Mac’n'cheese: The good, the bad, and the ugly. September 29, 2013Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes.
Tags: Crock-Pot macaroni and cheese, homemade macaroni and cheese, mac'n'cheese, macaroni and cheese, macaroni and cheese recipes, slow cooker macaroni and cheese, the best macaroni and cheese
Fans of that orange-coated chemical gunk from the box (the ugly), you can stop reading now.
Silence Dogood here. It appears that those of us who love homemade macaroni and cheese fall into two very distinct categories. I realized this just this morning while reading an article on how to make “the greatest” mac’n'cheese. It involved milk, flour, and bread, and its goal was to create a milky sauce in which the macaroni swam while the breadcrumbs gave it some crunchy oomph on top.
Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t like mixing carbs. If I’m having pasta, I don’t want breadcrumbs on top of it, much less flour in it or milk thickened with flour subbing for real cream. Yecchhh!!! And I simply hate soupy macaroni. To me, this is like making green bean casserole with a can of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup. Eeeewww!!! There are so many great ways to make green beans, why would anyone drown them in a vat of yucky, flavor-destroying gunk?! This version of mac’n'cheese qualifies as the bad.
So let’s move on to the good, which for me involves rich, cheesy sauce enrobing the pasta, clinging to its every side, with nothing dripping off. No fillers like flour, milk, and bread. But don’t I love the crunchy topping? Of course I do! But for me, the perfect crunch comes from the buttery, cheesy topping crisped to a perfect brown.
There are plenty of casserole versions of mac’n'cheese that qualify for either version. But I owe my mac’n'cheese chops to my friend, Delilah, whose version of Crock-Pot mac’n'cheese I adapted. Crispy, crunchy, succulent, non-soupy mac’n'cheese from a slow cooker? You betcha. And it goes so well with fall dishes, it’s ridiculous. Chili or baked beans (we love Bush’s Grillin’ Beans), coleslaw or kale salad, broccoli or broccoflower, roasted or baked sweet potatoes or curried carrots, sauteed green beans (no casserole, please), oh yum. Not to mention barbecue and fried chicken, for all you meat-eaters out there.
But before we get to the recipe, I have to give you the Four Slow-Cooker Mac’n'Cheese Commandments: 1. Thou shalt not cook this dish on high or the cheese will burn. 2. Thou shalt not use sweetened condensed milk instead of evaporated milk. 3. Thou shalt not use fresh milk, because it curdles in the Crock-Pot. 4. Thou shalt not cook this dish for more than 4 hours or the pasta will disintegrate. Okay, let’s do it!
The Best Crock-Pot Macaroni and Cheese
1-pound package of elbow macaroni, cooked al dente (I have to admit that I find that regular macaroni holds its texture better in this recipe than any of the “healthier” versions, and I keep trying different ones in the hope of proving myself wrong.)
2 12-ounce cans evaporated milk
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups (2 packages) shredded sharp white Cheddar (use extra-sharp if you want more flavor)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Set aside 1 cup of the Cheddar, the Parmesan, and the paprika. Stir all other ingredients together in the Crock-Pot. Top with reserved Cheddar, Parmesan, and a hearty sprinkling of paprika to give the top a lovely warm color. Cook on low 3 to 4 hours. I like to cook it for the full 4 hours for a crunchier crust.
That’s all there is to it, and boy, is it delicious! Of course, you’re free to try your own variations once you’ve enjoyed the basic recipe. And if you have a favorite mac’n'cheese of your own, please share it with us. Maybe some day we’ll do a Great Mac’n'Cheese Cookoff!
‘Til next time,