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Grown-Up Bacon Mac & Cheese
February 3, 2012 7:48 PM   Subscribe

This is the perfect recipe for those of you who like to enjoy a big bowl of macaroni and cheese for dinner and absolutely nothing else. It’s beautifully flavored, creamy, cheesy, and with the smokey bite of crisp salty bacon on top?? Oh man, you guys are in for a treat — I’m not even kidding. It’s amazing. (previously)
posted by Trurl (111 comments total) 144 users marked this as a favorite

 
It does sound a good recipe. But the pedant in me is wondering just how "grown up" a recipe this is if the text of the recipe includes the phrase "lol" three times.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:56 PM on February 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is the recipe for macaroni and cheese. It is the only recipe there is for macaroni and cheese.
posted by escabeche at 7:59 PM on February 3, 2012 [70 favorites]


The Pioneer Woman has the best mac and cheese recipe ever. I've also added bacon and panko to make it super awesome.
posted by thecjm at 8:01 PM on February 3, 2012 [10 favorites]


It is the only recipe there is for macaroni and cheese.

Meddle not with a man's Comfort Food.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:02 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


escabeche - that link is Ron Swanson-esque.
posted by thecjm at 8:07 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water

Whoa, um...yeah. To be honest, I stopped reading there.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:08 PM on February 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


How is this not just bland spaghetti carbonara.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:08 PM on February 3, 2012 [11 favorites]


Goes through tons of effort, then ruins it at the end with prepackaged bread crumbs. What?
posted by explosion at 8:09 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wish I had some Kraft macaroni and cheese now.
posted by planet at 8:14 PM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I have made the fundamentalist mac and cheese. It was not very good. thecjm is on the right track with Pioneed Woman, which is close to Alton Brown's. I have adulterated my version for awesomeness. It includes Trappey's Indi-Pep.
posted by oflinkey at 8:14 PM on February 3, 2012


- I tend to use prosciutto crudo or the like for these kinds of toppings. Chop finely, mix with a hard cheese and sprinkle on at the end before whacking it in a hot oven for 10 minutes. Saves pre-cooking.

- I would include a finely chopped onion softened in 50:50 olive oil and butter in the bake itself. As the recipe stands there is a considerable amount of garlic going in without pre-cooking, which might result in a somewhat unbalanced dish. I would suggest slowly softening the onion, then adding the garlic for a brief time at the end, and using the resultant mixture in the sauce. I might still be tempted to add the suggested spring onion if I had one in the fridge.

- Also (following Nigella Lawson and Nigel Slater), vermouth is fantastic in such white sauce pasta affairs. If you were to use the onion, deglazing the pan with white vermouth after frying would be my recommendation.

- All cheese sauces benefit from English mustard added with the cheese. A strong Dijon would also serve well. Personally I would use it as well as the cayenne (as mustard loses its heat when cooked), but those looking for a milder dish might substitute.

Just some thoughts, anyway.
posted by howfar at 8:16 PM on February 3, 2012 [13 favorites]


This is the best macaroni and cheese recipe. My kids call it "Mom's Famous Macaroni and Cheese" and usually request it for special occasions, but it ain't mine, it's Jean-George Vongrichten's wife's recipe, and I keep telling them that but they're just kids, they can't absorb the awesomeness.

Also I've gone paleo so now when they ask for it I'm like "oooh, no, how about lasagna which I will make with half noodles on your side and half sliced zucchini on mine". Kids, what are you gonna do.
posted by padraigin at 8:17 PM on February 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


How is this not just bland spaghetti carbonara

Hold it right there sonny! If you're putting MILK in your carbonara, you really need to think about the way your life is going right now.
posted by howfar at 8:19 PM on February 3, 2012 [14 favorites]


I thought the whole point of macaroni and cheese was to do away with recipes entirely. It's macaroni.
And cheese.

Maybe put some other shit in there like tuna or bacon or potato chips or something.

Who cares. You're going to consume it while watching 30 Rock or kitten videos on Youtube.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:20 PM on February 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


Spartan Mac & Cheese. Ingredients: pasta, butter, cheese.
posted by kenko at 8:21 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'm on the Spartan side. Pasta al dente, butter, good cheese, maybe a splash of milk. Pepper. You're done. If it takes longer to cook than Kraft Dinner you're doing it wrong.
posted by unSane at 8:28 PM on February 3, 2012


And forget the paper towels . . . use a brown paper bag fer dawg's sake. And Rosemary? Why not a shot of turpentine? And yes to the Dijon mustard. What, no Siracha?
posted by ahimsakid at 8:30 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


howfar:
Just some thoughts, anyway.
I have some experimenting to do. Vermouth to deglaze, you say.

All this has gone from "mac and cheeze" to actual cooking. I think it should be good, but it may be bad.
posted by graftole at 8:47 PM on February 3, 2012


Padraigin: Are quinoa noodles paleo? I think I'm making my next mac and cheese with them just because they're so good. It's gonna be quinoa noodles, bacon, and a nice brown ale in the bechamel. Maybe throw some caramelized broccoli in just so you get your veggies.
posted by JackarypQQ at 8:48 PM on February 3, 2012


i just want to dive in and frolic like scrooge mcduck in his money bin

cheeeeeeez
posted by elizardbits at 9:14 PM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Vermouth. I can get behind that. But under a minute from draining of pasta to fork in mouth.
posted by unSane at 9:17 PM on February 3, 2012


If you're putting MILK in your carbonara...

