greasy spoons across the country, especially during the Depression. Fried chicken? Barbecue? We are talking the national fingerprint of food. And, that cozy, all-American slice of apple pie!
My all-time favorite mac-and-cheese is Martha Stewart's recipe. Whenever I prepare it, people rave. The topping of toasted bread cubes is brilliant. But it is complicated. Time consuming. Gordon Ramsey also has a great recipe. But it uses cauliflower. Hmmmmm .... More work!
I revere the macaroni and cheese from my grandmother's old cookbook. It is more of a custard than "cheesy." I have since updated it a bit .... She would have loved it! http://www.kitchenbounty.com/2008/09/craft-macaroni-and-cheese.html
Truth-be-told, I probably make the following, simple recipe the most often. Why? It is easy. And, most importantly, you actually taste the cheese! The cheese is not lost or dissipated in a flour-and-milk paste sauce called a Bechemel. It uses no dairy other than a bit of butter. The water, flavored with bacon and onion, is all it needs. Well, maybe a bit sour cream on the side!
- 1 slice smoked bacon, cut in half
- 1 heaping tablespoon chopped dried onion (not fresh)
- 4 cups cold water
- 1-3 teaspoons table salt
- 3-4 ounces dried pasta of your choice
- 3-4 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1-2 tablespoons butter
In a 2-quart saucepan, add water, salt, onion and bacon and bring to a boil. Lower heat a bit and allow to simmer briskly for about ten minutes to fully flavor the water.
Raise heat to a boil and add pasta. Follow package directions until done.
DO NOT DRAIN.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer pasta to a bowl. Whisk in the butter. While hot, sprinkle on the cheese. Add as much of the bacon-onion broth to bring to a creamy consistency--and then a bit more. The pasta will release its starches to thicken it up a bit. Add some of the bacon if desired.