JeJu

Supermac n’ Cheese

In food on 01/10/2009 at 8:14 pm

Today was a day of rest. We had some food destinations in mind and set off mid-morning on our jaunt. We usually bypass midtown but happened to be walking along 7th ave when we were lucky enough to see Monsieur Le Chat peeking out across from the F.I.T. That put a smile on our face, since it was after we ate at Supermac, a specialty mac and cheese place that was worse than Noodles & Company, worse even than the Ikea pseudo-Scandinavian slop!

We had such high hopes because the whole menu was iterations of mac and cheese. Our thought was, if you specialize in just one dish, it must mean that it is good, right? We tried the original, a small serving at the recession special price of $5. The elbow pasta was way overcooked, and bland, with barely any cheese sauce. Ours came with the bread crumb option, which seemed to be the only redeeming quality; there was some sort of herb incorporated into the topping, but it only seemed to undeline how horrible the stuff was, and that it was stovetop mac and cheese made to look like oven-baked with the crunchy-ish topping. Ugh.

We’ve been making mac n’ cheese for awhile now, ever since we found the recipe from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. What I love about the show on PBS and the book is they taste test different versions of classic recipes and tell you what new tricks they’ve come up with to make it the best it can be. The science of food has been a recent hot topic, but these guys have been at it for years. One day, when we’re rich, we’re going to subscribe to Cook’s Illustrated, another of Christopher Kimball’s multi-tentacled empire in the world of food-nerding. That magazine is reminiscent of J. Peterman catalogs, what with its illustrations; it’s a more instructive Saveur.

We like this recipe because it is stovetop, which makes it easy and great for packing lunches for the week, and it is one pot. It’s the book version with some twists, to which I tend to add raw veggies like broccoli, bok choy, and meats like bacon, chorizo, to make it more than a carbfest. Remember all these additions also add texture and color.

Ingredients:

1 box elbow macaroni (other shapes work fine too. I’m partial to tri-color rotini)

1 can evaporated milk (****major secret ingredient; southern soul food-style usually uses sour cream and milk, but this is THE surefire way to make it creamy, NOT watery)

2 eggs

1 tsp nutmeg, freshy grated! (this is courtesy of Bones, who only ever made one meal for Booth and her special addition was this spice)

Louisiana Hot Sauce or red chili flakes, also Paprika, Chipotle or whatever other spices suit your fancy

Giant dollop of Spicy Brown Mustard

Salt & Pepper

1  8 oz pkg Cheese (shredded is usually easiest, whatever is the cheapest combo at the market, but if you can afford good sharp cheese, like from Zabar’s, by all means. We once used taleggio and shittake mushrooms for a party, and it was quite the hit)

Vinegar

1 pat of Butter

Breadcrumbs seasoned with herbs like oregano, basil, rosemary and toasted in oven until brown and crispy

Cook pasta till al dente. I find that tends to be ~7 minutes. In a bowl, mix together evaporated milk, eggs and spices. Drain pasta and return to pot on low heat just to incorporate topping.

Drop in butter and melt to mix. Add 1/2 of milk mixture, then cheese, then other 1/2 of milk mixture. Salt and pepper to taste. Then add 2-3 splashes of vinegar, depending on how tangy you want it. Vinegar changes the texture of the cheese, making it ball up a little bit, solidifying it sparsely. For people who find mac n’ cheese to be bland, this is the method to give that roundness of flavor. Last, add chopped up veggies and meat, if desired. Finish with optional breadcrumb topping.

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