Personally, I love homemade mac and cheese. My mom used to make it occasionally when I was growing up and there's just nothing like it for comfort food. Since I'm the only one in my house who likes it, and I try to avoid dairy these days as much as possible because I suffer when I eat it, I make it very infrequently. (Pity me, I can't even eat ice cream!) In fact, I only make it when I am taking somebody dinner after a new baby. That way I get just enough left over to satisfy me, but not quite kill me. This time I decided to see if anyone else in my household would actually eat it - I mean, isn't mac and cheese a delicacy in many restaurants now? No surprise to us, the youngest refused it with zeal - but he refuses everything. The 3-yr-old turned his nose up at it at first begging for plain noodles, but on his own he tasted it and decided he loved it and inhaled the whole portion! I couldn't believe it! Major breakthrough. After 6.5 years of marriage, I forced my husband to taste it. Guess what? He sorta kinda liked it. He told me, though, that I am not allowed to call it mac and cheese and if I never do, he *might* eat it again (praise indeed). What did he want to name it? Breadcrumbs with noodles. It sure was convenient of him to choose a "B" word, wasn't it? So, there you have it. It was a triumphant night for the chef in the house. Because it turned out great, I'm going to share the recipe. Sadly, because of how I am now feeling tonight, I will probably never eat it again, but someone should enjoy it, so here you go:
Danielle's Five Cheese (umm...) Breadcrumbs with Noodles
(adapted from the old-school Better Homes and Gardens recipe)
2 cups of dry noodles (I NEVER use actual macaroni - tonight it was penne)
1/2 medium onion finely chopped
2 Tbls butter
2 Tbls flour
fresh ground pepper to taste
2-1/2 cups milk
1 cup american cheese (or something soft like fontina or gouda - I'll explain in a minute, don't turn your nose up)
1 cup cheddar cheese (I prefer to use sharp white, but if you like a milder flavor, use jack instead)
1/2 cup swiss cheese
1/2 cup gruyere cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese + 1 Tbls
4 slices of bread (preferably sour dough or french)
3 Tbls olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cube or grate all cheese.
Boil noodles per package directions, drain, set aside.
In a 3qt saucepan, melt butter on medium, saute onion until soft but not brown, add in flour and pepper to make a roux.
Add milk and whisk until smooth. Bring to a boil - it should thicken.
Add cheese and stir (don't whisk) until smooth and thick.
Stir in noodles.
Pour into 3 qt baking dish.
Top with breadcrumbs.
Bake 25-30 minutes until bubbly and topping is golden brown.
To make breadcrumb topping:
Toast bread and cool on wire rack.
Break into pieces and pulverize in food processor or blender.
In a bowl, mix bread crumbs, olive oil, 1 Tbls of parmesan cheese, salt and a couple grinds of pepper.
1) The american cheese: Even though I would never, say, eat a slice of american cheese, it does serve a purpose and that is to make a cheese sauce creamier and smoother. If you just use lots of cheddar, for example, the sauce will taste gritty and oily.
2) Make your own breadcrumbs! You'd be surprised at how much better they taste when they are fresh. So light and airy!