OK, bland and watery.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:21 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


All this Mac and Cheese crap - why not just make a decent sauce and ladle a bit of it on some good pasta.
posted by awfurby at 9:30 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


The secret to a really creamy, flavorful mac&cheese is to add half a can of condensed tomato soup to the cheese sauce.
posted by decathecting at 9:54 PM on February 3, 2012


All this Mac and Cheese crap - why not just make a decent sauce and ladle a bit of it on some good pasta.

"Decent sauce" "ladled" on "good pasta"? What philistine nonsense. Why not mill the most exquisite hard wheat into a fine snow, and then gently mix it with the morning dew, drawing it through rollers of silver inlaid with mother-of-pearl, then coat it with the finest of fragrant and choice spices, with just a dash of angel's tears for added piquancy?
posted by kagredon at 9:56 PM on February 3, 2012 [17 favorites]


Hell yeah. I am learning how to cure meats partly because (and I am not even kidding around) bacon and macaroni and cheese is so delicious, and bacon that tastes how I want can only improve things even more. My partner likes Kraft Dinner for comfort food and I do not get it.
posted by bewilderbeast at 10:18 PM on February 3, 2012


Ok, we need to seriously have a talk about Kraft mac'n'cheese. What is up with that stuff? I'm a serious foodie. Tonight my wife and I went out to a nice restaurant and I had seared duck breast with a side of the most incredible beet salad I've ever tasted, preceded by slow-roasted lamb quesadillas using fresh artisanal Mexican cheese. And I love to make my own mac'n'cheese, stove-top, oven, the sharpest cheddars, the richest sauces, the darkest ales, the best cured bacons. I've tried dozens of crazy hard recipes full of fatty goodness but you know what?

I still love Kraft.

And it has to be Kraft. No other box will do. Not the Costco brand, not even the Annie's Organic Bunnies with Aged White Cheddar or whatever. There is something magical and evil and intoxicating in that Kraft cheese powder. I don't understand it. I fear it. I must have it.

And sometimes when I'm feeling really indulgent I make the Kraft and then I add chopped up bits of hot dog.

Tomorrow I'm going to make homemade whole-wheat pasta to go with a tomato sauce which I will make entirely from scratch, and I will serve it with a Caesar's salad made in the traditional way (with egg and sardines and garlic and real parmesan but not too much) but tonight?

Tonight I dream of Kraft. The food scientists have won.
posted by Doleful Creature at 10:30 PM on February 3, 2012 [28 favorites]


Mac and Cheese with sriracha, the best thing ever.

no scratch that, anything with sriracha... no... EVERYTHING with sriracha! ;)
posted by usagizero at 10:36 PM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Nothing is more delicious than rehydrated pasta and reconstituted powdered cheese product.
posted by zennie at 10:40 PM on February 3, 2012


All of you are doing this wrong. Kraft macaroni and cheese with Tony Chachere's to taste (meaning a fair amount) and you're done.
posted by ztdavis at 10:41 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


It really has more to do with the incredible potency of childhood food memories than food science. Kraft was just a WW1-era desperation concoction that happened after cheese shortages hit, but it stuck. Kraft w/hot dogs, mmm.

Same deal with Spam in Hawaii, the whole state is crazy about it to this day, just because a generation grew up eating it as a staple food during the 40s.
posted by mek at 10:41 PM on February 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh, so that's how you melt butter over medium heat. Thanks for the photo!
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:43 PM on February 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Grown-up Mac & Cheese can be a great thing, but if you also have to serve children then take my advice; throw some orange food-coloring (1 drop red to 2 drops yellow) into the mix. Kids love Mac & Cheese, but while grown-ups are appreciating the subtle flavors of bacon and bechamel, the kids will be judging it on the overall orangeness.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:00 PM on February 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


It really has more to do with the incredible potency of childhood food memories than food science. Kraft was just a WW1-era desperation concoction that happened after cheese shortages hit, but it stuck. Kraft w/hot dogs, mmm.

I don't know. I think it has more to do with the salty tang of the artificial cheese. It's delicious!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:25 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


awfurby: "All this Mac and Cheese crap - why not just make a decent sauce and ladle a bit of it on some good pasta."

Dead to me.
posted by klanawa at 11:30 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


It really has more to do with the incredible potency of childhood food memories than food science. Kraft was just a WW1-era desperation concoction that happened after cheese shortages hit, but it stuck. Kraft w/hot dogs, mmm.

This can't be the whole truth. I've had Kraft Mac and Cheese for the first time when I was in my 20s and I feel the same way. It's such a unique flavour that you can't really replicate or even come close to when cooking Mac and Cheese from scratch.
posted by patrick54 at 11:43 PM on February 3, 2012


I love me some kraft with hamburger mixed in.

