Creamy mac and cheese

Creamy Mac and Cheese
Makes 6 servings

This mac and cheese is miles away from its neon-boxed cousin that you may have had as a kid. Once you have enjoyed a plate of this from-scratch version, bubbling hot from the oven, with its flavorful cheeses and buttery crown of crisp bread crumbs, you will be hard-pressed to return to its store-bought kin.

Ingredients:

  • Unsalted butter, 7 tablespoons
  • Garlic, 1 clove, minced
  • Coarse fresh bread crumbs, 11/2 cups
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Elbow macaroni, 1 pound
  • All-purpose flour, 1/4 cup
  • Whole milk, 3 cups, warmed
  • Sharp Cheddar cheese, 2 cups shredded
  • Fontina cheese, 2 cups shredded
  • Dry mustard, 1/2 teaspoon
Directions:
  1. In a large frying pan, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until tender but not browned, about 3 minutes. Add the bread crumbs and stir until coated with butter. Set aside.

  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a shallow 3-quart baking dish.

  3. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the macaroni and stir occasionally until the water returns to a boil. Cook according to the package directions until not quite al dente. (The macaroni will cook again in the oven, so do not overcook it now.) Drain well and set aside.

  4. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons butter to the pot used for the pasta and melt over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let bubble for 1 minute without browning. Gradually whisk in the milk, raise the heat to medium, and bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheeses along with the mustard.

  5. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the pasta. Spread in the prepared baking dish and sprinkle evenly with the buttered crumbs.

  6. Bake until the crumbs are browned and the sauce is bubbling, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes, then serve hot.

  7. Put a spin on it -- Any tubular pasta will do: Try penne, ziti, or mostaccioli. To give your mac and cheese a little personality, add chopped crisp bacon, cubes of smoked ham or cooked chicken, cooked peas, chopped blanched broccoli, sautéed wild mushrooms, or crumbled blue cheese.
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Macaroni with Three Cheeses
Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:
    Garlicky Crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs (prepared from crusty bread in a food processor)
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for the dish
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk, heated
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Muenster cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Directions:
  1. To make the crumbs, melt the butter with the garlic in a large skillet over medium-low heat until the garlic is tender but not browned, about 3 minutes. Add the crumbs and stir until they are well-coated with the butter mixture. Set aside.

  2. Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter a 3-quart shallow baking dish.

  3. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the macaroni and cook according to the package directions until al dente. (Remember that the macaroni will be cooked again during baking, so do not overcook.) Drain well.

  4. Add the butter to the pot and melt over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, reduce the heat to low, and let bubble without browning for 1 minute. Whisk in the milk. Return the heat to medium and cook, whisking often, until the sauce comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the Cheddar and Muenster cheeses, along with the mustard, and season with the salt and pepper. Spread in the casserole and sprinkle with the crumbs.

  5. Bake until the crumbs are browned and the sauce is bubbling, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes, then serve hot.
About Rick Rodgers:

Rick Rodgers is one of the most versatile professionals in the food business. Through his work as a cooking teacher, food writer, cookbook author, freelance cookbook editor, and radio and television guest chef, his infectious love of good food reaches countless cooks every day. He is the author of over thirty-five cookbooks on a wide range of subjects including the best-sellers Thanksgiving 101 and Fondue, and IACP Cookbook Award nominees, Kaffeehaus and The Carefree Cook.

Arbiter of taste Williams-Sonoma has chosen Rick to write ten titles in their various cookbook lines. Rick's recipes have also appeared in Food and Wine, Cooking Light, and Fine Cooking, and he is a frequent contributor to Bon Appétit and blogger at www.epicurious.com.

Rick has made countless television and radio appearances, often acting as a media spokesperson for top food, beverage, and house wares companies, including Perdue Farms (seven years), Grand Marnier (five years), Absolut Vodka, All-Clad, Beatrice Foods, Libby's Pumpkin, Entenmann's Baked Goods, Kingsford Charcoal, Hershey's Cocoa, and Jell-O. He has been guest chef on the national television shows Today, CBS Morning Show, Good Morning America, Cooking Live with Sara Moulton, Food Network Challenge, and many others, including media appearances in every major local market.

In the publishing world, Rick is known for his behind-the-scenes work on an additional thirty books with other cooks, providing everything from recipe testing to writing to editing.

His clients are a diverse group: Alfred Portale (The Gotham Bar and Grill Cookbook), Dan Leader (Bread Alone), fashion guru Lilly Pulitzer (Lilly's Essential Holidays), the late Leslie Revsin, PBS's Jeffrey Nathan (Adventures in Jewish Cooking), Patti LaBelle (LaBelle Cuisine), and Oprah Winfrey's former chef Art Smith (Back to the Table and Kitchen Life).

The last two authors reached the New York Times Best Seller list, and a number of Rick's projects have gone on to win James Beard and IACP Cookbook Awards, making him many an editor's private "cookbook doctor." He was a contributor to both The Bon Appétit Cookbook and The 75th Anniversary Joy of Cooking.

His encyclopedic culinary knowledge brought him the assignment of Head Writer to the 2001 edition of The All New Good Housekeeping Cookbook, as well as the role of American consultant to The Illustrated Kitchen Bible and The Barnes and Noble Essentials of Cooking. He has also created corporate cookbooks for Nordstrom, Kingsford Charcoal, Splenda, and an upcoming book for Sarabeth's Bakery.

Rick's combination of down-to-earth humor and solid information brought him the prestigious Bon Appétit Food and Entertaining Award for Outstanding Cooking Teacher. In addition to his publishing work, Rick teaches sold-out cooking classes from coast-to-coast, as well as the occasional international stint (including Korea and France.) He is a speaker at many festivals and seminars, including the annual International Association of Culinary Professionals and Greenbrier Food Writers conferences.

Former chef/owner of the Manhattan catering firm Cuisine Américaine, he has the distinction of being an American chef cooking for the French government, and created parties for such celebrities as Marcel Marceau, Yves St. Laurent, and Gerard Depardieu. Cuisine Américaine now acts as a food consultant firm, providing recipe development and public relations support to Absolut Vodka, El Paso Chili Company, and others.

He lives in the New York City area.

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