When I asked Neil what he wanted as his birthday dinner, he only had one suggestion to offer: mac and cheese.
Now, as everyone probably knows, I absolutely love cheese. All kinds of cheese. However, I have a love/hate relationship when it comes to macaroni and cheese. See, my freshman year in college, my mom bought me a Sam’s size package of about 36 boxes of Kraft mac and cheese. I only lived 15 minutes away from my parents but I was being independent. So I taught my roommates to use the full amount of butter for maximum yummy-ness for this delectable dish and well, we did… and we probably ate more than 36 boxes of mac and cheese that year.
Ever since then, I can’t really bring myself to eat too much mac and cheese. The yellow cheesiness and strange powder-cheese smell are disturbing to my psyche (how’s that for a psychoanalysis?? I knew that Psychology degree would payoff one day!)
So you see, I was a bit hesitant to make this dish for The Husband’s birthday. But, I’m happy to report that even though this meal isn’t as straightforward and easy as the Kraft version, it is the best macaroni and cheese I have eaten to date. And that’s sayin’ something.
Zahra’s Mac and Cheese
1/2 lb short pasta (I used elbow macaroni)
1 tbsp butter
1/2 small onion, diced
1/4 cup flour
3 cups milk (I used 2%)
pinch of cayenne pepper if you’re feeling daring
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: Few sprigs of chives
About 3-4 cups grated sharp cheddar (or a combination of cheeses you have on hand)
1. Bring water to a boil and add in some salt for the pasta. You want to cook the pasta until al dente.
2. Turn on the heat to medium and melt a tablespoon of butter in a saucepan.
3. Dice the 1/2 of your onion.
4. Add the onions to the saucepan and let it caramelize, about 4-6 minutes.
5. Add in 1/4 cup flour.
6. Stir the mixture around until golden brown and about the texture of cooked oatmeal.
7. Pour in 2 cups of milk and whisk to combine.
8. As the mixture is coming to a boil, add in a pinch of cayenne pepper if you’re feeling daring.
9. By this point, the milk should be bubbling. Add in the last cup of milk and bring to a boil. Then, turn down the heat to a simmer until the mixture thickens.
10. Take your chives and mince ’em.
Also, take your cheeses and grate ’em. I had some leftover swiss as well as my sharp cheddar so I used both.
11. Add the whole shabang into your saucepan. Turn off the heat and stir until incorporated.
12. Pour cheese sauce over your pasta and stir until all the macaroni is covered in cheesy goodness.
Dish out and serve! I also had some vegetarian meatballs that I heated and coated ever so lightly in the same cheese sauce.
Happy Birthday Neil!