Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Last Minute Thanksgiving Dish: Homemade Mac and Cheese

This month, we have 4 Thanksgivings...which is a bit surprising considering the fact that we will not be at home in DC or in Mississippi for Turkey Day. I was worried that we would not celebrate in a traditional way at all and was starting to plan a little weeknight Turkey fest for hubby and me. But, no need for our own private feast because we will when all the dust settles, we will be having Thanksgiving 4 times: with Dave's sisters last weekend,  with 2 different dinner groups and with friends in NYC. By December 1st, we (and our bellies) will have celebrated the holiday FULLY (yes, pun intended).

The first celebration was at the beginning of the month with our dinner group. Everyone signed up to bring various dishes via email and I signed up for dessert and salad, but when I looked back over the list, I realized that the only 2 things on the list that my picky husband would eat were meat and rolls. So, at 3 pm at work, I begin to frantically search for an easy side dish that I could make in the hour and fifteen minute time frame we had before dinner group.** Mashed potatoes would take too long and I had no good recipes for a fall risotto or rice dish. So, I settled on Mac and Cheese.

I had only made homemade mac and cheese a couple times before and had no idea what recipe I used and how long it took, so I did an internet search for simple mac and cheese recipes and selected a few to read through and then picked which one looked yummy and easy enough to shop for and complete in a limited time frame. Sometimes I spend half and hour looking for the perfect recipe and sometimes I basically settle on the first decent one I find.  In this case, it was the latter - and in this case, the halfhearted approach worked well, because our simple mac and cheese was delicious.  It certainly wasn't the fanciest, most flavorful version I have ever tasted -- no bacon, specialty cheeses or truffle oil -- but for what it was - a hearty cheesy filling side dish - it was perfect. Plus, it was simple and quick to make

We ran by the store to buy the ingredients and then I hurried to prepare and cook our side dish quickly so that we were only a few minutes late.  Actually, the short time frame worked out best because the dish was still piping hot when we arrived and homemade mac and cheese, in my humble opinion, is one of those dishes that is at its best the first time it comes out of the oven. It does not improve with reheating.

I found the simple recipe on this blog.  The only thing I did differently was use penne noodles instead of macaroni. Also, I didn't just pour the sauce over the noodles, I kind of mixed it all together, but still made sure there was a generous amount on the top to bake into a crispy top.

  • 1 lb Macaroni (or other pasta)
  • 2 (8 oz) Packages of Sharp Cheddar Cheese (grated or in chunks, I prefer grated)
  • 2 cups Milk
  • ½ cup Flour
  • ¼ cup Butter
  • Salt & Pepper to Taste

  1. In a large pot boil macaroni until tender.
  2. Shred your cheese and set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan melt butter over medium heat.
  4. Add flour and mix until brown amber color (Make a roux).
  5. Add milk and whisk until thick.
  6. Add cheese one hand full at a time.
  7. Mix until cheese is all melted and smooth.
  8. Place cooked macaroni in baking pan.
  9. Pour cheese mixture over macaroni.
  10. Bake for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven
  11. Salt & Pepper to taste.

I have made the dish 3 times this month for get togethers. It's simple, inexpensive, a crowd pleaser-- and husband pleaser. If Turkey Day is fast approaching and you have yet to pick a dish to contribute, then this recipe might be a good one to try.  It's hard to mess it up and you can make a tasty dish without slaving away all day.

A couple of personal notes: I added cayenne pepper. Also I have halved the recipe and I have cooked the noodles and poured the sauce and then refrigerated the dish throughout the work day before baking that evening. Doing the prep work ahead of time is not quite as yummy as cooking all at once, BUT it wasn't bad and definitely worth trying if you want to prep the food then have someone else bake (in my case, D baked the mac and cheese since he gets home from work earlier)

**Before you think I am a saintly wife worried about what my husband would eat, you should know that I was more worried about people being offended by the lack of food on his plate than I was about him having enough to eat.  D is picky but in some way, he's not picky -- for example, a meal of rolls and turkey is plenty for him.  

1 comment:

  1. This sounds so good! I'm telling you, these picky eater husbands are something else. Like you say, mine is perfectly happy with meat and potatoes, but I am trying to branch us out. Ha!