Mac and cheese is as much a staple of dorm room cooking as it is of millennial foodies.
But Picky Tongue isn’t here to judge, but to extract the subtleties of such a simple dish.
Mac and cheese can take many forms. The first that most Americans enjoy obviously comes in a blue box with oddly addictive orange powder. Unless, of course, you were brought up on the coasts, in which case that box was tie dyed and contained peace sign shaped pasta.
However, in all honesty, there were moments in which the wonders of Kraft were more luscious and creamy than the very best of camemberts. If you’re willing to throw a whole stick of butter into your already solidifying arteries, you can transform that plasticky goo into luxury craftsmanship. Throw in some roasted criminis that may or may not have been past their prime and you’ve got yourself…well…dinner for one.
Now, leave it to the traditionalists to overcomplicate a thing of beauty. But a well-made béchamel with handfuls of gruyere and emmenthal is a true thing of beauty. Add that to perfectly al dente shell pasta, top it with more cheese and home-made bread crumbs laced with parsley and roasted garlic and you might just impress your first date and maybe even your mother-in-law.
The best middle ground from mediocre to mouth-watering is also the easiest. Gently heating butter and cream (I like to throw in an onion quarter and a garlic clove at this point)-and I mean the butter should be melting at a snail’s pace. Blowing on it will not make it go faster. That method has been tried and tested without success and a faceful of milk solids. Once the butter is emulsified into the cream, take out the onion and garlic and slowly add medium to sharp grated cheddar along with some cracked black pepper and smoked paprika. Toss in some elbows cooked exactly to package directions, stir and let it bubble for a minute. Done.