Who doesn’t love mac ‘n cheese? Besides the lactose intolerant, of course. And if you don’t like mac ‘n cheese because you don’t like cheese, then I have nothing more to say to you.

Up until this birthday dinner, my mac ‘n cheese was always of the Kraft variety. I remember due to a NMO exacerbation several years ago, I was on corticosteroids whose main side effects on me are insomnia and increased appetite. Often accompanying these appetite changes were strange cravings, and during this particular round of steroids, I ate at least one serving of Easy Mac every day. I even had to go to Costco and buy in bulk.

But thank heavens, my taste buds have since sophisticated, and I tried making good ol’ mac ‘n cheese from scratch this time. The idea came to me when I was watching this “Good Eats” episode on melted cheese, and Alton Brown baked some mac ‘n cheese. And then when I went online to search for the recipe and saw it’s enthusiastic reviews, I was sold.

It was definitely a hit. The panco bread crumbs made all the difference. Overwhelmed by the exoticism? Let’s break it down.

Panco is simply Japanese for “bread crumbs.” The difference between this variety and the American kind is that panco is flaky rather than crummy–uh, I mean crumby (sorry, another bad joke). This means there is more surface area so to make a long story short, your foods will turn out crispier, crunchier, yet lighter. Even after microwaving the leftovers, the panco still added a delightful crunch to the mac ‘n cheese.

Another differentiating factor is the sharp cheddar. None of that bland, watery mild cheddar here. We like a hearty, pungent cheddar. I cheated and opted for the kind that come already shredded in a bag, but if you’re looking to build up forearm muscles, try buying a block of sharp cheddar (either white or yellow or both) and grating it yourself? We received this sweet mandolin slicer as a wedding gift, and it makes cheese grating easy. And remember that if the Blind can Cook it, you can too.

Recipe: Baked Mac ‘n Cheese

Summary: Original recipe from Alton Brown

Ingredients

  • 12 oz. elbow macaroni, cooked slightly less than al dente
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 4.5 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 tbsp. mustard powder
  • 3 c. milk
  • 1/2 c. finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3/4 tsp. paprika
  • 1 lg. egg
  • 18 oz. grated sharp cheddar
  • 1.5 tsp. salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tbsp. butter for topping
  • 1 (3.5 oz.) pkg. panco bread crumbs

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a med. saucepan, melt 3 tbsp. butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard powder, and whisk continuously for 5 min. so that no lumps form. Stir in milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for 10 min. before removing bay leaf.
  3. Temper in the egg, and stir in 3/4 of the cheddar. Season with salt & pepper. Fold in the macaroni, and pour into a 2-qt. casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.
  4. In a separate sm. saute pan, melt the remaining 3 tbsp. butter, and toss the panco to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 to 40 min. or until edges are slightly browned. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 min. before serving.

Variations

I changed up some of the measurements only because the ingredients came packaged in varying amounts. (E.g. I didn’t want to purchase 2 boxes of panco or have to save only 4 oz. of the 12-oz. pkg. of macaroni.) And I thought the recipe still turned out okay. I think the thing with casserole type dishes is they don’t have to be an exact science. This is good for all you non-recipe followers out there. (You know who you are.)

I also baked the macaroni for longer than what the original Alton Brown recipe called for because I like the edges a little burnt. Personally, I think it tastes better and adds that toasted crunch.

Cooking time (duration): 60

Diet type: Vegetarian

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)

Microformatting by hRecipe.

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2 Discussion to this post

  1. dark mark says:

    the top definitely needs to be a little burnt (along with the sides) to be perfect for me. my coworker's mom who makes some SERIOUS soul food (mac, collared greens, fried chicken, ox tails) once gave me a full tray of mac&cheese (12×10?) which i easily consumed over the course of (4) days. it is THE ultimate comfort food.

    Will try your recipe once i build up my metabolism a bit more 🙂

  2. Julie says:

    Alton Brown's mac 'n cheese is my favorite recipe for mac 'n cheese! Love it 🙂

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