I don't really consider kraft macaroni and cheese and the "gourmet' home made varieties of macaroni and cheese to even be the same food. They aren't different varieties of the same thing competing to see which one is the best variant. They are in different food galaxies. They aren't the same thing. Comparing kraft mac + cheese to homemade macaroni and cheese is like comparing a Fuddruckers hamburger to a White Castle hamburger. They just aren't the same thing. Both are good, and they satisfy different cravings, but comparing them is insanity.
posted by smcameron at 11:51 PM on February 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


I came in here to ramble on about Fundamentalist Mac and Cheese, but I was beaten to the punch.

Every time I bring it up in a conversation, I feel like I'm 10 seconds away from starting my own separatist church where we make the "One True Mac and Cheese," and then go protest school cafeterias.

"GOD HATES EASY MAC"
"EASY MAC = 9/11"
posted by SNWidget at 12:29 AM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


kraft cheese powder has changed over the years since i was a kid, and it straight up sucks now. the best boxed mac and cheese is (trust me, seriously, even though it's gonna sound like i'm crazy) wal-mart store brand THICK AND CREAMY. not the kind with the pouch of soft cheese in it, just your normal mac-and-cheese shaped box with a packet of powder in it.

i have sampled 100 different boxed mac and cheeses, and this one is absolutely the best. i am literally eating a bowl of it right now, as my beautiful wife just finished making some for us.
posted by radiosilents at 12:30 AM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


KD (original) with applesauce. Yeah, I know. But I like to have a little applesauce with it. It isn't at all grown-up, but that's how I prefer to live.
posted by Salmonberry at 12:35 AM on February 4, 2012


Tonight I dream of Kraft. The food scientists have won.

My dad taught me the key to making a box of the Blue really shine, no milk required, and it's painfully simple: preparing the Kraft normally, drain, add two slices of Kraft Singles American Cheese and two tbps of margarine, along with the neon powder. Best way to prepare classic Kraft. In fact, in my life, I don't think I've ever had it prepared with milk, as the box suggests.

(I rip up the singles into small bits to aid with melting, of course. Damn it's good. Somehow, the characters are frequently even better, but because it's a smaller portion, you have to adjust to about 1.5 singles slices. Other half dutifully goes to waiting dog.)
posted by disillusioned at 12:52 AM on February 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


preparing the Kraft normally, drain, add two slices of Kraft Singles American Cheese and two tbps of margarine, along with the neon powder. Best way to prepare classic Kraft.

This must have been on the back of the box at some point.
posted by mek at 1:07 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I swear by President's Choice White Cheddar mac-n-cheese from the box. It is simply better than Kraft. It is also usually cheaper than Kraft.
posted by mightygodking at 1:11 AM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


oh yes. 1 Box of PC White Cheddar, 1 can of tuna, add lots of black pepper. Magic.
posted by mek at 1:19 AM on February 4, 2012


decathecting: The secret to a really creamy, flavorful mac&cheese is to add half a can of condensed tomato soup to the cheese sauce.

Chucking some baked beans (U.K. variant) in has the same sort of result, with extra beaniness! And you can then legally have it on hot buttered toast.
posted by titus-g at 1:20 AM on February 4, 2012


My favorite: start with Trader Joe's Wisconsin Cheddar macaroni and cheese; not just cheaper than Kraft is in the supermarket, but 7 ounces to Kraft's 6 and that extra ounce seemingly in the form of more cheese in that big, heavy packet. Kraft, the cheesiest? That's a dirty lie, on its worst day the TJs cheeses K into next week.

Throw some chopped-up sun-dried tomato in a bowl. When the pasta water boils, ladle out some and dump it on the sun dried tomato to reconstitute.

Prepare per directions, substituting olive oil for butter and using only about half as much milk. When it's otherwise done, drain the tomato and stir it in.

Your S.O. can fend for him/herself tonight: you're gonna eat all of it by yourself from the pan while watching a movie or something. At regular intervals, get four macaronis impaled the long way on the tines of the fork and eat that: this is a compulsory ritual or you've never been 7 years old in your life. If it's too much for one go put the lid on the pan and stick it in the fridge for later so you don't make yourself tired of it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:27 AM on February 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


There are several important steps to consider, not mentioned on the box, if you want the best out of your kraftmacncheese (which is, I agree, a different foodstuff from macaroni and cheese, and should not be compared to it).

One is that the box tells you to cook it too long. Five minutes in the boil, then into the colander. While the noodles drain, you shall melt your butter in your pot over the lowest heat your stove can muster, and add to it the glorious powder of yellowing, with just enough (whole!) milk to dissolve all of it into saucedom.

To this warm sauce, you will add your still steaming noodles, and mix while splashing in milk until things seem proper. Do not measure. Measuring is for fools and cowards.

This is done over the aforementioned heat, which is why it is important to not overcook the pasta in the beginning. You will then pour yourself a tall glass of milk, and take your glass of milk, kraftmacncheese, and a salt grinder to your eating place of choice. As you eat, you may, and should, salt. Salt brings out the flavor of kraftmacncheese like no other. As the kraftmacncheese cools, you may wish to add some of your tall glass of milk to it. This will keep the consistency proper. The rest is to wash the salty cheesyesque pasta down your grateful throat.

Joy is waiting for you, if you only listen to these words of wisdom.
posted by flaterik at 1:30 AM on February 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


"substituting olive oil for butter and using only about half as much milk"

Get out.

