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It's no wonder the holidays and macaroni and cheese go together so well: They're both warm, comforting and filled with more than their share of cheesy moments.
With Thanksgiving but a week away, we've enlisted cheese expert Laura Werlin to show you the whey to macaroni mastery.
Laura Werlin is the James Beard award-winning cookbook author of The All American Cheese and Wine Book. Her sixth book, Mac & Cheese, Please!, will be released December 4. You can find her on Twitter as @cheezelady if that tells you anything about her fervor for fromage.
Five Tips to a (Mac &) Cheesy Thanksgiving: Laura Werlin
1. Return of the Mac
Nearly everyone has a childhood memory of macaroni and cheese. The dish is a perennial favorite regardless of age, and is definitely the ultimate comfort food for winter.
I personally like the sweetness that onions add but, if you prefer, you can simply leave them out of this classic recipe. The dish will likely make it into your regular repertoire either way! Once you have a classic recipe, the possibilities are endless for what you can add in - bacon or arugula anyone?
Classic Mac & Cheese
2. I'm melting!
Because mac & cheese is all about melted goodness, it’s essential to use cheeses that submit to their full glory when exposed to heat. In other words, USE GOOD MELTERS.
For some of the best melting cheeses, head for the hills - preferably the Swiss Alps! It's there where you'll find the unparalleled Gruyère (one of the best-tasting melting cheeses in the world), Emmentaler (the original "Swiss" cheese) and Appenzeller, among others. Hop over those hills into France's Jura region and grab some Comté for an equally memorable melting cheese experience.
And from the rolling hills of Wisconsin, Pleasant Ridge Reserve and just about any Wisconsin cheddar will make any mac & cheese sing, as will the cheeses from the farms and forests in Vermont all the way to the seaside farms in California, Oregon and Washington. So, now that you know the fundamentals, it’s time to put them into practice.
3. Thanksgiving mac attack
Ravioli with butternut squash, brown butter and sage has become a classic fall pasta combination in many upscale restaurants. Why not take it down-home and fold that delectable flavor combination into mac & cheese? This recipe is a true winner and a dish that your friends and family will love you for, whether you serve it at Thanksgiving dinner or even in spring or summer.
Butternut Squash, Gruyère and Brown Butter Mac & Cheese
4. Light(er) mac & cheese
So, you want to make a mac & cheese that’s good for the taste buds and the waistline? Obviously mac & cheese isn’t inherently a healthy dish, but there are tricks for adding some more nutritional value and cutting calories.
First off, you can use reduced fat or low-fat cheeses. If you’re using such a cheese, it’s important to cook the mixture slowly since low-fat and reduced fat cheeses (like a skim milk cheese) clump up more easily. You may need to add a few extra teaspoons of flour if your cheese starts to clump.
Second, you can swap regular pasta for whole grain pasta to add some fiber. And third, try adding in some color! Throw in a bunch of arugula, herbed zucchini or tomatoes roasted with garlic to get some more antioxidants.
5. How to nurse a tryptophan hangover
To me, the ultimate diner breakfast isn’t the eggs you find there, it’s the potatoes - especially when they’re in the form of home fries. In this mac & cheese, those home-fried potatoes get their just due by acting as the crowning glory on the creamy, cheesy pasta underneath. And of course, because this IS a mac & cheese, there's also melted cheese on top of those potatoes too. I don’t have to wonder what Dr. Atkins would have said about a potato-on-pasta dish, but this is one splurge worth its weight in carbs.
Breakfast Mac 'n' Cheese
Agree with our cheese guru's tips, or do you have another suggestion? Share in the comments below.
Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.
I did a copycat mac 'n cheese similar to LongHorn Steakhouse's Steakhouse Mac.
I was kinda drunk when I made it, but I did a white gravy/béchamel sauce and added parmesan, fontina, gruyere, and something else... White cheddar or mozzarella... I can't remember.. But bubbled it up to a creamy sauce, fried and crumbled up some bacon, boiled cavatappi noodles, then tossed it altogether and ladled it into individual oven-proof ramekins , tossed some panko breading with grated parmesan and a bit of melted butter and sprinkled it on top...
Bake at like 350 until the top gets golden... So yummy.
(Sorry... I don't measure anything!)
great post #macandcheesestrong!!
the butternut squash mac and cheese recipe is not quite right, or even close to right, FYI. the amount of bread crumb mixture was more than twice as much as could fit on the mac and cheese, and i ended up with an extra cup of cheese sauce, too–the dish was overflowing and i had to scoop it out. also, it lacked salt (or any flavor, really!) and i couldn't taste the butternut squash at all, despite putting in more than the recipe calls for. so this wasn't exactly a thanksgiving success, unfortunately.
