Macaroni & Cheese with Buttery Crumbs

Some days you just want some comfort food and for me, macaroni and cheese is pretty much it. Ever since I started making this recipe, I can’t even stomach the idea of eating Kraft’s Mac n’ Cheese. Food & Wine Magazine sent me this cool little booklet titled “Our 20 Best Recipes Ever” and when I saw this recipe, I was in love. I’ve only made this recipe two times before, so I made it last Thursday and I made the Panko Crusted Chicken Thighs to go with it on Saturday.

The reason why this recipe is so good is that it uses two kinds of cheese: Sharp Cheddar and Colby Jack (the actual recipe call for Colby, but since I couldn’t find any, I used Colby Jack and it works excellently) that are cut into 1/2-inch cubes. One half of the cheese gets melted to make the sauce for the noodles, while the other half gets added to the dish prior to baking, so when you eat it later, you get these chunks of cheese mixed with the macaroni. So so so good.

INGREDIENTS

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 1/2 cups half-and-half or whole milk

1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 pound Colby Jack, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (or use 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg if you don’t have fresh nutmeg)

Pinch of cayenne pepper (I used 1/4 tsp)

Salt and freshly ground pepper (1/4 tsp each)

1 pound elbow macaroni

3/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs (I used Panko instead)

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a saucepan. Add the the flour and stir over moderate heat for 2 minutes. Whisk in the half-and-half and cook, whisking, until thickened (about 3 minutes). Add half of the both the cheddar and Colby jack cheese and stir over low heat until melted. Stir in the mustard, nutmeg, cayenne, and season with salt and pepper.

2. Cook the macaroni in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain the macaroni very well and return it to the pot. Stir in the cheese sauce and the remaining cubed cheese. Spread the macaroni into the prepared baking dish.

3. In a small bowl, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a microwave. Add the breadcrumbs, season with salt and pepper, and stir until evenly moistened. Sprinkle the buttered crumbs over the macaroni and bake for 45 minutes, or until bubbling and golden. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Here’s a picture of the Panko Crusted Chicken Thighs with a serving of the Macaroni and Cheese:

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