I said out.
posted by flaterik at 1:31 AM on February 4, 2012 [9 favorites]


I remain firmly convinced that Kraft Spirals taste better than the regular kind.
posted by NMcCoy at 1:39 AM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Someone mentioned upthread that Kraft Dinner kind of sucks now, and I agree, but the problem isn't the cheese powder, its the noodles.
Try replacing the box noodles with other elbow pasta, and your Kraft Dinner will taste like you remember.
(I like the Barilla Picolini Mini-Ziti)
posted by ApathyGirl at 1:40 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Get out.

I said out.


Just for that I'll admit that I actually use nothing but the merest splash of almond milk (or similar) and way more olive oil than would be needed to substitute for butter. I never buy actual moo-cow milk.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:44 AM on February 4, 2012


Even though I grew up in North Dakota, and dairy is pretty much in my bloody, I actually use milk for very little other than kraftmacncheese any more. But when you are preparing a meal in that vein, it is essential.
posted by flaterik at 1:48 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Keeping it TIMTOWTDI: another variant I sometimes make is just to turn (homemade, with more double cream than you can poke a hardened artery at e.g.) cream of mushroom soup. Generally just by adding a spoon or two of Philadelphia/soft cheese, and then grating whatever cheeses are in the fridge in till it seems right. It can turn into a more savoury variant with thyme and tarragon and the like.
posted by titus-g at 2:08 AM on February 4, 2012


Paleo, lol.

Only if you primarily consume raw meat you killed yourself.
posted by spitbull at 3:04 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Spitbull,

Don't go changing the subject. Keep the paleo debate out of this one.

And for the record, Alton Brown's recipe is pretty much on the ball. (As long as you can overlook the annoying subplot of that episode.)
posted by Telf at 3:44 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The best thing you can do to Mac & Cheese is put Old Bay Seasoning on it.
Seriously, it's amazing.
posted by namewithoutwords at 4:46 AM on February 4, 2012


I draw the line at Kraft Singles. That's not food!
posted by thinkpiece at 4:52 AM on February 4, 2012


This looks yummy, but it's not ground-breaking. The mac & cheese part of the recipe is fairly standard, and the addition of bacon isn't anything new.

Now excuse me while I make some macaroni and cheese with bacon...DAMNIT.
posted by xingcat at 4:52 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


You don't get to tell me what I can say, Telf. I didn't change the subject. "Paleo" was introduced well before my comment, and I responded with a humorous quip. Get over it.

As someone who actually hunts and consumes raw meat I have killed myself, forgive me for laughing at the idea that cavemen ate zucchini lasagna.
posted by spitbull at 4:59 AM on February 4, 2012


Another version I used to make as a kid consisted of putting (dry) macaroni and water (milk?) in a cup, grating cheese on top, and then microwaving it. I am not sure how on earth it worked, or if there was more to it that I'm forgetting...

I would try it now, but I suspect that that experiment inevitably ends with me explaining to the s/o why the microwave no longer works and the kitchen walls are done in cheese flavoured stucco.
posted by titus-g at 5:09 AM on February 4, 2012


There's also what appears to be the Central and Eastern European version of mac & cheese (this is a sheer guess on my part, but all the people I know who eat it have been of said descent): noodles & cottage cheese. Either the simple version--

1) Boil & drain the noodles of your choice (elbows, whatever)
2) Put in a bowl.
3) Add butter. Mix until evenly melted and spread.
4) Add cottage cheese (about one cup).
5) Splash in a bit of milk.
6) Eat.

--Or a fancy version like this, although obviously your average Orthodox Jew would not be quite so into the bacon part.
posted by thomas j wise at 5:31 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


As you eat, you may, and should, salt. Salt brings out the flavor of kraftmacncheese like no other

Isn't that (delicious) cheese powder 90% salt already?
posted by sevenyearlurk at 5:34 AM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Macaroni cheese cheese needs cream, and wholemeal flour. I discovered this a few years ago, when I was running short on groceries. Good, really sharp cheddar always works best with wholemeal bread, and the best macaroni cheese works with that. And if you're going to add anything, add peeled chunks of aubergine. Mmmmm.
posted by Acheman at 5:50 AM on February 4, 2012


EmpressCallipygos: "It does sound a good recipe. But the pedant in me is wondering just how "grown up" a recipe this is if the text of the recipe includes the phrase "lol" three times."

Holy balls! You're right.
posted by Splunge at 5:52 AM on February 4, 2012


I can't be the only one who is sick to death of the bajillion photo method for recipes, can I? I mean, I get it, I guess. The photos are there for people who aren't terribly confident in the kitchen, I think. I'd love it if people would just put the recipe text at the tops of their posts instead of at the end.

Picky? Yes. But I don't really need to see a photo of melting butter to understand what "melt the butter in the pan" means.
posted by cooker girl at 6:03 AM on February 4, 2012 [5 favorites]



As you eat, you may, and should, salt. Salt brings out the flavor of kraftmacncheese like no other


I just walked into the kitchen and checked. A box of the deluxe Kraft mac and cheese (the kind with the soft cheese packet, even more instant than the regular instant kind) has 3600 mg of sodium, or about 160 percent the recommended daily amount. So yeah, go ahead and add some salt, but maybe also have a conversation with your doctor, too.

