Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese: Can be made by new, as well as experienced, cooks
Here’s a very easy mac and cheese that does not require baking. I worked out the recipe for my teenagers’ cooking class. Mac and cheese, of course, is the comfort food of that generation, and it recalls that comfort for older folks. The stovetop version takes less time and fewer steps than the baked version, and is one my young cooking friends are more likely to make themselves for their families and friends.
It draws on several unique techniques in a recipe in the America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook and the almost identical recipe online by Alton Brown on the Food Network. Neither source mentions the other, and I cannot find a reference to Alton Brown having worked with America’s Test Kitchen. But virtually identical recipes by two different experts is hard to consider a coincidence.
At any rate, the following recipe is (nearly) what we made in the class, with several added tweaks based on how the class dishes turned out.
The recipe will serve six to eight people. Leftovers heat well in the microwave. This is good accompanied by a simple green salad, and/or buttered broccoli.
1 pound elbow Macaroni
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter for the macaroni
2 (12-ounce) cans evaporated milk (regular milk doesn’t work as well)
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon Dijon or brown mustard
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne or 1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 pound (16 ounces) grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup rolled cracker crumbs or dry bread crumbs for topping (optional)
3 tablespoons butter or olive oil for topping (optional)
Boil macaroni in plenty of salted water, stirring very frequently at first so the macaroni pieces do not stick together. When tender but still a little firm (“al dente”), drain in a colander. Return the pasta to the cooking pot and stir in the butter until it melts. Cover the pot so the macaroni stays hot.
In a bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then mix in the evaporated milk, ketchup, mustard, salt, pepper and cayenne or hot sauce. Stir into the pasta and add the cheese. Cook over medium heat, stirring very frequently and scraping the bottom of the pot, for 5-8 minutes, or until creamy and starting to bubble along the edges. Taste and add salt, if needed.
If a topping is wanted, gently fry the breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs with the butter or olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve the mac and cheese and sprinkle with the topping, if used.
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