Just when we thought we were done with winter, we weren’t. Not only did we wake up to sleet and freezing rain on the first day of spring, but a few days later we got two inches of snow. I was appalled, even though I’ve been paying attention to the early spring weather long enough to know that we always get one more snowstorm in March.
|The view from my craft room window. I’m so sick of winter, yet the snow on the trees is still breathtakingly beautiful. How is that possible?|
|The view from my kitchen window.|
So if winter gets one last hurrah, so do I. I fought off the gloom and cold and another wet day spent indoors with my favorite winter comfort food: homemade Mac N Cheese.
Here’s how I make it:
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (Anyone have any Grey Poupon?)
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
8 or more ounces of sharp cheddar, grated
Big handful of halved cherry tomatoes or two tomatoes cut into pieces, seeds removed
3/4 of a pound of small shell pasta (3/4 of a box)
Kosher salt & pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Grease an 8 x 8-inch casserole or baking dish with butter or non-stick spray.
Set a big pot of water to boil on the stove. Season the water with salt when it reaches boiling and add 3/4 pound of pasta. Cook until very aldente (it will continue to cook in the oven later).
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt two tablespoons of butter. Add two tablespoons of Dijon mustard. Add two tablespoons of flour, stirring constantly. Allow mixture to thicken and bubble for a few minutes and turn golden brown.
Very slowly start adding the milk, a little at a time, stirring constantly to evenly distribute the milk and keep lumps from forming. The longer you take to add the milk, the thicker (and better tasting) your cheese sauce will be.
Once all two cups have been added and the flour mixture is completely dissolved, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before adding the cheese. If you add the cheese while the liquid is too hot, the cheese will cook instead of melt and form small, hard lumps in your sauce. Not tasty.
Test the temperature of the liquid by stirring in a small amount of cheese; if it melts right away you’re good to go. If it just hangs out, hardens and stays bright orange, the liquid is still too hot. Add cheese little by little, stirring constantly, until it’s all been melted into the sauce. You may need to put the pot back on low heat in order to keep the temperature from dipping too low for the cheese to melt.
Add Kosher salt and pepper to taste. I don’t measure the amounts I put in, but don’t be fooled into thinking that the cheese is salty and/or flavorful enough to not need salt. It does. I probably put in 15-20 shakes of my Kosher salt shaker and 8-10 grinds from the pepper mill.
Once the sauce is seasoned and the pasta has reached aldente, drain the pasta well and put it in the casserole dish. Add cheese sauce and mix to combine. Add tomatoes and stir to evenly distribute.
Bake for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees; it will be hot and bubbly and the edges and top will be slightly browned.
|I wish I had thought to take a picture before digging in! This is just a half-batch, since I didn’t have enough pasta in the house to make the full recipe.|