I went and bought the cheese ingredients, then went and bought a lottery ticket. It's the only way I'm going to be able to pay for the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, aged cheddar cheese, and Gruyère cheese. Ounce for ounce this is one EXPENSIVE mac'n'cheese. I told the people whose place I'm taking it to that they better damn well appreciate it! (Not really, but the thought did occur!)
Agree. My mom and I both make this and we call it $50 mac-n-cheese.
Throughout history I don't remember there being an actual list of foods that you are and arent supposed to eat for thanksgiving.One word "AMERICA"-MEANING HUGE MELTING POT. I am from the south where without Mac N' Cheese whats thanksgiving dinner.
a family friend who comes to our Thanksgiving every year always brings homemade Mac n cheese. I love the crunchy corner bits the best!
Smoked Gouda.. makes the best Mac and cheese ever.
I've found that Brie makes a great cheese sauce – I like it more than cheddar. And cheese sauce over veggies like Cauliflower or Broccoli is both tasy and healthier than over pasta. Each Thanksgiving, as the extended family gets together at my brother's home, two of the dishes I'm expected to bring is "Polish Kielbasa and Sauerkraut (add applesauce to kick-it up a notch) and "English Cauliflower Cheese" I found the Cauliflower Cheese recipe here several years ago and have been told I HAVE to make it for other occasions: http://www.food.com/recipe/traditional-english-cheddar-cauliflower-cheese-gratin-216237 I'm using brie where is calls for cheddar and I cook freshly cut cauliflower, dumping it into boiling water for 7 minutes, cooling it a little by running cold water over it, putting it in a disposable lasagne pan, pouring the cheese sauce over it, and then when it's heated up in the over 350F, 20 min. at the site where it will be eaten, the cauliflower isn't mushy. Also, I see cayenne pepper in the article's recipe. To me that's a no-no for a large-group meal since many people don't like even a little bit of heat.
I find it best with the sharpest, most flavorful cheeses I can get my hands on – old, old Cheddar, Gouda or Edam; Parmigiano-Reggiano for a little extra bite. That way, if you're cutting back on the cheese or relying more on the white sauce for consistency, you've got your flavor in there still. I'd be _very_ interested in hearing about blue cheese's performance in this sort of thing. Though pricey, I suspect that Stilton would be a welcome switch-up.
Wisconsin cheese now in Naples, FL!
Mac n' Cheese made with Wisconsin cheese aged cheddars, provolone, and a creamy Havarti – a treat made for the Gods!
Mac & cheese from the box..add 1 can cream of mushroom soup and mix it in.... now that is good and simple
You have got to be kidding me! YUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!
Now, Now ~Opinions are like @ssholes, everybody has one.
Sounds close to a tuna casserole....
The best place to get stuff for your M&C? At your local grocery store check for where they put the 'ends' from the ham and cheese blocks in the deli. Our store puts them in a case across from the deli counter. The sharp cheddar ends with a little provolone shredded in are the best.
My mac n cheese has dry mustard, nutmeg and worcestershire sauce. Mix the noodles, spices and lots of cheese together, then pour the milk (mixed with 2 eggs) over in a baking dish, and cover with buttered bread crumbs. Bake. It makes a firmer custard type mac and cheese. May not be what many people grew up with, but it certainly is what everyone at church asks for for suppers and dinners for the sick. Yum.
Awesome 5@5 thank you! I'm definitely trying the "Breakfast Mac 'n' Cheese" with bacon as Patrick Dester suggested.
Ewww! That recipe is why I stay with what's in the Kraft box. However, I add plenty of grated, extra-sharp cheddar. Kraft never packs enough cheese.
sad face for your upbringing.
velveeta mac and cheese with a big squeeze of yellow mustard mixed in – awesome. they put it on their box as a suggestion years ago, now I do it almost every time...as Ned Flanders would say – scrum-diddly-umptious.
Turkey, cranberry jelly, stuffing, sweet potatoes, something green that isn't snotty green beans and a choice of punkin or dutch apple pie afterwards. Turkey sandwiches later if dinner was early enough in the day. Not a morsel or mention of mac 'n' cheese anywhere.
Absolutely, no mac and cheese on my family's table either. We do have mashed rutabegas, they are yellow. ;)
if you want to waste your money you will find a way
Or, you could save your endothelial cells (you know, the ones that line your heart's arteries) some unnecessary overworking on "Turkey day" and make a vegan version. Animal proteins (meat, cheese, milk, dairy, eggs, etc) are not good in the average Western diet once it has exceeded 5% (refer to your google toolbar and search "The China Study" to find out more).
Either way, it is expected to have typical backlash about how "I'm gonna eat whatever I want and at least I'll die happy before I ever give in to a vegan lifestyle" and blah, blah, blah...I could care less about those close-minded douchebags that will die from cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or any other degenerative disease...I just feel I could at least offer some lucky comment reader a chance to live longer than your average douchebag :)
Check it out: http://vegweb.com/recipes/best-vegan-mac-and-cheese-entire-worldseriously
I hate to be a snarky b*tch, but even the vegans didn't seem to like it...