To me the instant stuff and the homemade stuff are just totally different dishes. Both are comfort food, but in very different ways. A lot of the recipes here strike me as being far too fussy, though; it should be a fairly simple and hearty dish, and as soon as you are adding dozens of extra steps and odd ingredients you are moving too far from its roots for my tastes.
posted by Forktine at 6:10 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


That is why escabeche's link is good...any deviation is corrected with 'NO! no onions, no prosciutto! put fig paste on your face!' etc. (to paraphrase!).
posted by bquarters at 6:16 AM on February 4, 2012


with just a dash of angel's tears for added piquancy?

Do you know how they make angels cry in industrial farms? They delete cat videos as the angels are forced to watch, Clockwork Orange-style. You are a monster. A monster!
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:16 AM on February 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ruth Reichl's is the best.

Michael Symon's chicken and Mac and goat cheese is the best Mac and cheese that is not really Mac and cheese.

Anyone who disagrees is an asshole and not invited to my birthday party.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:41 AM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I grew up on Mac N Cheese - mom used to make it regularly. I only tried Kraft once and found it singularly disgusting.
posted by JJ86 at 6:47 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't be the only one who is sick to death of the bajillion photo method for recipes, can I?

Your favorite learning aid sucks.
posted by Trurl at 7:01 AM on February 4, 2012


And sometimes when I'm feeling really indulgent I make the Kraft and then I add chopped up bits of hot dog.

Sorry to be pedantic, but the way you do this is you boil the hot dog, and then you cook the Kraft mac and cheese in the hot dog water.

Try it, you'll thank me.
posted by escabeche at 7:13 AM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


I still love Kraft.


Agreed. I would, when pressed, admit to being a foodie, and I love It.

I'm going to try this recipe though, with smoked gouda and gruyere.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:32 AM on February 4, 2012


Paula Deen approves of this message.
posted by crunchland at 7:38 AM on February 4, 2012


Whilst learning how to cook better, I decided to make one dish routinely until I really understood what cooking was about. That dish was macaroni and cheese.

This was derived from a early typography mentor, who asked me what my favourite font was. "Franklin Gothic Bold". His instruction was to use only that font for the next year -- in everything from internal emails to PR pieces. After that, I would have a much better handle on type. The 366th day was one of great personal jubilation, and to this day, I cannot bear to look at Franklin Gothic. And it has been said I have a very good eye for type.

The Macaroni and Cheese period was nothing as prescribed, rather a way to experiment with subtle changes in the cooking process, see the result, and receive feedback from family and friends.

The recipe as presented is decent and the resulting dish is something one can proudly serve at a dinner party. However, I agree with the sentiment:
Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water

Whoa, um...yeah. To be honest, I stopped reading there.
As well as:
- I tend to use prosciutto crudo
Bacon is a bit ham-fisted (pardon the pun!) for macaroni and cheese. It completely takes over and dominates the dish, turning it into...
just bland spaghetti carbonara.
And whilst the comment has been raised, "It's mac and cheese. You're being completely pretentious about it." Fair enough. But a mac and cheese cooked with Italian pasta, a well-done roux, 60% mature cheddar, 30% fontina, and 10% parmesan, with the barest hint of truffle oil will be completely destroyed by even a small amount of bacon.

A small amount of slowly-rendered prosciutto finely diced can add a lovely overtone to the dish, as it's really about balancing the nuances of the fontina, parmesan, truffle oil, and proscuitto on top of the much larger taste of the cheddar. Also, the way the dish has been presented seems that it may be a bit salty - bacon with melted cheese sauce.

It's fun to see all the different recipes suggested, from Alton to The Pioneer Woman, for I remember finding this cannon, and diligently following the directions from so many, noting which I personally liked best and which played well to the crowd, so to speak. I am surprised not have yet seen Joan Schwartz's 2001 book Macaroni and Cheese posted.

When the Macaroni and Cheese period came to an end, two discoveries were made. The first is that our social circle lost a couple of pounds with no other overt changes. The second was three recipes that really stuck out from the process:

1. Martha Stewart's Macaroni and Cheese is the new classic. It's a great dish as presented, and makes a wonderful jumping-off point for other variations (including the fontina truffle proscuitto mac as mentioned)

2. Crusty Macaroni and Cheese
(Kids seem to really dig this simple, easy-to-make (in America) mac attached to this wonderful 2006 article Macaroni... and lots of cheese on the dish in the New York Times)

3. Swiss Mac and Cheese replacing the 1/2 pounds of Macaroni noodles and just making it with potatoes as the noodle. This variation was mentioned in Schwatz's book as a perfect apres-ski dish. I only make this one in mountain cabins after a day on the slopes, and indeed it does delight.

There were many other recipes that were delicious, ranging from the very basic to the rather exotic -- for example, using uncooked pasta and increasing the baking time. The result was indeed delicious and enviably creamy, however it does not save... and one of the best parts of a mac and cheese are the following few days of quick nibbles and small plates. But overall, the three above are great, nicely balancing the spirit of the dish with solid flavours and not overly-complicated or too time-intensive.

