Baked Macaroni Cheese
I remember back. I do that often. And right now as I sit here listening to the kids on the street play under the last of the shining cool light, I hear something that was once familiar but has disappeared as of late. The call to come in because they have school tomorrow. And, at that very moment, I remember my youthful days and a moment like this.
When I was out for summer all those years ago I always kept my eye on that one date in early September that signified the return date for school. For the first few weeks of holidays I ignored it altogether. But as those days turned into weeks and fell off the calender and by the wayside, I began to pay closer attention. And then, like a shot from the dark, school was back.
The night before that first day I would lie in bed and wonder who my teacher was going to be, if the kids would be nice and what was in store for me in the new year. And I would pray that this year would be the best one yet. And mostly, it was. School wasn't that bad, but it was certainly made better by my lunch box creations and weeknight dinners.
I loved some aspects of school, especially in my younger years, but I mostly loved time spent with friends and some of the home comfort foods that my mom made for me. As the stress of the first week mounted, my mom would always make my favourite meals for me. It was her way of saying everything was going to be alright. And it was.
There was the standard weekday fare, but kraft dinner was probably my favourite. Looking back it might not have been the best thing for me, but, like most other school kids in this country, it was guaranteed to elicit a smile and take the first week jitters away. Mac and cheese from a box doesn't sound great, but inside it holds all the best memories of a young boy.
Nowadays I make mac and cheese differently than the stuff we had in our household growing up. The powdered cheese is replaced with good Canadian cheddar and parmesan cheese. It's topped with a golden brown bread crumb topping that adds texture and a depth of flavour to the pot.
I'll always remember those younger days with a wide grin painted on. I was naive but I was happy. It was just another chance for me to make new friends, win over my teachers and have a family meal with the most important people in my life. And instead of asking about a game down the street, they could ask me about real life. School.
Now we don't have any children of our own (yet) but if we're blessed one day, I'll be calling him/her in a bit early tonight to get ready for tomorrow's first day. I'll tuck them in and tell them that all their dreams are waiting to be answered and, after they get home from school, I'll have a batch of mac and cheese ready for them. Just like I did.
From my kitchen to yours, happy eating!
- 3 tbsp. butter
- 2 tbsp. flour
- 1 tbsp. mustard powder
- 1 tsp. cayenne powder
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 200 grams elbow macaroni
- 1 1/2 cups aged cheddar, grated (I like white & orange)
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- salt & fresh cracked black pepper
- olive oil
- 3 tbsp. butter
- 1 cup fine bread crumbs
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Cook your pasta according to directions, but undercook by a minute or two. Once baked, the pasta will be cooked perfectly.
- In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and add in the flour, mustard powder and cayenne. Whisk continously for 3-5 minutes and until mixture is smooth. Add in the milk and cream and bring to slow simmer. Season with a good pinch of salt and pepper.
- In a mixing bowl, add and mix the cheese varieties together. Add half to the hot milk mixture and combine well.
- Drain pasta and add in with cheese/milk mixture, combining until pasta is well coated.
- Butter all sides of casserole dish or individual ramekins and add in the pasta mixture. Top with remaining cheese.
- Using a saute pan, melt the butter and fold in the bread crumbs until mixed well. Sprinkle on top of the cheese and put on a baking tray and into the oven.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes or until browned and bubbling.
- Remove and let rest five minutes before serving.