Mac & Cheese
July 20, 2019 7:29 PM   Subscribe

Whether boxed or from scratch, traditional or modern, mac and cheese is a renowned American comfort food.

Subject of bake-offs and festivals and contests, source of infinite variations (ok, at least 15), many of us love a cheesy dish of mac. After all, what could possibly go wrong with a dish that might have a 1/2 pound of cheese in it?

Previously in cheesiness.
posted by hilaryjade (49 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is one of those cases where I know I'm in the minority, but while I love Mac and cheese, I really don't like it baked. There's something about it being too dry and I usually don't enjoy the topping, idk, it's like stroganoff, I love all the ingredients but dislike them all together, it's weird.
posted by Carillon at 7:44 PM on July 20, 2019 [8 favorites]


I know what you mean, Carillon. I like to make mine so that the pasta is immersed in a creamy sauce that is almost pourable. I do like the contrast of the creamy interior with the crusty top, but the crunch in mine comes from toasted cheese, not breadcrumbs.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:48 PM on July 20, 2019 [4 favorites]


Jalapeno bacon mac & cheese is the only variety that exists. This is a true statement, because if it were not the case then it would mean we are in the Bad Place and the President would be some sort of TV guy like Gene Rayburn, or that jackass Donald Trump.
posted by aramaic at 7:58 PM on July 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


You misspelled Kraft Dinner, the national food of Canada.
posted by blob at 8:06 PM on July 20, 2019 [27 favorites]


Every time I came out of a chemo cycle and could eat again, the first thing I wanted was my sisters baked macaroni and cheese. She'd leave a big pan in my fridge, and I would eat cold slices of it for breakfast. Between that and the steroids, I think I was the first cancer patient to gain weight during treatment.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:09 PM on July 20, 2019 [31 favorites]


Here is me nodding politely at the "best mac n chz ever with a whole half pound of cheese in it"

I then present this recipe

The whole crowd is silently stunned in wonder
posted by billjings at 8:12 PM on July 20, 2019 [17 favorites]


You misspelled Kraft Dinner, the national food of Canada.

Obligatory Kids in the Hall
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:17 PM on July 20, 2019 [12 favorites]


Billings: oh thank you, imma go clog my arteries with that once the temperatures drop.
posted by drfu at 8:27 PM on July 20, 2019


We never had homemade mac and cheese, so I have a real fondness for that Velveeta pouch of orange stuff. Yum.
posted by sallybrown at 8:34 PM on July 20, 2019 [3 favorites]


Breadcrumbs are the very definition of hat on a hat.

The top should crisp thanks to cheese and only cheese, using breadcrumbs merely simulates a quality one should aspire to.

Or, in a non baked version, the creamy can just be creamy. That's okay too.

Also while I respect the alternatives to elbows in general, I submit that they are not macaroni and cheese. They're a delicious cheesy pasta dish, sure, but the texture and tooth are all wrong without the imminent fork shovel-ability of elbows.
posted by abulafa at 8:44 PM on July 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


oh thank you, imma go clog my arteries with that once the temperatures drop.

It is amazing, but mom will not make this mac and cheese for you. It has a pound and a quarter of cheese in it, a full cup of heavy cream, it has creamy cheesiness AND a nice baked crust, and it will kill you stone dead where you stand
posted by billjings at 8:45 PM on July 20, 2019 [4 favorites]


It has a pound and a quarter of cheese in it, a full cup of heavy cream

(the sound of a printer firing up)
may the cheese gods have mercy on my soul
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 8:56 PM on July 20, 2019 [6 favorites]


I love the creaminess of the Modernist Cuisine version baked with buttered toasted Panko on top. We are heathens and sometimes use pepper jack as one of our cheeses.
posted by hilaryjade at 8:59 PM on July 20, 2019 [1 favorite]



It has a pound and a quarter of cheese in it, a full cup of heavy cream

No, it has two full cups of cream. I am a person who likes milk fat, but that recipe goes further than I think I can follow.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:16 PM on July 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


That recipe would kill me and yet I am tempted
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 9:26 PM on July 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


I seem to have developed a disagreeable stomach when it comes to dairy within the last 6 months. I can still eat a bit of it with other food but that recipe by billjings would have me in the bathroom for days. I wish the rest of you yummy eating with it!
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 9:27 PM on July 20, 2019 [3 favorites]


This reminds me, I never have gotten around to making Greasy Honky Pie. I need to fix that.
posted by nestor_makhno at 9:28 PM on July 20, 2019 [7 favorites]


Lunch today was mac and cheese garnished with gravy, pickled onions and half a pound of fried chicken.

I didn't really need dinner.
posted by zamboni at 9:30 PM on July 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


I have been working on perfecting a recipe of my own for years with diced ham and mustard but the best pasta for is no longer available. I used tirali, which looks like elbow macaroni with a full length, wavy, mohawk. It carried just the right amount of sauce while having a good al dente texture to meld with the ham. The sauce used powdered mustard that had been allowed to bloom in filtered water and fresh whole milk. Eating it is a little like having a ham sandwich. The cheese is variable, to an extent.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 9:33 PM on July 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


Also while I respect the alternatives to elbows in general, I submit that they are not macaroni and cheese. They're a delicious cheesy pasta dish, sure, but the texture and tooth are all wrong without the imminent fork shovel-ability of elbows.

