When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. What about leftover cheese? Mac & Cheese of course! This recipe is a great chance to work with a roux if you never have before. It is a simple party of butter, flour and heat that will open new doors of your mind…culinarily speaking.
Cast of Characters:
This is the cheese that was not used for the 4th. It is a selection of Chedder, Swiss, Havarti & Gouda
I used 2 boxes of this pasta, and had some leftover after filling the 9x12 pan.
Half a cup of general all purpose flour.
Half a stick of butter (Salted or Un, doesn't matter much)
Some nice heavy whipping cream for richness.
2 Cups Chicken Stock (Real stock would be best, but in a pinch this will do)
Pinch or 2 of salt into the pot of water, and set to boil. I set the timer for this pasta to be a couple minutes shorter than the box instructs. This pasta called for 12-14 minutes and I boiled for 11. The reason for this is that they pasta will cook some more as it warms up in its cheesy hot tub in the oven. Initially cooking the pasta short allows it to finish to al-dente in the oven.
Time to make some Roux!
Melt your half stick of butter.
Add your 1/2 cup of flour to the melted butter. If your roux is a little dry like this...
...add a snitch more of butter.
This is the texture we are shooting for. When you mix it it should be pretty thick, but when you stop stirring it slowly "melts"
You want to cook this for maybe 5-7 minutes over medium heat. You will notice that the flour will start to toast and darken slightly in color. You will also smell the flour cooking. The goal is to get the fat from the butter and the starch from the flour to becomes good friends, but not toast it so much that it makes the sauce too dark. 5-7 min on medium heat should do the trick.
Add the 2 cups of warmed chicken stock.
Add your 2 cups of warmed chicken stock to the roux.
A couple minutes over medium heat will result in some basic chicken gravy
Now add some warmed up milk (1-1.5 cups) to thin it out a little. Make sure to warm the milk up first. If cold milk hits the hot roux it can curdle and make lumps. Warming it up first keeps things nice and smooooooth.
CHEESE TIME! Start slowly mixing in your cheese. Mix it as you add to melt and distribute it throughout the sauce. It is a little but of a balancing act...add cheese to thicken then thin with a bit of warm milk.
As you are working to achieve your desired thickness with the sauce remember to bring the sauce to a slight boil after each addition. The roux doesn’t come to full thickening power until a boil is reached. Don’t underestimate the power of the roux!
Step 4: Temper the eggs
I wanted to add an egg to the sauce to add even more richness. If I put a cold egg in the hot sauce it would just scramble and be gross. Instead I warmed up the heavy cream in a coffee cup, and SLOWLY mixed it into the eggs.
Warm the cream for 1.25 minutes in the microwave and then add small amounts of it to the scrambled eggs. Pour a couple ounces in, and whisk it thoroughly, then add a couple more ounces. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
When you are done you will have a warm frothy bath of eggs and cream. Set this aside to add to the sauce in a bit.
For a slight bump in cheese flavor you can add some Blue Cheese. You won't really taste the Blue Cheese on its own, but overall cheesiness gets bumped about 20%. Don't waste money on fancy Blue Cheese here. All of those complex protein chains that give expensive Blue its unique flavor will be broken down when it is melted. Keep it real, this is Mac & Cheese
You will bounce back and forth between thin and thick sauce as you add more warm milk to thin, and then cheese to thicken. This is a dance that will depend on your cheese mixture and your pot size. If you are unsure of things, just add in small portions. That will keep it from going to far in any one direction.
When your pot is about full add in the tempered egg and cream slowly, stirring as you add it in. When that is done let it come to a slight boil and remove from the heat.
Put the drained noodles in a 9x12 pan until it is full.
Start pouring the cheese sauce over the noodles. I pour a couple of ladles full and then mix it around. Repeat that until the cheese fills up the pan about 2/3 of the way up the pan.
Reserve 2-3 cups of sauce for later
You want to have a nice even coating on all of your noodles. If they have been draining while you were doing the other steps they should be a little dry and the sauce will stick like CRAZY to them.
I have found that you need to add cheese flavor in every nook and cranny if you want a really cheese flavored dish. If you think you have enough cheese, you probably will want to add 25% more.
I like to first sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on the noodles. This picture shows that I am slumming it with stuff from a green can, if you have better use it. If you don't, then this is better than nothing.
Oh! Hello cheese balls. Fancy meeting you here. While all tucked into a zip lock bag like that?
BANG! BANG! BANG!
OIC. Hmm, what to do with you now?
Perfect! I knew we could add more cheese flavor somehow.
I added a plain shredded mix that I had in the fridge for a couple of reasons. More cheese = more gooder & when the cheese melts it will hold the cheese ball powder together in a dreamy crust of crunchy cheesy awesomeness.
Step 6: Bake
Tent the pan lightly with foil careful to keep it from touching the cheese. If you had that fancy non-stick foil, this would be a really awesome place to use it. If not just try to keep it from touching, not a gigantic deal. Put it in the oven heated to 350 for 20 minutes. This is just to warm it all the way through and start melting that cheese on the top. After 20 minutes remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes. This uncovered time is what brings the crunch to town. If you don't want that just heat covered the whole time.
After all 30 minutes of cooking, let it rest for 5-10 minutes, or else you will burn your mouth on the sauce. I promise this is impossible to eat slowly once you start.
Remember that extra sauce we saved? Now it is time to bring that to the plate.
Scoop a healthy helping into a shallow bowl, and then pour left over cheese sauce over the top. Eat. Repeat. Nap. Dream some cheesy dreams!