Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Mac and Cheese

I have strong feelings about macaroni and cheese. So strong, in fact, that if you think it's okay to bake it in the oven at 350 for an hour, I might mutter a few choice words under my breath. That s&*t is not mac and cheese; it's dry, disappointing, slightly-cheese-flavored casserole. 'Round here, the stovetop roux-based stuff is boss. If you like a topping, get the broiler good and hot while you make the sauce, and broil only long enough to crunch up the top. This recipe is particularly lovely made with sharp cheddar and half and half. I don't suggest anything less than 2% milk no matter which cheese(s) you use, but suit yourself. You should be able to find white rice pasta at large Asian groceries, and corn pasta at Trader Joe's or Walmart.
  • 25 g (1 Tbsp + 2 Tsp) Butter. I use unsalted, but it doesn't matter.
  • 10 g (1 Tbsp + 1 Tsp) Glutinous Rice Flour or 10 g (1 Tbsp) Sweet Rice Flour
  • 350 g (1 1/2 Cups) Cream, Milk, or combination
  • 115 g (4 Oz/Half a Block/1 Cup Grated) Cheese 
  • 1/2 Tsp Salt for cheese sauce, plus more for pasta water
  • 170 g (6 ounces, about 1/3 box) Dry Pasta (I prefer white rice pasta, or corn pasta)
  • Parmigiano for the top (optional) 
About 30 minutes

Two average eaters as an entree, or three to four as a side

Set some salted water (1360 g or 6 cups of water and 10 g or 2 tsp of salt, if you're feeling precise) over a burner turned to the highest setting. While the water heats, measure out the 20 g (1 tbsp + 2 tsp) butter, 10 g (1 tbsp + 1 tsp) glutinous rice flour, and 350 g (1 1/2 cups) milk or cream. Cut up the butter (into eight pieces, if you're still feeling precise) and grate the 115 g (half package) cheese. When the water is boiling, stir the pot to dissolve the salt, and cook the 170 g pasta according to package directions. (If you don't have a scale, just look at the weight listed on the box, and use the fraction of the box that gives you 6 oz. It doesn't have to be exact.) Taste a noodle before draining if you're not familiar with the brand- sometimes packages are wrong, and you want the pasta to be completely soft. Drain the pasta and set aside. Don't worry about it clumping- the cheese sauce will fix that. 

Put the empty pot back on high heat, just until any water in the bottom has evaporated. Add the butter to the pot. When the butter is melted, turn the heat down to medium, make sure your milk or cream is within reach, and stir in the flour using a completely dry whisk or fork. Continue cooking the flour until you can just barely tell that it's changed color- you'll see small spots of light brown around the edges. Whisking furiously, pour in the milk and/or cream (careful, it may spatter). Continue to stir lazily until bubbles appear, then stir enthusiastically, targeting any lumps. 

When the milk mixture (Sauce B├ęchamel, if you like) is hot and smooth, stir in the salt first, then the cheese, and finally the pasta. Serve immediately, grating parmigiano on top if desired. If making ahead, stir the pasta as it cools, or rinse it slightly, store the sauce and pasta separately, heat the sauce on the stovetop, and then stir in the pasta.

You should buy a baking scale.

Amazon Links for Ingredients: 
Glutinous Rice Flour
Sweet Rice Flour (Certified GF)

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