In college, I pretty much lived on Kraft boxed mac and cheese, Cheez-Its, and ramen noodles. It wasn't until I went to a boyfriend's home for dinner that I tasted "real" mac & cheese. And oh, how delicious it was! Real cheddar cheese, crunchy bread crumb topping . . . I could've eaten the whole casserole dish myself.
Every now and again, I get a craving for that baked mac and cheese. I keep trying different recipes, to see which one I like best. This time, I tried Alton Brown's recipe from Good Eats. I was hesitant at first, seeing the inclusion of powdered mustard. But after trying several of his recipes, I've come to the conclusion that the man can do no wrong when it comes to food. It was a good gamble — there is no distinct mustard flavor in the finished dish.
There is little prep work for this recipe, aside from cooking the macaroni and dicing the onion. I also bought a brick of Cheddar cheese and shredded it myself. Start to finish, the dish is ready in about an hour. And often, the simplest recipes are the best. Using panko for the bread crumb topping provides a great contrasting crunch to the creaminess of the cheese sauce.
Baked Mac & Cheese
- ½ pound elbow macaroni
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 tablespoon powdered mustard
- 3 cups milk
- ½ cup yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Fresh black pepper
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, and cook the macaroni to al dente.
- In a separate pot, melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour and powdered mustard, and stir continuously for five minutes. Make sure there are no lumps.
- Stir in the onion, milk, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes, then remove the bay leaf and discard.
- Add a ladle-ful of the hot milk mixture to the egg, and beat to combine. Then add that back into the pot, and combine. Stir in ¾ of the cheese.
- Carefully fold in the macaroni, then pour into the casserole dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
- Toss the melted butter with the panko bread crumbs, then sprinkle over the top of the mac & cheese.
- Bake for 30 minutes, then let stand for five minutes before serving.