Well hiya, hungry!
You look thin. Have you eaten? Was it buttery and creamy and cheesy and perfect?
It’s about to be.
My Hearty Party Mac&Cheese is actually a variance on my Mama’s. Hers is perfect. And she pairs it with collard greens which is a most righteous flavor combination. This is my wee yummy version, it’s quick and painless but still achieves the deliciousness that is soul food. Comfort food. That said, you probably shouldn’t eat it all yourself. Maybe make it for a dinner party. Feeds a tribe!
Lemme just apologize for lack of true finished photos and crazy ass process shots. As far as I know, the Mac&Cheese got to the point seen above and basically fell off the face of the Earth…into my mouth…and Honeybee’s, he helped!
Okay, to make it like this you’ll need a little over half a box of rotini pasta, a slice of cooked ham, a block of medium cheddar cheese, shallot, onion, garlic, black pepper, red pepper flake and half a serrano if you like it spicy like we do. You’ll also need a tablespoon [eyeballed, but call it a thick slice] of butter and less than a quarter cup of flour for your rue. Also, a couple cups of cold, cold milk. You’ll need a spoon, a knife and a whisk.
A spoon, a knife and a whisk walk into a bar. Bartender’s a spatula, he and the whisk were old friends. He says, I know what you want whiskey, how about the couple? Eh? Funny? No. I suck at jokes. Le sigh.
My earliest memories of Mama Sunshine’s Mac&Cheese were of the important duty I was tasked, the grating of the cheese. Sure you could buy the pre-grated stuff but it’s not as good. And it costs more. You know it. I know it. Just invest in one of these.
This is the greatest grater I’ve ever used. I got it at Ross for like, $6. The ball on top is perfect for small hands and its rubber feet don’t slip around all willy nilly. For Mac&Cheese use the giant size, doesn’t have to be dainty, just get it done. But the other side is smaller.
I grated up about 3 cups of cheese. I don’t think I used the whole block. And I must say, this is the cheesiest Mac&Cheese I’ve made. Behind the gorgeous handy tool, you’ll notice my water for the pasta’s on high.
Cut up your onion, garlic, serrano, and shallot like this. Well, you don’t gotta be all flashy about it, I guess.
Next you’ll need to make a roux. Have you made one before? When I was in my teens I literally could not make a successful rue. I rued many a day! Because this part is essential to the flavor of the whole thing. Do not try to make a rue while your mind is preoccupied with anything other than making this rue. Or am I the only one who’s distractible as a kitten?
Heat a pot up to medium low [4 on a 1-10 scale, 10 the hottest]. Almost medium heat, not quite. Make sure your pot is warm before you dispense your butter. Hear the crisp bubble. It’s imperative. Use three quarters of your garlic/shallot/onion collection and cook until golden, stirring frequently. Once your veggies are the gilded, sprinkle your flour, bit by bit. Whisking ever more frequently. When you no longer smell the raw floury smell, when it’s all foamy and golden, as above, then, swiftly add your milk. Whisk harder and don’t stop until you have a semi-smooth consistency. The key to the least lumps is cold, cold milk. This is a basic white sauce. Look at you! All chefly and majestic!
The hardest part is over. Add your shreds and stir a bit to melt slowly.
Now you can tear your eyes away to attend to your pasta. Rotini’s great because the cheese just fills in all those ridges and really has a place to go, but elbow macaroni would be another good option. At this point I toast up my ham slice with the remaining garlic/shallot/onion. It’s not pictured, but it’s also not necessary. I mean, it’s cooked and the heat from the finished Mac&Cheese warms it well. I just like my ham crisp and with a little color on it. Toss it in!
At this point you could pour it in a casserole dish and bake to brown the top. People like that. Like, everybody. I know it goes against soul food tradition, but I don’t really like it hard on top. I mean if you add bread crumbs, it’s okay, but I take it straight up. Finish with black pepper and red pepper flake.
Aw. Here we are back where we began. Like I said, after this there were no photos!
There also were no survivors.
We had a dinner portion each and leftovers for lunch the next day as well as lunch for our roommates Jeff, Tessa & Cain. That’s seven portions, give or take. They all said they enjoyed it, but the best review was Tessa miming how she savored each bite. Awesome. That’s why we cook [soul food]: to share with others! I dare you to make this for someone you love.
Triple dog dare ya.