Monday, January 26, 2009

Comfort Food: Macaroni and Cheese

Whenever I do poorly in one of my strong suits, I get mad. Midterm week just ended and some of my test grades have been a big wake-up call. My math grade was sub-par. I'll be pretty annoyed about that and motivated to do well for the next few days, but that interest will trail off quickly. English, on the other hand, is a different story. English is my thing; the subject I'm naturally good at. For the midterm we had to write a few short essays in class. I thought I had killed it (meaning did very well), but I didn't.
I saw my grade then looked back on my essay today. The teacher's mark was correct. The essay was full of ideas and sentences and words that were too complex. They didn't make sense. I had tried too hard to come up with brilliant ideas. I should've just kept it simple. I feel like Marcel from season two of top chef, or the Paul Liebrant of a few years ago, or any chef who has tried too hard to create great food. The answer lies in simplicity.That is why for this blog post, I've kept it simple; no big sentences, no big words, nothing about fancy frou frou French food. I leave you with a simple dish that anyone can relate to, and that is probably the best way to comfort you after a poor English grade.
Alton Brown's Macaroni and Cheese
12 oz English Cheddar
2 cups elbow macaroni
3 Tbs butter
3 Tbs flour
1 Tbs dry mustard
1 Tbs paprika
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 bay leaf
3 cups whole milk
1 egg
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
additional 1/4 cup butter

preheat oven to 350

1)Cook macaroni in boiling salted water until al dente (about 6 minutes)

2) Cook 3 tbs butter over medium heat until bubbling subsides.
3)Whisk in 3 tbs flour and let cook for about 3 minutes to achieve a nice blond color.
4) Whisk in mustard powder, paprika, onions, bay leaf and 1 tsp salt.

5) Slowly whisk in the 3 cups of milk.

6) Continue whisking and bring liquid to a simmer to thicken, then remove from heat.
7) Beat an egg in a separate bowl.

8) Temper the egg by adding a few tbs of the sauce to the bowl with the egg while whisking quickly.

9)Whisking quickly, add the egg mixture back into the original sauce.

10) Whisk in about 3/4 of the cheese, then add the noodles.
11) Place the whole mixture in a round corning ware.

12) Melt the addition 1/4 cup butter then mix with the panko.

13) Add this panko mixture and the remaining cheese to the top

14) Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

If you are feeling extra decadent, let the macaroni and cheese thicken overnight, break it into pieces the size of a card deck (no need to be exact), dredge it in flour then egg, then more panko, then deep fry these slabs in 375 degree oil for a few minutes until golden brown and crispy.


Maggie said...

My English teacher wishes that I elaborate more, because I write too simply and briefly. =/
Nice blog you have, it's been one of my favorites recently. As a high school student, I find it amazing that you have the time and commitment to blog all of this! Well, on my blog, my posts are quite sporadic. (coughs)

Rachel said...

I too have been learning to simplify my essays recently; my teacher had to show me a library of examples of powerful and stunningly simple writing to help me.

I agree with Maggie, so impressed that you can write this blog so diligently and professionally.

I, too, am a high school student, if that wasn't obvious.

Mel said...

Oh, the ever wonderful mac and cheese...hmmm. While I am no longer a high school student (and would rather not elaborate on just how long ago that was) I am a college student majoring in rhetoric so I get what you mean about writing...especially when it is your "thing."

I just had my cumulative exams over the last 4 years of classes in my major...3 essays...8 hours and coming home to mac and cheese would have been absolutely perfect! Although it was a week or so ago...mac and cheese would still make me feel better...especially on these cold winter nights. Thank you!

Keep the great recipes and pictures coming!

BTW, I too, am greatly impressed with your cooking and your writing! Good luck...I fully expect to see you on the Food Network soon :)

Anonymous said...

Yes! My all time favorite food! Haha coincidentally, I started making them after watching the Good Eats episode on it. I hated them for the longest time because the only exposure I had to them was KD and KD tastes like shit.

