day 1: mac and cheese

day 1: mac and cheese

Okay, full disclosure, it’s not “Day 1” in the sense that I’ve never cooked before, of course I have, I love cooking, hence the food section of the blog. BUT I’ve only ever dabbled in or fantasized about even entertaining the idea that food could be a real career for me, which this is not, I have a job, this is what I’m going to do to decompress.

Now that all of you are on the same page about “Day 1” (all five of you– hi, Mom) I feel a lot less pressure and am going to share my first recipe. All kidding aside, I thought it would be fitting, on Day 1, to make my favorite meal of all time, Mac and Cheese.

When I was in high school, I went to my cousin Ellen’s house for Thanksgiving and had the best Mac and Cheese of my life– good pasta instead of dinky macaroni, creamy cheese and the perfect crust. I say this with one caveat, I have not tried it since so I could be romanticizing how amazing the mac really was. AND since becoming an adult (I’m 25 and worldly) I have moved into NYC and experienced the Mac and Cheese at 44X. If you haven’t tried it, go. Go now. Stop reading a blog about mac and cheese and actually try some freaking life changing mac and cheese (and then come back and finish reading).

Meanwhile, I will attempt to make the historic Mac and Cheese– because, after I raved about the meal as a kid, my cousin graciously sent me the recipe, below (adapted from Lauren Groveman’s recipe):

Prep:

1. Shred 16 ounces of processed sharp cheddar cheese (yes, the cheap stuff, it supposedly melts better—I used my grocery store’s generic), Reserve some for sprinkling on top, or supplement with a cup of the good stuff for sprinkling

2. Put a pot of water on to boil (for cooking the pasta) and preheat the oven to 375 degrees Farenheit

3. Butter a 6 qt baking dish and lid (I didn’t have a lid so I buttered some aluminum foil, dull side down)

Cook:

1. Melt one stick of butter (1/4 lb) in a 4 quart saucepan over medium heat, wisk in 3 tablespoons and 1 and 1/3 teaspoons of white flour (odd, right?—just go with it) and add 4 cups of milk (I used 1% because it’s what I had on hand and the recipe didn’t specify, I’m sure whole milk would be yummy), wisk in 1 teaspoon ground white pepper and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (warning: this will give it a kick, which I LOVED), continue wisking until mixture comes to a full simmer. Once the sauce bubbles lightly stir until slightly thickened (approx 4 minutes). Add the shredded cheese and stir until fully melted.

2. Cook one box (1 lb) penne pasta half the amount listed on the box (I bought De Cecco plain penne but you could also do spinach—that’s actually what the recipe called for. I bet whole wheat would work, too, but be sure to overcook whole wheat pasta, a trick I learned from watching Rocco DiSpirito at the New York Food and Wine Festival two years ago)

3. Combine the sauce and pasta, mix and pour into the buttered baking dish and either let cool to room temperature and refrigerate overnight or sprinkle the extra cheese on top and bake covered for 30 minutes, then bake for another 30 minutes uncovered—if you decided, like I did, to prep and refrigerate, bring the pasta to room temperature before baking

We had some leftover Sullivan Street bread and used it to mop up the remaining cheese mixture in the bowl. Amazing.