It is hard to discuss macaroni and cheese to any degree without at least recognising the elephant in the room, that ubiquitous blue box of Kraft macaroni and cheese. We don't like talking about it, but we all know it.

Our family was in a mountain cabin near Lake Arrowhead, outside of Los Angeles. There were 10 or so in the house, 9 adults with varying labels of aunt, uncle, cousin. And one young child, Sarah. I had spent the morning shopping for groceries, including ingredients for Schwartz's baked four-cheese pasta. American and cheddar cheeses were easy finds, some of the other easy-to-find-in-any-city-or-village-but-apparently-very-esotaric-for-Arrowhead cheeses required visiting both stores in town on delivery days.

Dinner that night has been assigned to Sarah and I. Thus, I spent the afternoon grating pounds of cheese, prepping the roux, and everything else whilst Sarah carried plates over one-by-one, stood on chairs to set the table, verified the position of individual flowers in the arrangement, and fell asleep holding the cookbook. This was the first winter after college, I hadn't seen most of the family in a some time, except for at odd weddings or graduations. I really wanted to impress them with nascent adult skills, like home-cooked, well-balanced meals. We followed the recipe exactly (level those tablespoons!) and were rewarded with two dishes of picture-perfect pasta, straight out of Schwartz.

Everyone dove straight into the oven pans, immediately picking one clean, only a golden-brown crust around the rim remaining. Sarah had a small helping, which she picked at slowly, looking perplexed. "I love macaroni and cheese but this is not macaroni and cheese," she said. Her mother corrected her, telling her it was a wonderful macaroni and cheese, the best they'd ever had. Several others chimed in agreeing. "No, no, no, mama, it's not."

Sarah hopped up and went to the kitchen, pulled a chair away from the wall, used the chair to reach the counter, then stood on the counter and began rummaging through a cabinet. "This is macaroni and cheese." She brought the box over and gave it to me. I looked at the "gourmet macaroni and cheese" as it had been now labeled, and to the box in my hand. Sarah looked at me expectantly. I couldn't believe after shopping and cooking for the entire day, Sarah was ignoring the Schwartzian masterpiece and wanted the blue box.

Of course I knew the blue box. Growing up in suburban America in the 1980s meant the Cosby Show and the the blue box. And I'm not talking about the "gourmet blue box" with creamy Velveta. No, the old gangster blue box that required butter and milk.

So I made the blue box mac and cheese, with Sarah watching me like a hawk, ensuring that I followed the directions exactly. As if any subtle variation or mis-step would turn the blue box into the monster on the table. By the time I had finished, the family had finished both pans of pasta, including the portion sitting on my plate. I hadn't even tasted it.

I handed Sarah a bowl of the finely-crafted Kraft mac and cheese (recipe attached here), and we sat in the kitchen, me at the sink and her on the counter, eating together. "Thanks!" she said with a huge smile. "It's wonderful isn't it?" I agreed, mostly with the huge smile, but also a little bit with nostalgia... orangish cheese powder.

As the typography mentor often reminded, "I'm not interested if you like your work, that doesn't matter. What matters is the audience liking it." Even if the audience likes orangish cheese powder.

Coda: the family remembers that mac and cheese often and fondly – "It's great, you should do that again, everyone really loved it." except Sarah, almost a teenager: "Gosh, no. I would never have done that. That stuff's gross."
posted by nickrussell at 8:05 AM on February 4, 2012 [39 favorites]


Relax your mind and listen to what the cheese is telling you.

Words to live by, my friends, words to live by.
posted by KingEdRa at 8:14 AM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wow. This thread has certainly brought out a lot of American Comfort Food purists. Velveeta much?
posted by kozad at 9:23 AM on February 4, 2012


Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water

The Martha Stewart recipe has the same thing:
Undercook your pasta so that it is the slightest bit crunchy (very al dente) in the centre, then rinse it under cold water. This stops the cooking and washes off the excess starch. You might think that starch would be useful in further thickening the casserole, but it isn't; as it bakes, that extra starch merely expands and lends a mealy texture to your sauce.

The pasta will finish cooking as it bakes.
The National Pasta Association seems to agree.

I've never rinsed, but then I rarely have the intestinal fortitude to spend time baking it rather than just scarfing as soon as it's more or less done.
posted by titus-g at 9:26 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry to be pedantic, but the way you do this is you boil the hot dog, and then you cook the Kraft mac and cheese in the hot dog water.

You do know that you can cook them both at once, right? Instant comfort food should be instant; adding extra steps violates the terms of endearment, or something like that at any rate.
posted by Forktine at 9:37 AM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Swiss Mac and Cheese replacing the 1/2 pounds of Macaroni noodles and just making it with potatoes as the noodle

I tell you what is alao fantastic here, a 2:1 mix of potato and parsnip. The sweetness of the parsnip balances the dish, while that hint of bitter perfume they have gives it depth. I did this recently alongside chorizo (dried in this case) fried and then simmered in a mixture of balsamic vinegar, red onions and chicken stock, reducing that down to a sweet rich gravy. Needs a green salad with a fairly astringent dressing on the side, though.
posted by howfar at 9:41 AM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


whoa there, as soon as you replace the macaroni with potatoes you're making a different dish altogether
posted by Prince_of_Cups at 10:18 AM on February 4, 2012


The only flour that belongs in mac and cheese is the flour in the noodles. Bechamel is fine, but it isn't cheese. If you need the flour to soak up the grease from the cheese, you have done something wrong.

