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Streamlining Crock-Pot mac’n’cheese. March 21, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. My Crock-Pot (aka slow cooker) mac’n’cheese is simply the best. Based on a recipe from my friend Delilah, it’s incredibly rich, succulent and creamy, but the top is golden and crispy. Unfortunately, it’s also a mess.

First, you cook pasta until al dente in a big, heavy pot. That’s one pot to wash. You melt butter. Two containers. You beat eggs. Three containers to wash. Finally, you add all this, along with evaporated milk and tons of shredded cheese, to your Crock-Pot and stir to combine. I don’t know about yours, but my Crock-Pot is pretty narrow with high sides, so vigorous stirring to make sure it all gets mixed well usually results in some of the contents flying out of the Crock-Pot and onto its rim, sides, the counter, and/or me and the floor. Yuck!

We don’t have a dishwasher here at Hawk’s Haven, which means that all of these containers have to be hand-washed by me or our friend Ben. There just had to be a better way, and it finally occurred to me while making the iconic mac’n’cheese to take to some friends for supper last night. Why not mix everything up in the wide, heavy Dutch oven I used to cook the pasta, then just pour it into the Crock-Pot’s ceramic cooking container? D’oh! It worked like a charm, no fuss, no muss, and just two dishes to clean: the Dutch oven and the Crock-Pot insert.

By the way, our friends chose to serve the mac’n’cheese as the main dish with a side of broccoli and a hearty salad. Good choice! But if you’d rather offset the richness of the mac’n’cheese with something more substantial, we recommend a smaller portion served with Bush’s Grillin’ Beans (we like the bourbon variety) and homemade coleslaw.

We make our basic slaw with shredded green cabbage, shredded red cabbage, shredded carrots, pepitas (roasted, salted pumpkinseeds, for crunch), cumin seeds, cracked fennel seeds, crumbled blue or Gorgonzola cheese, and blue cheese or Dijon mustard ranch dressing (just enough to moisten the slaw, not drench it). You could add any number of other ingredients, such as golden raisins and/or diced dried apricots, if you’d like a sweeter slaw. And I hope it goes without saying, salt (we like RealSalt) and fresh-cracked pepper to taste.

Getting back to the stripped-down mac’n’cheese recipe, here you go:

Crock-Pot Mac’n’Cheese

1-pound (16-ounce) box of pasta, such as elbow macaroni or penne

2 cans unsweetened evaporated milk

2 large eggs

1/3 to 1/2 stick butter

2 packages shredded sharp or extra-sharp white Cheddar cheese (4 cups)

1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Paprika

salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta in a heavy pot until al dente; drain, but leave in pot. Return to heat, add butter, stirring until melted. Add evaporated milk and 3 cups of Cheddar, reserving the rest. Crack two eggs into the pot. Stir very well to blend all ingredients. Add ample salt and pepper, according to your taste. (You can substitute one of our favorite flavored salts, Trocomare, available from health food stores and larger supermarkets, for salt if you wish).

Pour the pasta into the Crock-Pot/slow cooker container. Smooth it out and top with the remaining cup of Cheddar, the Parmesan, and a generous sprinkling of Paprika. Cover the insert and turn the Crock-Pot on low. Cook on low for 4 hours, until the mac’n’cheese is set and the top is bubbly. Yum!!!! Enjoy.

‘Til next time,

Silence

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