When Rach first approached me about writing this column, it led to a conversation about macaroni & cheese. Specifically, macaroni & cheese as served at the Slanted Porch 10 years ago. Rachel would get a little misty-eyed as she waxed nostalgic about macaroni & cheese in the early days of the restaurant and how it was the best she ever ate. I don’t know if you know this about the editor of this rag, but she 100% always orders mac & cheese if she sees it on a menu and should be considered a connoisseur. While I agree the macaroni & cheese served at The Slanted Porch is delicious, I believe that there are easier ways to make cheesy, gooey mac & cheese that involve fewer steps.
The recipe I am sharing with you this week comes from the kitchen lab of J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. Kenji earned a degree in chemistry while working in restaurant kitchens to cover bills. After graduating from college, he integrated his degree with his culinary experience by scientifically testing recipes. He has authored an epic book called “The Food Lab” where he details the way to prepare a variety of different dishes. In some instances, these recipes become super-complicated in an attempt to achieve the greatest flavor or texture – but not in this case. Kenji describes this recipe on his website Serious Eats and breaks down all of the science. I will spare you the details but the highlights include terms like emulsification of fat globules, protein micelles, starch molecules, and well, you get the idea.
There is a part of me that loves all of the science bits and wants to do a deep dive into the how’s and why’s – but ultimately, what matters is that this recipe works, is simple, and yields an epic result. So next time you are craving some cheesy pasta, I challenge you to try this recipe rather than grabbing the blue box. I promise this dish is almost easier to make than the convenience product and is 10 times more delicious!
The Food Labs Ultra-Gooey Stovetop Mac & Cheese
By J. Kenji Lopez-Alt
1 pound elbow macaroni
One 12-ounce can evaporated milk
2 large eggs
1 t Frank’s RedHot or other hot sauce
1 t ground mustard
1 lb extra-sharp cheddar, grated (see note)
8 oz American cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (see note)
1 T cornstarch
8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 chunks
- Place the macaroni in a large saucepan and cover it with salted water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally to keep the pasta from sticking. Cover the pan, remove from the heat, and let stand until the pasta is barely al dente, about 8 minutes.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the evaporated milk, eggs, hot sauce, and mustard in a bowl until homogeneous. Toss the cheeses with the cornstarch in a large bowl until thoroughly combined.
- When the pasta is cooked, drain, and return it to the saucepan. Place over low heat, add the butter and stir until melted. Add the milk mixture and cheese mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until the cheese is completely melted, and the mixture is hot and creamy. Season to taste with salt and more hot sauce. Serve immediately, topping with toasted breadcrumbs if desired.
Use a good melting cheese or combination thereof, like American, cheddar, Jack, Fontina, young Swiss, Gruyere, Muenster, young provolone, and/or young Gouda. To reheat the pasta, add a few tablespoons of milk to the pan and cook, stirring gently, over medium-low heat until hot.
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