Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Crazy Good Make-Ahead Creamy Mac & Cheese

Several people asked for this recipe from Seester #1:

"I used a 'make-ahead' recipe from Cook's Country, amping up the mustard x2 (no need to use dry; I used Dijon), the cayenne by x3, adding Worcester--about two teaspoons, and replacing some of the Colby with Fontina, another good melter with a more interesting flavor.

The recipe was developed to allow making it in advance without it drying out while in the oven-- a problem with baked mac n'cheese. You'll see it references freezing it prior to baking and to quicken defrosting, using 2 8" pans instead of 1 larger one. I didn't freeze it; I simply made it the day before so used a larger pan."

Make-Ahead Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
Serves 8-10

4 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into pieces
1/4 c. grated Parmesan
1 clove garlic, minced
8 T. butter, melted
salt and pepper
1 lb elbow macaroni
3 T. AP flour
1/4 to 1/2 t. cayenne or to taste
1/2 T Dijon mustard
2 t. Worcestershire sauce
4.5 c. low sodium chicken broth
1.5 c. heavy cream
2 cups shredded Colby cheese
2 cups shredded Fontina cheese
2 cups shredded extra sharp Cheddar

Pulse bread, Parmesan, garlic and 2 T butter in food processor until coarsely ground. If freezing the macaroni and cheese, divide the crumb mixture between two zip-lock bags and freeze.

Cook Pasta:
Bring 4 quarts of water to boil. Add 1 T. salt and macaroni and cook until barely softened, about 3 minutes. Drain pasta--don't rinse--then spread out on half-sheet pan to cool (not rinsing the pasta preserves the starch, which helps to stabilize the sauce while baking).

Make Sauce:
Heat remaining butter, flour, cayenne and mustard in 4 qt saucepan or dutch oven over medium high heat until golden and fragrant, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 min. Slowly whisk in broth and cream and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until slightly thickened about 15 min. Off heat, stir in cheeses, 1 t. salt or to taste and 1/2 t. pepper until smooth.

Stir cooled pasta into sauce and divide between 2 8" baking dishes. Cool to room temp, about 2 hours. Wrap tightly in plastic, cover with foil and freeze up to two months.

Adjust oven rack to middle and preheat to 375 degrees. Remove foil from casserole and reserve. Microwave casserole dishes until mixture is thawed and beginning to bubble around the edges, 7 - 12 min, stirring halfway through the cooking time. Discard plastic and cover casseroles with foil. Bake 20 min., then remove foil and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Continue to bake until topping is golden brown and crisp, about 20 min. longer. Let cool 10 min. before serving.

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