(And someone above is right: the Wal Mart stuff is toxic-ly delicious.)
posted by gjc at 10:33 AM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Kraft doesn't really do much for me--my folks cooked a lot when I was growing up, and so I lack a lot of those Campbell's Tomato Soup/Kraft Mac & Cheese/etc. kinds of nostalgia triggers.

(My mac and cheese preferences are no better and no worse than anybody else's.)
posted by box at 10:56 AM on February 4, 2012


Cooking this recipe now.. hoping it comes out well :)
posted by ElliotH at 11:42 AM on February 4, 2012


My old man (epecially during lent, he hates fish) was a big fan of stouffer's mac & cheese. This was pre-microwave, so he'd put it in the oven till it got that nice crust on top. Then hed take it out, mash the crust in and salt & pepper it so thoroughly that I'd ask wheteher he was going to eat it or back out over it (he smokes like a chimney). And yes like father like son, I did the same. Microwaved mac & cheese is OK, but not the same.
posted by jonmc at 11:43 AM on February 4, 2012


Wait. This is the /exact/ same recipe Kraft trademarked.
posted by clvrmnky at 12:41 PM on February 4, 2012


I know it may seem weird to add nutmeg to a recipe like this,

Weird? Er, no, standard in a cheese sauce especially for casseroles.

I can't be the only one who is sick to death of the bajillion photo method for recipes, can I?

Hell no! It's ridiculous.

I mean, I get it, I guess. The photos are there for people who aren't terribly confident in the kitchen, I think

I don't think it's even that. Often it's to show of your photo styling skillz, your hip vintage kitchenware, or your quirky photographic eye. Sometimes it's to make it seem like you're a super serious chef type. Maybe 1/8th of the time does it actually illustrate something you can't picture for yourself, and I'm totally down with you - just gimme the ingredients and some instructions. Show me one pic of what it looks like at the end, and show me anything weird, like you super seekrit egg-white folding technique. Other than that, leave me alone - I don't need to see how cute your mise en place looks in the diffuse afternoon sunshine.

Yeah, this mac and cheese recipe will do the trick but nothing out of the ordinary. Also, I love me a good handmade mac and cheese for an indulgent winter supper, but count me as another one who also loves Kraft. Part of the secret of Kraft's flavor is the tang of buttermilkiness.
posted by Miko at 1:26 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Kraft doesn't really do much for me--my folks cooked a lot when I was growing up, and so I lack a lot of those Campbell's Tomato Soup/Kraft Mac & Cheese/etc. kinds of nostalgia triggers.

(My mac and cheese preferences are no better and no worse than anybody else's.)


me too! This is annoying, because when I want to satisfy my nostalgia triggers I actually have to cook.
posted by madcaptenor at 1:37 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


A box of the deluxe Kraft mac and cheese (the kind with the soft cheese packet, even more instant than the regular instant kind) has 3600 mg of sodium, or about 160 percent the recommended daily amount. So yeah, go ahead and add some salt, but maybe also have a conversation with your doctor, too.

FFS, it's a box of processed crap to which a half stick of butter is added. I'm not exactly worried about the health implications on the few times I eat it.
posted by flaterik at 2:24 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you're going to add tuna, add peas and thyme.
If you're going to add hot sauce (and Sriracha is pretty awesome), add chipotle Tabasco (why yes, I'm still working on that gallon bottle of it, thanks) and some leftover steak, cut up.
If you're going sprinkle bacon on the top, add a little brown sugar too (or candy the bacon when you bake it).

Just saying.

One of my kids has Celiac disease. Unfortunately, she LOOOVES boxed mac and cheese. Annie's makes a decent GF boxed product, but it's far better to make the dish from scratch, subbing GF flour in the roux.
posted by plinth at 3:00 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I make lots of things. I like to cook. My friends will only now allow me to make John Legend's Mac 'n Cheese. Because it's that good. Also, crazy easy. I leave the butter out-don't want to go overboard.
posted by atomicstone at 3:56 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


But a mac and cheese cooked with Italian pasta, a well-done roux, 60% mature cheddar, 30% fontina, and 10% parmesan, with the barest hint of truffle oil will be completely destroyed by even a small amount of bacon.

Fragile snowflake is fragile.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:59 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are many variations on mac and cheese, from the 20 minute, top of the stove Spartan to the decadent baked in the oven in a rich and creamy cheesy sauce with dollops of cream cheese on top dish that takes several hours to prepare. I've made and eaten and love them all.

