Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Serves 6 to 8

1/2 pound elbow macaroni (you can use most any pasta though)
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
3 cups milk
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 large egg
12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper

3 tablespoons butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cook the macaroni according to the instructions on the package, make sure you salt the water.

As the macaroni cooks, take another pan and melt the butter. Use a whisk to combine in the flour and mustard, keep stirring for about 5 minutes. Yes, we’re making a roux here. It should be lump free. Then stir the milk in, add the onion, the bay leaf, and the paprika. Simmer the mixture for 10 minutes. Remove the bar leaf at the end of this time.

Quick lesson on roux:
Roux is a base sauce in international cuisines, originally French, composed of varying ratios of flour and fat (usually butter), useful for making sauces, and for thickening soups or gravies. The benefits of using a roux include: it does not have to be cooked very long to remove a floury taste, clumps of flour are removed, and it creates unique flavors. It can be cooked to different degrees:
white roux
blonde roux
brown roux
dark/brick roux
burnt roux
depending upon the intended use, and a darker roux (one that has been cooked longer) will also be thicker and have more flavor, but will have less thickening power.

Temper in the egg. Stir in 9 ounces of the shredded cheese. Salt and pepper the mixture. Slowly add the macaroni into the mix, stirring thoroughly, then pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

If you don’t know what tempering is, here are the basics. Tempering is the process that cooks use to raise the temperature of something instead of just dumping it in. It is used for raising the temperature of such ingredients as milk, cream, eggs, etc.. To start the process, take a spoon or some other small measuring device and fill it with whatever hot liquid you are working with. Take it and stir it into your ingredient such as our milk, flour, and mustard mixture from above. Then get another spoonful and stir it in, Repeat the process until the target ingredient is brought up to temperature. In our case, until the egg is hot, but not cooked like a scrambled egg.

Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

I have been known to stir in crumbled bacon into this dish. How much? Well, until it looks like there’s enough. muah

I’ve also grown to like more cheese on top of it. Use your own judgement. Don’t add too much as it can get a bit greasy. But some extra is a good thing.

Enjoy this one, it’s a keeper.

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