Hmm...essays...=/. I kinda had the opposite problem I guess? I had good ideas but I hated elaborating on them. Ah...miss highschool.

Well, better luck for your finals!

Anne said...

My god - deep-fried mac'n'cheese??! That must be.. oh, I don't know, heaven?? :)

Crafty Lady said...

The point is that you understood what your teacher meant by your grades so you can continue to improve. Simplicity is usually the key, but remember that you will occasionally find a teacher (possibly in college) who will be looking for complexity, nuances, and layer upon layer of meaning. You do a great job of expressing yourself very eloquently and I know that as you continue to write, that it will only get better.

I LOVE this recipe. I make it for comfort food myself...along with every family get together!

Eternal Lizdom said...

I will try this recipe this weekend- it sounds heavenly!

I think a big sign of maturity is knowing when you've screwed up and growing from it. You looked at your work and saw what wasn't good and you know how to fix it. That's a life lesson that some people never learn...

historyland said...

A neighborhood joint of mine that had great fried mac n cheese just shuttered, so perhaps I'll try to recreate it.

And speaking as a teacher, I can almost guarantee you that your teacher knows you've got the goods and is just pushing you to be better.

Anonymous said...

Wow, since the food blog competition you have had a $h!t-load of responses to your entries. It seems that many of your new readers are young females. Way to go, Nick!!! Was the deep fried element your creation or something from Alton's recipe? If one were to do the deep-fried for finger food for the up-coming Super-Bowl festivities, what would you recommend as a dip? Golden fried hunks of comfort like that seem to call for a dip, and I am wondering - in what direction would you head for a dip...chipotle/ranch or honey/mustard or bleu cheese/scallion?

WindintheWires said...

Just what I need in the midst of studying and loads of homework--a simple post with lots of picures

I made a macaroni and cheese ages ago from. . .I don't quite remember where the recipe was from, but this post has tempted to me to go find it again and make it. I just remember that it had gruyere, which is one of my favorite cheeses to cook with

So thanks for the inspiration to cook--I think my family is getting sick of the desserts that are constantly filling our fridge

Chris (Topher) said...

I did bad on my English final as well, although going A first marking period, A second marking period, and then a C on the final still gives me an A as a final grade luckily. Mac 'N Cheese sounds great for those tough times.

Unknown said...

oh my gosh. those look BEYOND good. Snow day, home for a few hours I may have to try that!!!

America's Most Wanted Recipes:

Nick N said...


Go for the honey mustard. With an extremely rich dish like fried macaroni and cheese you need something acidic and even possibly sweet to cut the fat.

And I wish I had come up with that idea, but that's all Alton.

Anonymous said...

I was the same way at school ... strong in English, not so much in math, but I've learned that strength with language is a real asset in life. Although "teacher knows best," it frustrated me to read that you were criticized for using big words and complex sentences. The trick is to reel it in so that you don't lose your reader, but the use of your good vocabulary and the construction of complex sentences means that your brain is working, so don't take your teacher's critique personally. A good vocab is a gift! Sorry, next time I'll comment on the food. :-)

Unknown said...

Um, holy wow! We break the fryer out on weekends- we just got it for Christmas- I can't wait to try this this weekend! Yummerific! -e

amy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
amy said...

i have a few questions about this recipe, can other cheeses be substituted for the cheddar? if so what would you recommend? also, is it necessary to bake the mac and cheese with breadcrumbs on the top? i don't think i have breadcrumbs around at the moment. thanks :)

Natalie said...

LOVE your blog!!!!!!!!!!

Also, I am making this tonight for dinner (can't wait!) but when I was at the store this morning the English Cheddar was waaaaaayy expensive for my budget so, instead, I bought a block of Tillamook White cheddar and a block of Tillamook's sharp yellow cheddar, each 6 oz. I hope it works out!