Much to Meg's frustration I don't use recipes, I tend to cook with intuition and experience as my guiding lights. This being the case amounts tend to be pinches and handfuls. Or even less scientific, squinting at a pile of something, while saying, "that looks right."
Here's the basics:
- Box of Elbow Macaroni
- 3 or More cheeses
- Bread Crumbs
Mac And Cheese starts with a cheese sauce. It's simply not optional. However it can be a dangerous lumpy, chewy, greasy mess without a requisite amount of patience and the realization that this is a process. However when you a nail it, the cheese sauce is a divine and silky partner for your robust, noodley friends. But remember, low heat is your friend and preparation is essential. You should gather at least 3 types of cheese. I recommend sharp distinctive cheese, firm, rubbery in its body. Cheddar, Mozzarella, Jack, and Swiss are all fine, either together or as a base from which to build your cheesy melange. But avoid using hard cheese, parmesans and romanos tend clump up and not mix well in the sauce, likewise soft cheeses can be overly difficult to manage. However adding grated hard cheese to the top of the mac and cheese, prior to baking can add an extra salty, smoky, or nutty dimension. The key is consistency, as you'll be making a cheese sauce, your cheese needs to be able to melt evenly, at a low heat.
So you'll start with a roux, equal parts of melted butter too flour. Cut your butter into tabs about a quarter of an inch thick. Add them to your sauce pan and melt over a low heat. Once the butter has melted begin whisking the flour into the sauce pan. Take care to avoid lumps, and remember low heat, and patience will be your friend. Once the flour and butter have entered a state of symbiosis its time to add enough chilled milk to make it thick and silky the way friends were meant to be. Still with the low heat, you're going to work on an attentive simmer until your sauce has renounced its preference for tasting like flour. This may take as long as 20 minutes, so indulge it with some cooing and burbling noises, or even a trip to the Cayman's if Catie's back is turned. You might want a too give this a pinch of salt, pepper, or cayenne as it simmers.
You can remove your sauce from the heat at this point. All of your cheese should be finely grated and ready to go. So now you'll carefully, incrementally add it to the sauce. Mix it in with an eye towards making something thick and velvety, with a consistency somewhat like a plump stream of canary yellow leaving it's tube. If things don't appear to be melting, you might want to spike your pan with a bit of heat, just be cautious. Low heat is still your friend. At this point I add finely diced garlic and onion. Any additional seasoning like Oregano or parsley would fit here as well.
Once the sauce has reached its proper state, it can be mixed with the pasta that you've already prepared, drained, and chilled in the refrigerator while you were otherwise occupied. In the baking dish you'll want a thoroughly mixed cheese sauce, and pasta, capped deep in a dusting of bread crumbs. If you choose finish with additional grated hard cheese on top and place into a pre-heated 350 degree oven. Bake until the top is brown and crispy, perhaps 45 minutes too an hour.