This, for me, is one of the ultimate comfort foods. A staple food to grace the tables of impoverished students the world over, it has always held a special place in my heart. It’s cheap, it’s a main course or a sumptuous side dish, perfect for using up leftovers, and there are few people that don’t appreciate a good steaming place of this creamy God-send.
To make this you will need to make one of the classic French sauces, Béchamel. With the few techniques you will see here you will be able to whip up a cracking white sauce for Christmas dinner or a meaty gravy next time you are visiting home for Sunday Lunch. They are all based on the same thing, a Roux.
It is with this, which we are going to bring to life your perfectly smooth and rich Macaroni and Cheese. I hope you enjoy.
1 White Onion
Three Cloves of Garlic
About 100g Plain Flour
1 Bunch of Thyme
2lt Whole Milk (maybe more)
-Cook the macaroni according to the packet instructions, leaving a little bite to them.
-Drain them but keep a little of the cooking water to help bring together the sauce later.
-Set these both aside.
-Finely dice up your white onion and crush the garlic.
-In a large saucepan warm your milk with the thyme to allow it to infuse gently.
-In another large saucepan melt your butter over a medium to high heat.
-Add the onions and garlic and fry gently until they start to go clear.
-Turn the heat down on the pan and add some flour, one tablespoon at a time. After adding each tablespoon, combine it thoroughly with the melted butter.
-Keep doing this until you have a consistency of wet sand. It should look grainy and slightly lumpy but still loose enough to stir. This is your Roux.
-When you reach this stage turn the heat back up to a medium/high. You want to cook out the flour here so when you are done, the sauce doesn’t taste bready and stodgy.
-Cook the roux until it is slightly golden, then begin to add in the warm milk bit by bit.
-A whisk is advisable here to combine the milk with the roux. It will begin to look lumpy and like it has split but keep whisking like a mad-man until it all comes together.
-Only add more milk when the previous ladle has been combined, think of it like a risotto. Always stirring, always moving and always combining.
-When you have added the two litres of milk (not adding the woody thyme stalks) add in your cheese.
-This can be any good melting cheese and a perfect time to use up the ends of blocks in your fridge. I used cheddar, mascarpone and parmesan in this one but I have used edam, emmental, brie, blue cheese it all works.
-Now go in with your pasta, make sure it is combined well with the sauce.
-It may get a little thick and stodgy but just add some of the cooking water to let out the sauce.
-You are now ready to eat! But if you want to take it a step further, continue reading
- Breadcrumb Crust
100g grated parmesan cheese
1tsp dried rosemary
1 rasher of smoked bacon
-In a food processor blitz together all of the ingredients.
-This is a great way to use up leftover bread or bacon.
Ha! I never have leftover bacon either. How stupid.
-Spoon the warm mac n’ cheese into a baking dish or individual ramekins and pile some of the breadcrumb mix over the top.
-Bake in a hot oven (200 degrees) for about twenty minutes and then serve.
-Be careful though, they will be seriously hot.