Saturday, January 1, 2011

Mystery Mac & Cheese

by Lucy Arlington

How I love the food of the holidays—shortbread and sweets, cranberries and chocolate, delectable hors d’oeuvres, mouthwatering meals, and scrumptious cheese platters. But as much as I relish all these culinary delights, by the time January arrives the indulgences have lost their appeal and I’m ready for some homey comfort food.

One afternoon several years ago, a few days after our New Year’s Eve party, I stood in front of the open door of our refrigerator trying to decide what to make for dinner. The heel of the New Year’s ham needed using up, as well as bits and ends from a variety of cheeses—a sharp aged gouda, a pungent Danish blue, a robust gruyere, and a piquant cheddar. Now I’m not one to be limited by recipes, and often throw in some of this and that, or improvise based on what I have on hand. So I pulled out all the cheeses and the ham, rooted around in the vegetable drawer to find a couple of leeks, grabbed the milk and butter and created the best macaroni and cheese dish we’d ever eaten.

It’s become our standard mac and cheese recipe, except that it’s different every time. A great way to use up cheeses after a party or the end of a ham, it’s dish you wouldn’t even know was made from leftovers.

Oh, and the mystery part in the title? Well, I thought it appropriate since this is on the cozy chicks blog. But more than that, the flavor produced by the varied combination of cheeses will be a mystery until you take your first tantalizing bite.

So be creative. And Happy New Year!

Mystery Macaroni and Cheese
1½ cups elbow macaroni
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
¼ cup chopped onion, or two leeks, sliced thin
2-3 cups grated cheese, of any kind, the more piquant the better
¾ cup ham, chopped into small bits (or six slices bacon, chopped and cooked)
¼ tsp dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of cayenne
2-3 handfuls of breadcrumbs
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Cook macaroni using package directions.
  3. Melt butter and sauté onion (or leeks) a few minutes until softened.
  4. Blend in flour. Add milk and cook and stir until thick.
  5. Add thyme, salt, pepper, cayenne, and grated cheese. Stir until cheese melts.
  6. Add ham (or bacon).
  7. Mix sauce with macaroni. Turn into casserole dish. Cover with bread crumbs and dot with butter.
  8. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top crust is well browned.
Serves 4 to 6.


lori cimino said...

sounds like comfort to me! yum

Dru said...

I love comfort food and this one will do the trick. Thanks for sharing.

Deb Baker said...

Mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. Thanks for the recipe.

Heather Webber said...

My daughter would go crazy for this recipe. Mac and Cheese is her absolute favorite. Thanks for sharing!

signlady217 said...

Sounds yummy! We both love cheese, so we may have to try this one!

Hope everyone has a wonderful New Year's weekend, and a great year to come! :)

Peacecat said...

Mmmmm, that sounds divine!

Debra said...

Your mac and cheese sounds delish! Your white sauce (or is it bechamel?) makes it so good.
Last year I learned to make sauces and it really helped me pull dinners together.
I'm printing out your recipe for future reference.

jbstanley said...

Delicious! What a perfect treat for a bleak midwinter meal! I will be cooking this quite soon. Nothing spells comfort like mac and cheese. Thanks, Lucy!

Nancy said...

I followed your recipe last night and we all loved it. Thanks very much for sharing the recipe. I used a two cup package of pre-grated sharp cheddar and 4 ounces of cream cheese. The thyme and cayenne were just right. We'll be having this again!

Anonymous said...

It's such a warm feeling to know that my dish is being eaten and varied upon by cozy readers. It's such a cozy meal!