Ah, Macaroni and Cheese. We have a long and beautiful history together. I love you with a deep and abiding passion that was passed down to me from my dad, and that I have passed down to my own child. Which has resulted in the following (and which is going to require me telling you about my somewhat over-organized approach to grocery shopping, so hang in there. I promise there is a recipe at the end.)
I know it might seem like I spend my days either preparing food, photographing it and/or eating it, but I actually have this other job that takes up much of my day, so in order to be able to do all of this every evening I have to know EXACTLY what I am making for dinner each night when I blow in the door after work. So here is how I handle that. Every Saturday I sit down with my cookbooks, notebooks and random pieces of paper that I have written down menu ideas on, and I figure out what I am going to make for dinner throughout the following week. I do a quick survey of the fridge to see what ingredients are hanging around in there needing to be used, and same with the freezer. And if there is anyone in the kitchen while I am doing this, I nicely ask them, “is there anything you especially want for dinner this week?”
The dog always wants bacon. (I’m assuming.) The Southern husband s usually pretty inventive, which is how we ended up with the scallop kabobs last week. The teenager invariably asks for one of two things: hamburgers and/or macaroni and cheese. HOWEVER. If you aren’t around while I am making my list, you can’t put your order in once I am already done. I am not a flexible person. If my menu is planned and my grocery list is planned and you come barreling into the kitchen pleading for macaroni and cheese after the fact, you are out of luck. Yes, I am sure there is a clinical term for being this way, but that’s just the way I am, and there’s nothing to be done about it.
So (and I promise I am going somewhere with this), for the last several weeks in a row, The teenagerhas put in the mac and cheese order TOO LATE. She tried the puppy dog eyes on me, etc, etc….no dice. So by last Saturday, she was pretty desperate. Luckily for her, I opened the fridge while I was making the list and saw a lot of this:
Which reminded me that my child was seriously, desperately macaroni and cheese deprived. And then I remembered that somewhere this week I had read that Martha Stewart had the Perfect Macaroni and Cheese recipe up on her website. Now, that is like the Holy Grail to me. I probably have at least 15 mac and cheese recipes in my notebooks. I have the creamy kind. I have the kind with vegetables. I have the kind with four cheeses. I have Emeril’s, which calls for NINE tablespoons of butter. I actually have various ones that already bill themselves as Perfect. But there could always be one that is more perfect, right? So it went on the menu, and I tried it last night.
It’s one of those recipes that lets you pick your own pasta. Given a choice, I always pick these:
Because they are classic, and that’s just the kind of girl I am. It’s one of those mac and cheeses that calls for a white sauce that you melt the cheese into, and then you finish it with bread crumbs and bake it. Now, I should pause right there to say that breadcrumbs on mac and cheese are a serious cause of controversy in my house. I love them. The teenager considers them a crime against mac and cheese. So that is why instead of the single casserole dish that the recipe calls for, my mac and cheese got made in these little single serve ramekins that I keep on hand precisely to keep the peace in matters such as these. So the Southern Husband’s came out all nice and bread-crumbed:
And the teenager’s was plain and unadulterated, just the way she likes it.
While us parents were perfectly happy with our slightly crunchy, bread-crumby little servings of mac and cheese, and while The teenager DID eat all of hers, she also looked at me with the puppy dog eyes and said, “Mommy, I really like this macaroni and cheese, but you know what? I just LOVE that creamy kind you make on the stove.”
Sigh. I know exactly which one she means. Hope I remember to put it on the menu this week. Because honestly, a life with macaroni and cheese two weeks in a row is a pretty great life. But for all of you who are interested in a really great baked version, here is a recipe that if it’s not perfect, is pretty darn close. And I’ll get that creamy stovetop version to you pretty soon. Maybe next week.