Saturday 16 January 2010

Macaroni Cheese

The gauntlet has been thrown. Fiona Beckett of The Cheeselover has created the Ultimate Macaroni Cheese Challenge, and this is my contribution.

Macaroni cheese isn't something I cook very often; I would be the size of a house if I did. Every time I do cook it though, I wonder why on earth I'd waited so long. It's the grand daddy of comfort food. Pasta baked in a cheese-laden sauce, topped with breadcrumbs and then more cheese. What is there not to love? Thankfully I've never been subjected to the horrors of tinned macaroni cheese, nor that Kraft boxed version.

For my take on the classic, I like to add a bit of booze to it. What can't be improved with booze? A little ale to go in the cheese sauce gives it a slightly bitter, hoppy edge to it that complements the cheese well - much like a Welsh rarebit, I suppose. I prefer to stick to one cheese, the most mouth-wateringly mature cheddar you can find. It is imperative that you have this with a large glob of ketchup.

Macaroni Cheese

Serves 3

250gr macaroni
1 large onion
2 sprigs of thyme

For the cheese sauce:

250ml milk
50ml light ale (I used Tanglefoot)
2 bay leaves
Half an onion
3 cloves
A grating of nutmeg
Salt & pepper
As much extra mature cheddar as you dare - I used Pilgrims. Reserve some to sprinkle on top.
25gr butter
25gr plain flour
1 clove of garlic
1 tbsp English mustard flour

Simmer the ale in a saucepan for a minute. Add the milk, onion, bay leaves and cloves and bring to the boil. Take off the heat and leave to infuse for half an hour. Meanwhile, put the pasta on to cook in a large pan of salted water until very al dente.

Strain the milk and ale mixture into a jug. Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. In a saucepan, melt the butter and add the clove of garlic, minced finely. Cook on a very low heat for 5 minutes. Add the flour and the mustard flour and stir well. Add a few dribbles of the milk mixture and whisk like mad, only adding more milk when any lumps have been whisked out and the milk incorporated.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. In a non stick pan, fry the sliced onion with the thyme very slowly to caramelise, which will take about 20 minutes. This can be done well in advance.

When the sauce is nice and thick, take off the heat and add the cheese. Put the cooked pasta in a large bowl, add the sauce (incrementally, in case there's too much. Any leftovers goes well on top of a piece of toast, grilled till bubbling). Mix well and pour into a dish. Top with the caramelised onions in a layer, then add the breadcrumbs and top with the reserved cheese. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes, by which time it should be golden and bubbling.


A Scot in London said...

That is tempting even me into the mac'n'cheese club.

David Strange said...

I quite like putting some diced pancetta in my macaroni and cheese, but then I'm a dissolute fellow.

London dwellers who want excellent m&c but cannot be bothered to make it themselves should head to London's best meat restaurant Hawksmoor. Not only are their steaks brilliant but the m&c is terribly enjoyable.

Kate said...

Wowzers, that's looks ace - I'm making it today!

Helen said...

Nice addition of ale! I am really liking that idea. I can never agree on the ketchup though - I'm a brown sauce gal.

foodbymark said...

woah. mac and cheese... and ale...

I actually used to love that tinned shit as a kid. Then I bought a can a couple of months back. Totally gross.

S said...

i like, lizzie. the ale, i like i like i like. nutmeg, too. mmmm so delicious. i guess you had some ale with it? ;-) x shayma

James said...

Beery good! Not so far from macaroni welsh rarebit.

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Kavey said...

Oooooh yes!

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to see you insist on ketchup - vital accoutrement to Mac and Cheese (and I'm ashamed to say I'm rather partial to it with fish pie too).

Beth (jamandcream) said...

Ultimate comfort food. I could it eat it every day in the winter

Tom said...

Now how do you organise the cheese off? Some poor person is going to die of gout. Your one does look tasty though!

An American in London said...

The Kraft box kind - don't knock it 'till you try it. (Sadly, it costs a small fortune here in London at Selfridges, Partridges et al).

I've never considered eating my mac 'n' cheese with ketchup. Is that a common pairing in the UK?

I love the m&c recipe in the "Joy of Cooking," which starts the cheese sauce with a roux (making thickening a lot faster, but increasing the unhealthy factor by ten thousand). Also, I've found there's no need to strain the milk mixture and instead just fish out the bay leaves and add the pasta into the sauce as a last step. Admittedly I skip the cloves (but add in paprika).

Unknown said...

For various reasons, I actually dislike Macaroni cheese. I find it far too rich, heavy, claggy and unappealing. Although I will grant you this is one of the nicest recipes I have read.

ginandcrumpets said...

Love the beer in the sauce. Had I been more capable, I was going to put up a post suggesting proper beer as the best drink to go with Mac'n'Cheese. Cheese and beer belong together.

ginandcrumpets said...

Love the beer in the sauce. Had I been more capable, I was going to put up a post suggesting proper beer as the best drink to go with Mac'n'Cheese. Cheese and beer belong together.

MizThreefivesix said...

mmmhm mmhmmhmhmmmm

Pinkmacaroon said...

Brown sauce - and it has to be HP!

Love the ale angle, why didn't I think of that?

Darren said...

This is DELICIOUS! Great recipe, thanks :D