I wish I could explain to you the degree to which I love cheese. I'm afraid if I try to, I'll end up crying, writing a soulful article on the importance of cheese, and I will inadvertently cause a group of 80's musicians to re-create the "We Are The World" music video.
So I'm just going to give you food recipes that reflect my undying love for cheese in a way that I could not otherwise express.
Mac n' cheese is one of my favorite vehicles for cheese, mostly because of the nostalgia it holds. When my brother and I were wee ones, our parents divorced and we were left to fend for ourselves in the kitchen more often than we were used to. The one thing that we could always count on to be in our cabinets was a stack of those delightful dinosaur-mascoted, blue Kraft macaroni and cheese boxes. It was really the only thing my brother knew how to make at the time, it was easy, and it was delicious.
Moreover, one day, my tactful Mexican dad improved the boxed mix by accident. He spilled the day-glo orange sauce powder packet all over the kitchen. Determined to save the already-cooked noodles, he replaced the sauce packet with real cheese, creating a melty, stringy, cheesy mess of a plate of food that was absolutely amazing and awe-inspiring.
So when my brother made it for us as an after-school snack, he always added real cheese, too. I haven't had boxed mac any other way since. In fact, I hate the watery consistency of it without real cheese so much that I won't touch it unless it has real cheese mixed in.
I guess you could say that my pickiness as an eater is a good thing, as it has enabled me to pick out the very best of the best recipes. Shit, I'd call that a talent.
I've tried a lot of baked mac recipes, and the only one I've ever really loved was one I stole from a recipe book my old roommate got as a house warming present from her mom when we moved into our apartment. I've used it a few times, and eventually improved it enough to put it here.
And of course, Sam took pictures for me (After I flaked on him a few times!), only improving the master craftsmanship that was put into this dish. Sadly, he didn't get to try any. He brought his older brother, Scott, along for the shoot and I made the mistake of giving him a plastic fork so he could try some on their way home.
Sam didn't even have a bite. Scott ate it all. He will never touch a plastic utensil in my house again.
The Best Baked Mac n' Cheese EVER!
- 2 cups elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
- 1 can cream of mushroom soup
- 1 cup milk or heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (I usually use cholula, and sometimes I'll throw in a bit more than is called for!)
- 2 cups shredded cheese (Any cheese will work. I use a mix of sharp cheddar, mozzarella, and gouda!)
- 4 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Combine cream of mushroom, milk, dijon, hot sauce, and cheese in a large bowl.
- Fold in cooked macaroni
- Spread macaroni mixture into an ungreased, shallow baking dish
- Mix melted butter with bread crumbs and sprinkle them on top.
- Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until it is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly in the center.