Macaroni and Cheese

February 23, 2013

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I once heard somewhere that the time we perceive it takes from when we are born to the age of 18, is the same amount of time that we think it will take from 18 to the rest of our lives.  Um, what?!  This is truly upsetting.  But, sigh, it must be true.  Because here we are, suddenly, out of the blue, at the end of February of 2013, and I truly have no idea how we got there.

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This is when I want comfort.  But no, this is really when I want to feel like a kid again.  Pretending that I am still in those first 18 years when time is measured by the next holiday break, or science test, rather than financial quarters.  And what is better to make you feel young again, with an incredibly high metabolism, than mac and cheese.

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To be perfectly honest, I never really crave this extremely typical comforting dish.  When I was little, my mom never reached for the blue box when things got a little busy around the house.  Nope.  She instead always grabbed the cans.  Spaghetti-o’s to be exact.  Mm.  But I digress.  Macaroni and cheese doesn’t have to bring up feelings of nostalgia when you eat it.  There’s just something about mac and cheese, right?  It’s cheesy, and gooey, and carby and wonderfully comforting, and of course undeniably delicious.  It’s also rustic and homey and accessible to pretty much anyone.  Blue box or not, this is so good that it will seem like time is standing still.

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Macaroni and Cheese (recipe from Barefoot Contessa)

1 pound elbow macaroni
1 quart milk
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
12 ounces Gruyere, grated
8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Pour the macaroni into a pot of boiling water and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small pot, until simmering, but not boiling. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the cheeses, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a buttered, 3-quart baking dish.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the fresh bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

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