About 20 years ago, I made macaroni and cheese to bring to a family Chanukah party. The next year I was asked to bring it again. “It can be a tradition,” my sister enthused, “every year the kids will look forward to your mac ‘n cheese!” I wasn’t so keen on the idea. The idea of making the same thing over and over wasn’t so appealing.
But, here we are all these years later, and I am still bringing macaroni and cheese to the family Chanukah party.
I have posted this before, but it is worth reposting.
Macaroni and Cheese My Way
1 lb. macaroni, boiled for 8 minutes or until just tender, then drained and rinsed and drained well)
4 Tbl. butter (or more), melted
1 lb. sharp cheddar, grated (you can mix in a little American cheese–it gives a blander taste, but it improves the texture)
1 pint half-n-half (or 1 can evaporated milk)
freshly ground black pepper
Cheese-it crackers (optional, to be added shortly before serving)
Put the well drained macaroni in a 9″x13″ pan and toss with some melted butter. Season the pasta with salt and pepper; remember that the cheese will add saltiness, so go go easy.
Mix in the grated cheese. Pour over the half-n-half or evaporated milk (or light cream or whole milk).
Cover the pan with foil (nonstick foil is ideal here, but regular is okay). Bake the macaroni at 350 degrees until the cheese melts (check every 15 minutes). When the cheese looks shiny and melt-ey, take the pan out of the oven and try stirring it up. Don’t be discouraged if the cheese and cream don’t seem to be coming together at first. Keep stirring. The residual heat of the warmed dish will help melt the cheese and and the more you stir, the more it will come together as a cheese sauce.
Taste the macaroni and re-season with salt and pepper. You could add more cheese if you really like it cheesey.
Now make your topping (this is optional). Crush some cheese crackers and toss them with melted butter. Top the macaroni with the crushed crackers.
If you are making the macaroni well ahead of serving and are planning on reheating the macaroni, leave off the topping. Reheat the macaroni without the topping and add it at the end of baking. You just want it to warm through, not brown.
Instead of using crushed crackers, you can use whole crackers. There are a few advantages to this: (1) those people who don’t like the cheese cracker topping can more easily remove whole crackers than cracker crumbs; (2) it is less work; and (3) you can buy Scrabble crackers and spell out Happy Chanukah on top.