Counterpoint: rotini.
posted by PMdixon at 9:53 PM on July 20, 2019 [5 favorites]


Also while I respect the alternatives to elbows in general, I submit that they are not macaroni and cheese.

I agree with you in principle, but I've found that fusilli's twists allow it to hold onto decadent and frankly somewhat terrifying—if I allow myself to think of it. Which I don't—amounts of cheese.

So I accept your submission as gospel.  Yet I will continue my heretical ways.  Burn me at the stake if you must. Just please bring cheese.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 9:55 PM on July 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


Haha. Minds think alike. I'll leave the judgment of greatness to others.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 9:56 PM on July 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


My brother always said the secret to Kraft Dinner was doubling the cheese. When I asked him where to get the extra cheese from, he proudly told me how he ripped the cheese powder packets out of other boxes of KD in our mother's cupboard. Theres some kind of parable there.
posted by rodlymight at 10:22 PM on July 20, 2019 [9 favorites]


No, it has two full cups of cream. I am a person who likes milk fat, but that recipe goes further than I think I can follow.

I knew and loved this macaroni and cheese from Sam and Dave's and Community Q in Atlanta long before I found out what went into it.

So imagine how *I* felt!

Oof. The things we love.
posted by billjings at 10:36 PM on July 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


When the Monsters were wee, I would make them my Great Grandmother's luscious baked Mac & Cheese. Three kinds of cheese, crumbled bacon! Crispy cheesy crust! They loved it.

The first time they had the Kraft stuff was at a friend's house as teens, and they were floored that powdered cheese existed. Younger Monster won't touch it any more, he said once was plenty.

Elder Monster is now a skilled chef, but when he's got stoner brain, he turns to the Kraft stuff to cure his munchies.
posted by MissySedai at 10:37 PM on July 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


Getting real tired of Metafilter making me hungry in the middle of the night
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 11:06 PM on July 20, 2019 [4 favorites]


Kraft Mac and Cheese (ahem ahem Kraft Dinner) is a wholly separate entity from the dish “macaroni and cheese”. There’s a time and place for each. You don’t need a quart of cream and two pounds of cheese to make good macaroni and cheese. You don’t even need good cheese. A simple roux, some shredded cheese and a little patience is all that’s required. But honestly, when what you want is a box of Kraft, a box of Kraft is perfection.
posted by notheotherone at 1:07 AM on July 21, 2019 [5 favorites]


This is the recipe I keep getting asked to make. My husband thinks Mac and cheese is bland, but that? He will eat the hell out of that. I’m fine with Kraft, though the fancy homemade is the bomb.
posted by routergirl at 1:18 AM on July 21, 2019 [3 favorites]


I love Mac and Peas - my favorite lazy food. It's Kraft shells, made with a little extra milk and a cup of frozen peas (thawed, of course). The peas fit perfectly in the shells and the cheez holds them there. And I sincerely believe that for some reason the cheez that comes with the shells tastes better than that which comes with the elbows.
posted by Gray Duck at 4:38 AM on July 21, 2019 [5 favorites]


I can't believe that this is my contribution to a thread about one of my absolute favorite foods, but... On the subject of peas, Annie's makes a Mac and cheese where the pasta is made from golden pea flour, and it's actually pretty good.

I agree about baking not being great (my mom's the only one who has ever pulled it off successfully), and about Kraft being a separate category. I have an entire cookbook dedicated to Mac and cheese, but sometimes you just need that Kraft taste.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:28 AM on July 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


As soon as I saw that billjings’s recipe used rigatoni, I knew it was for me. I much prefer larger diameter pasta for mac and cheese because more of the cheese can get inside. In other words, the best pasta for mac and cheese, like the best heterosexuals, is straight but not narrow. And for you elbow purists out there, Wikipedia assures me that rigatoni is indeed a type of maccheroni and so is perfectly acceptable.
posted by TedW at 5:47 AM on July 21, 2019


My Eastern European mother-in-law became such a convert to boxed mac and cheese that when she visits us, she goes back with a large bag of the powdered cheese, which you can buy on Amazon.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:09 AM on July 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


I like Alton Brown's stovetop mac n cheese recipe. However, never ever calculate the calories in a serving.
posted by COD at 7:12 AM on July 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


I recently tried the Terry Crews-credited 'Mac and Jeezy' recipe. It worked rather well.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 7:15 AM on July 21, 2019 [1 favorite]


I love most forms of mac & cheese because it's one of my culinary revelation foods. After growing up on the boxed style (and only the boxed style, there was no hint of any other kind) I was introduced to something sophisticated** and awesome: Fettucini Alfredo. It still took me a while to connect the two, to realize that mac & cheese is just an American version of a classic creamy Italian pasta & sauce. So I realized you could fuck around with food, swap out flavors, add ingredients; it probably powered my foolish decision to quick my job and go to culinary school.
The taste of that cheese packet is its own food category, the only thing that comes close is Ruffles Cheddar Cheese potato chips, that same ultra salty tangy yet completely not cheese flavor.
**it was the burbs, so this was whoa classy as hell
posted by twentyfeetof tacos at 7:27 AM on July 21, 2019 [5 favorites]


I am reminded of the sodium citrate trick Metafilter taught me.
posted by Bee'sWing at 7:47 AM on July 21, 2019 [4 favorites]


You misspelled Kraft Dinner, the national food of Canada.

