Classic Mac

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I drooled over this book in a shop in Chicago. A cookbook full of mac & cheese recipes? Where have I been? Now that I know they come from Homeroom, a restaurant in Berkeley, California that specializes in my favorite comfort food- I have a new restaurant to add to my bucket list. It all starts with the perfect base, a creamy béchamel sauce. Then you add all sorts of various goodies for different mac & cheese recipes from Croque Madame Mac to Sriracha Mac to Vegan Mac. This book even has a few recipes for sides and old-school desserts. So basically the best book ever, am I right?

from: Mac & Cheese
serves: 4

mac sauce
3 cups whole milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt or 1 teaspoon table salt

1/2 pound dried elbow pasta (don’t use those baby elbows, they fall apart. Go for a large elbow or serpentine, or use penne, rigatoni, or orecchiette)
2 cups mac sauce
1 1/2 cups grated 2 year aged, extra-sharp Cheddar cheese

1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 cup toasted panko -optional (toast in a 400 degree oven until lightly browned and toasted)

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to make the mac sauce

Heat the milk in a pot over medium heat until it just starts to bubble, but is not boiling, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Heat the butter over medium heat in a separate, heavy-bottomed pot. When the butter has just melted, add the flour and whisk constantly until the mixture turns light brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.

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Slowly pour the warm milk, about 1 cup at a time, into the butter-flour mixture, whisking constantly. It will get very thick when your first add the milk, and thinner as you slowly pour in the entire 3 cups. This is normal.

Once all the milk has been added, set the pot back over medium-high heat, and continue to whisk constantly. In the next 2 to 3 minutes the sauce should come together and become silky and thick. Use the spoon test to make sure it’s ready.  To do this, dip a metal spoon into the sauce-if the sauce coats the spoon and doesn’t slide off like milk, you’ll know it’s ready. You should be able to run your finger along the spoon and have the impression remain. Add the salt.

The Mac sauce is ready to use immediately and does not need to cool. Store it in the fridge for a day or two if you want to make it ahead of time-it will get a lot thicker when put in the fridge, so it may need a little milk to thin it a bit when it comes time to melt in the cheese. Try melting the cheese into the sauce first, and if it is too thick then add milk as needed.

for the mac

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until a little less than al dente. Drain, rinse the pasta with cold water, and drain it again.

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Add the sauce and both cheeses to a large, heavy-bottomed pot and cook over medium heat. Stir until the cheese is barely melted, about 3 minutes. Slowly add the cooked pasta, stir, and continue cooking while stirring continuously until the pasta is hot and steaming, another 5 minutes.

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Spoon into bowls and enjoy. You can also top with toasted panko crumbs at this point.

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