Food Nirvana has a boss recipe for Lobster Mac and Cheese. But sometimes we want the dish without the seafood so I decided to make a menu entry for plain Mac and Cheese ... except it surely isn't plain! Actually, it is almost the same as the recipe for Lobster Mac and Cheese, simply excluding the seafood and a modifying/changing a few other ingredients and slightly bumping up a few ingredient amounts so that you will fill a 9" by 13" by 2" oven proof casserole.
In short, this "plain" version of macaroni and cheese will knock your socks off. It is really delicious, as attested to by my sweetheart, Peggy!
Ingredients: (Serves six to eight people)
1 tsp. of salt for the pot of water
1 pound of uncooked elbow macaroni
20 ounces of light cream (or a 50:50 mixture of heavy cream and milk)
4 tbsp. of butter for making a roux
1/3 cup of all purpose flour
8 ounces of gruyere cheese, grated
4 ounces of swiss cheese, grated
2 ounces of soft provolone cheese, chopped
8 ounces of extra sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon (or more) of freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. of butter for the panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon of salt for the cream sauce
1 cup of panko bread crumbs
Turn on the oven to 325ºF.
Put one gallon of water and one tsp. salt into a 2 gallon pot. Bring the water to a rapid boil and add the macaroni and cook it on low to medium heat according to the directions on the package, about six to eight minutes to get it to an al dente state. Drain the macaroni well in a colander. Set the macaroni aside.
Grate the gruyere, cheddar and swiss cheeses and chop the provolone cheese while the macaroni is cooking, putting the mixture into a large bowl.
Heat the cream or cream and milk mixture in a small (1 1/2 qt.) saucepan on low heat to a low simmer, but don't let it boil.
In the empty pot used to make the macaroni, melt 4 tablespoons of butter and then add the flour to make the roux. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring the mixture continuously with a whisk.
Add the hot cream or cream/milk mixture gradually while whisking and cook for a minute or two more, until the sauce is thickened and smooth.
Turn the heat to very low then add the salt and pepper, and then the cheeses in small amounts, mixing well with a large wooden spoon.
Add the macaroni gradually and stir gently but thoroughly.
Place the mixture into a 9" by 13" by 2" oven casserole dish.
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the saucepan used for the cream. Mix the panko bread crumbs with the melted butter until the crumbs are coated evenly and then sprinkle the mixture evenly on top of the macaroni and cheese.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the bread crumbs lightly browned on the top.
Serve immediately or keep the casserole covered and warm until the meal is served.
You will get very nice compliments.