And if you have a million dollars, you're just going to eat more...
posted by JoeXIII007 at 9:20 AM on July 21, 2019 [4 favorites]


My issue with Kraft is not the powdered cheese, it's the miniature elbow macaroni in the box that turns limp if you cook it the time it says. There's no tooth to it.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 1:59 PM on July 21, 2019


From John Florio's 1611 Italian-English dictionary:

MACCARÓNI: A kind of meat made of round peeces of paste, boyled in water and put into a dish with butter, spice and grated-cheese upon them.

MACCARÓNE: A gull, a lubby, a loggar-head that can doe nothing but eat Maccaróni.
posted by Pallas Athena at 2:00 PM on July 21, 2019 [4 favorites]


Kraft Mac n cheese was the first thing my brother and I learned how to cook, well below the age of 10. Basically as soon as I was physically able to use the stove. My parents idea of taking care of us was to make sure we were able to take care of ourselves.

So here's some wisdom from the ages

- a Kraft box will work exactly like a Hamburger Helper box. Brown ground beef and make the cheese sauce directly into the pan. (Skip most of the butter.) Then dump in the cooked pasta. Maybe a quarter pound beef per box.

- American cheese matches the texture best.

- any other cheese will take more time to melt.

- cook the noodles for about half the time, because the sauce will need heating and a little more cooking will happen then.

- hot dogs, bacon and ground beef work as add-ins, but any other kind of meat really wants to be on the side. Especially fish.

- frozen vegetables cook fully in the pasta water as it comes up to a boil.

- if there's an add-in you need to add extra cheese.

......

Recently I became lactose fucking intolerant.

...

I seem to have developed a disagreeable stomach when it comes to dairy within the last 6 months.

Try lactase pills!
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 3:13 PM on July 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


I bought two cheeses yesterday at Trader Joe's, a very white goat gouda, which is heavenly anyway and with anything; and a white cheddar with Hatch chiles. I bought pasta too! This is so going to happen!

White goat gouda with sauteed fresh ruby basil, hot smoked paprika, and shallots, stirred into farfalle and maybe slices of fresh cooked artichoke heart pre braised in pinot noir.

Grated Hatch chili cheddar, sauced with beer and cornstarch to thicken, stirred into papardalle with cracked pepper and long slices of onion, sauteed before the mayhem begins. Maybe a sprinkling of cumin in those onions. Tabasco and what ever seasoned salt you like, maybe even a little Old Bay, easy there.
posted by Oyéah at 4:41 PM on July 21, 2019 [3 favorites]


Whatever you do, don't mix a whole can of tuna (in water) into your MnC.

If you can't eat it all, you'll have to set some aside for later.
posted by Twang at 5:13 PM on July 21, 2019


“miniature elbow macaroni in the box that turns limp if you cook it the time it says”

Cook it for five minutes and it comes out perfect
posted by flaterik at 11:08 PM on July 21, 2019 [1 favorite]


Or get the spirals! They don’t go limp as easily and hold the cheese better. Spirals FTW!!!
posted by Weeping_angel at 12:17 AM on July 22, 2019 [1 favorite]


Point of contention; "renowned American comfort food" seems to dismiss and minimise the fine history of eating Macaroni Cheese that we in the British isles had established... *checks wikipedia* ...three and a half centuries prior to the founding of your country!


...huh... that seems weirdly early, given the stories my grandmother always trotted out about how pasta used to be a novelty, and how they always ate boiled potatoes and flavourless gruel (exaggerating slightly, but British food has it's historical reputation for a reason)
posted by trif at 7:29 AM on July 22, 2019 [1 favorite]


Lactase pills work, but I still get upset if I eat something that is totally cheese or cream based. A couple of bites is it for me.
posted by greatalleycat at 8:38 AM on July 22, 2019


It is Hatch Chili Gouda they have at TJ's right now, not cheddar, sorry.
posted by Oyéah at 11:28 AM on July 22, 2019


I ordered “macaroni cheese” last time I was in London and was quite disappointed by the bland tasteless watery soup with some noodles. This was room service at a fairly nice place.

I’ll stick with my macaroni AND cheese.
posted by sio42 at 1:46 PM on July 22, 2019


"And if you have a million dollars, you're just going to eat more..."

With Dijon ketchup!
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:24 PM on July 22, 2019


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