But none of those variations involve macaroni from a blue box and 'processed cheese food.'
*shudder*

DON'T get your garlic or onion next to my mac n'cheese! A little Dijon mustard is all the oomph it needs. I adore garlic and onion, but it does not belong in mac n'cheese.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:50 PM on February 4, 2012


Aside from the brief and bizarre paleo derail upthread, I think this is my favorite FPP + comments ever. I'm seriously contemplating having it typeset and bound for my personal kitchen library.
posted by Doleful Creature at 6:53 PM on February 4, 2012


So who else is making mac and cheese right now?
posted by mek at 7:30 PM on February 4, 2012


By the way, when I make mac and cheese from the box, I don't add any butter and I use skim milk. I'm just used to it that way and it tastes sort of over-the-top to me if you make it according to the package directions.
posted by escabeche at 7:32 PM on February 4, 2012


An old boyfriend introduced me to macaroni and cheese in college. He also showed me that you can add mayonnaise to it to make it creamy and if you are going all ghetto in the dorm without milk or butter. I do like the blue box, my husband was perplexed at my joy when I found boxes at the food hall while in London.

The box variations and all the other recipes here are very different species. The box is the box while everything else is from another world. The box is warm, safe, salty and really orangy when finished.
posted by jadepearl at 7:41 PM on February 4, 2012


I remember, years and years ago, Graham Kerr, (who had gone overboard healthy after feeling guilty about being so nutritionally awful back in his Galloping Gourmet days) had a recipe for macaroni and cheese that replicated the look of the blue box version but it had a completely different taste. He used sweet potatoes to replicate the orangey color. It was successful in that it did actually replicate the look, but unfortunately, when you are expecting something to taste one way, and it most definitely does not, the disappointment is ruinous.
posted by crunchland at 7:51 PM on February 4, 2012


I have a somewhat different perspective on this because although I grew up (well, middle-school and onward) eating Kraft Mac'n'Cheese, I never really liked it very much and it, in particular, is not comfort food for me. But macaroni and cheese, in general, is.

My great-grandmother played the doting gradmother role for me, and the foods she cooked are probably closest to the nostalgic comfort foods. And she made a nice homemade baked macaroni and cheese, which is the form of it I love. One place I recall that I could reliably get something very close to it was at Furr's Cafeteria. I would usually get a double helping.

My mother isn't a very good cook and, also, my father expected very bland and a predictable rotation of foods. All of which I hated. So, ironically, the stuff I grew up eating at home are basically all the foods I can't stand. It's also why, for me, eating out—at nicer restaurants (as I did frequently with my well-off grandparents) or fast-food—actually functions as comfort food.

But, interestingly, my sister, ten years younger than me, had the inverted experience. From about eight years-old on, just as I moved away, my parents became more affluent and started to eat out more and more often. So she doesn't like to eat out and has a strong preference for the very foods that my cooked that I can't stand.

Anyway, we both did eat Kraft. When I was a bit older, I took to trying to make the Kraft better, somehow, and usually ended up adding Kraft dried parmesan.

I don't know how anyone could eat a dried box version without using milk. I've done that numerous times when I'm desperate and out of milk, and I think it's close to inedible.

I've almost never found a box mac'n'cheese dried mix that I liked, excepting one variety of Annie's. I do find that I really enjoy the Annie's white-cheddar with the corkscrew pasta and wet cheese packet.

But I could eat a traditional macaroni and cheese dish every day for the rest of my life, possibly. It's part of a general extremely strong preference for pasta and cheese, in all variations.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:54 AM on February 5, 2012


ok, this thread is terrible. it made me go and make this last night. yes, the thread on the internet literally twisted my arm until i relented and made this pile of "oh hell, that's going to killl me"

Combine that with tonight's chicken wings for the game and well.. healthy weekend!
posted by drewbage1847 at 10:49 AM on February 5, 2012


I just came in here to say that any mac and cheese involving eggs is from the devil.
posted by threeants at 10:59 PM on February 5, 2012


"I just came in here to say that any mac and cheese involving eggs is from the devil."

That may be, but in the context of comfort food, I'm not sure if this was intended to be disparaging or a hearty endorsement.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:12 PM on February 5, 2012


The kids won't eat it unless it's orange. And I mean warning sticker orange.
posted by judson at 7:01 AM on February 6, 2012


Can I get the nutritional information with these recipes? I just need to know: Is 1 serving my recommended daily intake of... everything?
posted by Theta States at 12:55 PM on February 6, 2012


According to the Recipe Nutrition Calculator on myfitnesspal.com, the nutritional info for the "Grown-Up Bacon Mac & Cheese" (including the optional bread crumbs) listed in the original post, it comes in at 1,178 calories per serving, with 71 grams of carbohydrates, 66 grams of fat, and 55 grams of protein.

Based on that, according to the US RDI, one serving of the stuff accounts for a bit more than half the daily calories for someone older than 4 years of age (2000 calories), almost exactly all of the fat (66g), a bit more than all of the protein (50g), but only 1/4 of the carbohydrates (300 grams).
posted by crunchland at 1:59 PM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Correction : a bit more than almost all of the protein.
posted by crunchland at 2:08 PM on February 6, 2012


Sounds like a good ol fashion country meal
posted by pastortonyhill at 1:13 AM on February 7, 2012


It's actually stunning how low the carb content is.
posted by mek at 1:19 AM on February 7, 2012


The recipe only calls for about half a box of pasta for 4 people. Personally, I am suspicious of the "4 servings" line.
posted by crunchland at 10:05 AM on February 7, 2012


Bacon is overrated

Macaroni and cheese is overrated.

Macaroni and cheese with bacon is overrated.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:52 PM on February 10, 2012


Burn the witch!
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:35 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


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