Not even CLOSE to my recipe for old fashioned Mac & Cheese! And...who ever heard of M&C for Turkey Day???
It's only a staple of a huge chunk of thanksgiving spreads in the South...
I haven never heard of the mac & cheese tradition on thanksgiving... I wish I never did, lol.
Or just fly to the Caribbean where it's done properly and you don't need a recipe, this is way too complicated :)
Oh I know what you mean...I had the best M&C ever in the Bahamas. I still think about it...
Seen mac &cheese in a upscale restaurant for 45 dollars must be a hipster thing.
White people will never, ever, get mac and cheese. Rule one: simplicity. No 'exotic' cheeses (e.g., Parmesan), and only one cheese, e.g., cheddar. Rule two: NO breadcrumbs. (Why put breadcrumbs on pasta - a starch?! Also, breadcrumbs add NO flavor, but to Anglo-Saxons, that's not a problem; they can't taste anyway.) As for the other secrets, I'll keep them to myself. Now you know just enough to make something edible.
I seriously red your comment and had to laugh. I thought the same thing when I was reading all the ingredients....why so complicated!
Real simple: REAL eggs, milk, butter and cheese!
I'm with you!, people screw things up trying to one up, ..eggs?, Really? I've never used eggs except making pasta, what's the eggs for?
Oh AG I read your comment and thought what the heck.... there is no secret to awesome Mac-n-Cheese.... anybody can make it as long as they use enough cheese....don't even think about calling it Mac and Cheese if you can't add enough cheese to give it that cheesy taste!!!! It doesn't matter how you make it, if you don't have a strong cheese taste it aint f***k**g Mac-n-Cheese... End of discussion!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Hey AG you may not realize it but you just made a really racist comment.
Replace the words white people or Anglo Saxons with any other racial group and then see what you think.
Breadcrumbs aren't for flavor, silly, they're for texture, since mac and cheese has none on its own. A crunchy panko top layer pairs perfectly with creamy mac and cheese! And this isn't an "Anglo" thing – in Asian countries a lot of "tasteless" foods (including quite a few veggies) are eaten exclusively for texture and/or paired with small amount of flavor providing sauce.
Was her head put in a vice???
Regardless, mac & cheese rocks. Haven't eaten it in years, but OMG YUMMMMMM
Bloody 'L! A whole bloom'n book about macaroni and cheese? That's Kraft. How many ways can one combine a pasta and cheese? Any Blue Cheese Mac? That's daft. The books mac and cheese burrito recipe is jolly good.
I've got news for y'all – rock salt, kosher salt, salt salt – it's all sodium chloride. Just use table salt.
True, they are all basically NaCl. However, volume is *very* different between those types. If you use one-for-one, you could end up with something that tastes awful!.
Kosher has larger flakes, thus takes up more volume for the same seasoning. If recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of Table Salt, you'll need to use 2 teaspoons of Kosher Salt.
Personally I switched to Kosher years ago for that very reason – when following the recipes' measurements I actually cut my sodium intake. Only exceptions are where the concentration is critical – like salting ice for an ice cream churn or creating a solution for a brine.
Actually most table salt also has anti-caking agents like calcium silicate or starch, neither of which is in kosher or rock salt. Sea salt can also contain calcium, magnesium and iodide ions, which slightly alter the flavor. But yes, many people pay way too much for exotic salts when table salt will do.
What happened to her hair?
Too much mac and cheese.
Filthy one percenter mac and cheese.
Noodle, salt, velveeta and milk.
Done and DONE!
Velveeta is note cheese. it's a cheese-like product
I want Laura Werlin to feed me some Mac N'Cheese
call it whatever you want but this is not pasta, it looks like a coagulated vomit on a plate. viva l'italia
haha, trying to sound sophisticated but you just sound stupid. The Italians invented macaroni and cheese back in about the 13th century!!!!
I feel sorry for anyone that gets pissed over a recipe for mac n cheese. Get a grip.
Lmao! Ima go grip some Mac n cheese luxembourgean style, with a pinch of pink Himalayan salt, organic artisan grown chives, and a splash of oak aged balsamic vinegarette dammit! Any other way is insulting to a Mac cheese connesiuer. Let them(the 99%) eat velveeta! Harrumph!
Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?
LMAO!!!, What?? No white truffles?? . You suck
LM FAO! Y'all just mad an otherwise gloomy fracked up day a little brighter. Thank you!
The breakfast mac n cheese sounds awesome. But where's the BACON! Mac n cheese, bacon, potatoes then more cheese!
Yeah, that 1st one sounds good. Maybe some Fri, when I'm not cleaning up leaves, I'll give it a try.
I'd smack that cheese around.
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