Friday, November 12, 2010

Simple Frugal Macaroni & Cheese & it's glorious variations

Last night a friend called and asked for my Mac n Cheese recipe. When I sat down and e-mailed it to her, and then made a variation of it for dinner for my family I got to thinking about all the cool things you can do with this recipe....So here's the recipe and a bunch of cool variation:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

Spray a cassarole with non-stick spray (the size depends on how much you want to make)

Ingredients (makes 2-3 servings)

1 TBS Butter, Margerine, olive oil or vegitable oil
1 TBS Flour (use white...whole wheat doesn't work as well)
1 cup Milk (fresh or reconstituted powdered is fine)
1-1 1/2 cup dry Macaroni
1- 1 1/2 cup shredded medium cheddar cheese
1 tsp salt

Start your macaroni boiling. Grate the cheese and set aside. In a small sauce pan, melt the butter on med (watch to make sure it doesn't brown or burn). Once melted add the flour and stir. This should make a paste. Cook the paste for about 1 minute. Then add the milk. Whisk the milk mixture continuously until it comes to a light boil and thickens. Turn off the burner and remove from heat. Add the shedded cheese and salt. Whisk until the cheese is melted.

By now your macaroni should be done. Strain it. Dump the macaroni and sauce into the pre-sprayed casserole and bake for 20-30 min. I usually top this with some parmesean cheese and paprika before it put it into the over (bread crumbs would also work).

To scale the recipe up for a larger crowd, the sauce ratio of ingredients is 1TBS:1TBS:1 CUP - so 3Tbs butter:3 Tbs Flour:2 Cups Milk Etc.

So that's the basic Mac n Cheese.....Now for the fun variations:

Add cooked ham cubes, browned hamburger, or cooked chicken cubes.

Add steamed brocolli or peas.

Sub. Penne for Macaroni and Fontina cheese for Cheddar, add crumbled bacon, slivers of sundried tomato and slivers of red pepper. Sautee 1/4 of a diced onion and 1 tsp minced garlic with the butter before adding the flour.

Sub. Fettucini for Macaroni and parmesean for cheddar for a great Alfredo sauce (omit the salt).

Don't make any pasta and use the sauce as a cheese sauce on Broccoli and Cauliflower, or nachos, or a baked potato.

Make up the sauce as written above except double it, Slice up 3 baking potatoes into rounds, dice an onion. Layer sauce, potatoes and onions into a 9 x 13" baking pan, making sure that the last layer is sauce. Sprinkle with parmesean and paprika and bake at 350 degrees for 30 min or so. This make great scalloped potatoes (also known as potatoes au gratin or funeral potatoes).

You can add 1/4 cup wine to the sauce and use it as a wine/cheese sauce.

Make up the sauce recipe, but don't add any cheese, Add 1 can of minced clams (drained), Saute 1/2 rib of celery (diced) 1/4 diced onion, 1 clove or tsp minced garlic and add it to the already made up sauce. Add 1 cooked, cubed potato. Cook over low heat for 15 -20 min on the stove (stirring frequently)'ve got a decent New England could even add some bacon crumbles if you wanted. Leave out the clams and you've got a cream of potato soup.

Trade out potatoes for corn above and you've got corn chowder.

Really you could make cream of anything soup with this base. If you wanted to make it more soupy and less saucy, replace 1/2 of the milk with chicken stock.

So, there you have very versitile, very frugal and very delicious mac n cheese and a bunch of cool variations.