Monday, April 30, 2007

Comfort Food

After a pretty depressing week I spent Sunday at my two-year-old niece Charlotte's birthday party. Because kids love macaroni and cheese, my sister requested I prepare this recipe which has become something of a specialty for me. Macaroni and cheese, cupcakes, Mylar balloons and the laughter of two-year-olds is good for what ails you. I highly recommend it.

My recipe is based on the Chat 'n' Chew Macaroni and Cheese recipe which I first saw on the Food Network a few years ago. The Chat 'n Chew is a well known, no-frills eatery near Union Square which has been serving up comfort food to New Yorkers for years. I've modified the proportions and lightened the original recipe a bit since all that heavy cream will incite a gall bladder attack in even the most hearty of eaters. After all, you don't want to kill your guests--that would defeat the purpose of comfort food. Anyway, here's the recipe--it's pretty fabulous if I do say so myself.

Uncle Michael's Mac and Cheese

3/4 cup butter, (1 and 1/2 sticks) plus extra for the baking dish and topping.
1 to 1 1/4 pounds elbow macaroni (I sometimes use shells)
2 cups half and half
1 cup milk
1 medium onion, diced small
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup flour
4 cups (1 pound) shredded sharp cheddar
8 slices Munster cheese, broken into small pieces (I sometimes use Gruyere when I'm feeling fancy.)
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
3 tablespoons green chile sauce (Such as Green Tabasco) <---secret ingredient!
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup bread crumbs seasoned with salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9 by 13 by 4-inch baking dish.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat and cook the macaroni until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain.

In a small bowl, combine the half and half and milk.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and cook the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent, about 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the flour to create a roux, stirring constantly for 3 minutes. Add the milk mixture in a steady stream and whisk until smooth. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, allow to thicken.

Stir in the 4 cups of cheddar, the Munster cheese, 1 cup of the grated Parmesan, the green pepper sauce, and cumin. Stir until all the cheese has melted; the sauce will be very thick and creamy. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the pasta. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the the Parmesan and bread crumbs, dot with a few pats of butter.

Bake uncovered on the middle shelf for about 30 minutes, until bubbling and golden brown on top.

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At 1:16 PM, Blogger judy said...

I challenge anyone to continue to feel down in a room full of giggling 2 year olds. Glad it helped pull you out of the dumps.

At 8:38 PM, Blogger Matt said...

I think a 2-year-old neice's birthday party may have been just what you needed. :)

And I LOVE real, homemade mac and cheese - especially when it's adulterized a bit. (Yeah, I know that's not a word). Unfortunately, Scott prefers Kraft Dinner - the crappy stuff with the flourescent orange "cheese" powder. Yuck.

Yours sounds great. What time should I be over for dinner tomorrow? ;)

At 9:53 PM, Blogger LSL said...

What a treat to attend a two-year-old's birthday party. That would help just about anything. That must be your sister - she's beautiful - and you two look a lot alike.

Thanks for the recipe! I think I'm actually going to try it this week. I'm a pretty bad cook, so I'll only let you know how it turns out if it turns out good! :)

At 2:09 PM, Blogger The Flaming Curmudgeon said...

Do you deliver? I tip well!

At 5:07 PM, Blogger Donnie said...

Wow! That's a great recipe, Michael. Thanks for sharing it. I might have to try it (after a few tweaks of my own).

At 1:14 PM, Blogger Diane said...

Thank you for bringing your famous mac and cheese! As usual, it was the star of the show. I notice you point out the green chile sauce as the secret ingredient. I think the cumin also adds a particularly "adulterized" taste (good word, matt!) Finally, lsl, please send me your address so I can mail you a check.

At 10:25 AM, Blogger bagelya said...

sounds delicious.. i'm wondering how does it u provide the international shipping?ha!


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