I apologize in advance for the photos, which don’t do justice to the deliciousness of this M & C.
Thankfully, the winter solstice is coming, and then we’ll start to see more daylight after 4pm.
So this mac & cheese. It came from a book I’ve had by my bedside for months, that I finally picked up the other night and read a story out of. It’s a compilation of the best food writing of 2006 (probably the year I put it beside my bed), and the story I read on this particular night was written by Julia Moskin for the New York Times. (I have to say – I like her photo better. More cheese?)
The difference between this particular recipe and the bazillion of other macaroni and cheeses out there: you blend up the cheese and milk and then bake it with raw macaroni, rather than boil the noodles and mix up a white sauce with loads of grated cheese in it, which is apparently not so much true mac & cheese as it is macaroni with cheese sauce. Makes sense, no?
The process was easy: blend, mix, bake.
I had my first doubts when I pulled it out of the oven to uncover it, and it was foamy. No lie.
After the second stir, it didn’t look promising. It was oddly lumpy, and the macaroni noodles, which were still dense and leathery after an hour, had sunk to the bottom and were working on fusing themselves to the casserole dish.
But I persevered in the interest of all that cheese, and it managed to work itself out in the end. After a few dabs of butter and a couple extra stirs, it came together like a cheesy Christmas miracle.
Next time, I’ll open the oven and give it a stir more often. We ate it topped with a scoop of chili – a fab winter combination, if you haven’t tried it.
An extra handful on top to reinforce that cheesy crust is a good idea. Being as it’s Christmas and all, I might even crumble in one of those Imperial packs of extra-sharp cheddar next time, or try a pound of Grizzly Gouda. So worth the cheese spend.
Mac & Lots of Cheese
Adapted from Julia Moskin in the New York Times, January 2006
1 cup cottage cheese (not low fat)
2 cups milk (not skim)
1 tsp. dry mustard (optional)
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. aged cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 lb. elbow pasta, uncooked (2 1/2 cups)
a small knob of butter (about 1 Tbsp.)
Preheat the oven to 375F and butter a casserole dish or baking pan.
In a blender or food processor, puree cottage cheese, milk, mustard, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Reserve 1/4 cup grated cheese for topping. In a large bowl, combine remaining grated cheese, milk mixture and uncooked pasta. Pour into the pan, cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
Uncover the pan, stir, dot with butter and bake uncovered for another 30 minutes, stirring once or twice. If you like, sprinkle with a little more cheese and bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until the pasta is tender and you have a nice cheesy top crust. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving. Serves 8.